Thursday I finished listening to the audiobook of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. After the end of the book, the author and the reader, Avi Roque, interviewed each other. Interestingly enough, my mystery writers group also ended up discussing audiobooks. Here are two things I took away from these conversations.
Each Character Must Sound Distinct
This was something Roque pointed out. When they are reading an entire book, they need to give each character a distinct sound. Imagine how much more informative our dialogue would be if we, the authors, give each character a unique sound or voice.
There are a variety of ways we can do this. Part of this comes through in our choice of vocabulary. Someone who grows up in 1920s New York City will have a very different vocabulary than a comoparable character who grows up in the 1950s. This means that even if they interact, they will each have their own vocabulary.
But vocabulary isn’t all. Each character will have a unique way of stringing words together. My husband and son were each born in the same city. They grew up under similar circumstances. My husband is the king of the brief declarative sentence. My son? His opinions are just as strong but he has mastered what can only be called a flow of conscious. Even when they discuss the same things, each sounds unique.
Hearing Your Work Changes How You Write
One author pointed out that several people she knows have recorded audio books. Hearing their work read aloud by a professional impacted forever how they write, actually modifying their individual styles. Their writing got tighter.
Something I’ve noticed about my own writing is that sometimes I fall into the formal tone and elaborate sentence structure I firmed up as a grad student. It works fine in print but when I hear it read? On a good day it sounds melodramatic and pompous.
Hearing your work read loud impacts your pacing, your rhythm and your word choice. You notice that you’ve used the same word, or another version of this word, three times in one paragraph. You notice when your sentence structure isn’t varied.
Even if you aren’t writing an audio script, think audio book while you write. Give each character a voice and make sure you smooth out the bumps in your writing.