Looking and Listening From Different Angles

Looking and Listening From Different Angles

Several weeks ago, as I was preparing for a road trip to my mother’s house, Lorinda loaned me an audio book, Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. This has been my first experience with audio books, and like everything else, I’ve found pros and cons.

The biggest con is the amount of time it’s taking me to finish this story. Unlike Lorinda, I don’t have a sizable daily commute, so I’m only now up to disk thirteen out of sixteen! I think if I’d known an audio book, or more specifically, this audio book, was a sixteen-hour commitment, I may not have started this journey. And since I don’t have a CD player on my laptop, my car is the only place I can listen to this story. Now that I’m getting close to the end, I find myself sitting in the garage for an extra ten-minutes after running to the grocery store.

The biggest pro? The amount of time it’s taking me to finish this story!

Generally, it only takes me a day or two to read a book. Now, granted, my typical book is roughly 300 pages, and Book of Fate is 608 pages in the printed version, but still. I cannot remember the last time I invested six-plus weeks on a book, but that extended time means the story stays in my brain longer than an average read.

From a plotting and story structure standpoint, that’s not necessarily part of the advantage for me in this particular instance, simply because I tend to read – and write – romance-driven stories, whereas this story is a political intrigue. The layering of plot twists and the depth of the author’s research are great, and as a reader, I’m really enjoying this divergence from my normal choice, but as I’m sure most writers can attest, it’s hard to turn off that piece of your brain that studies everything you read, or listen to.

What makes this longer reading experience a pro is the time the writing gets to resonate in my brain. Meltzer has great phrasing and unique metaphors in this story, and I love the way hearing his writing presents those snippets to my brain in a new format, which makes them stand out and stick with me. I hear a lot of people talk about being a visual learner vs an auditory or tactile learner, and I’ve always thought of myself as falling into the visual category, but this auditory experiment has been a bit of an eye opener for me.

Still as a stick. (Love the alliteration!)

Jump on that like a little boy on a cricket. (Paints such a vivid picture!)

These are just two examples of specific word choices Metzer made that have stuck with me, yet I couldn’t give you one example from the current book I’m reading. There are several books I’ve reread numerous times that I can recite multiple lines from, and many, many movies and television shows that I can quote, but I’ve realized that when it comes to recalling things I’ve read, it takes more than one pass, while things I’ve heard can often stick with me after only one hearing.

This makes me think of something I’ve seen circulated on Facebook several times, where they show a passage of words where the first and last letters are correct, but the letters in the middle of each word are scrambled up, yet most people can read the passage with no problems. Perhaps, I read so much that now when I read genre fiction, my brain kinda “skims” over the words on the page and puts it together without actually having to process each letter, or word, individually.

Have I become such a reading addict that I’m simply consuming words for the joy of consumption rather than the joy of immersing myself in the stories? I think maybe I have.

So what’s my take away from this little bit of self-analysis?

First, I will definitely be enjoying more audio books in the future, only I’m going to consume them in downloadable format rather than CD.

Secondly, I think I should start feeding my reading addiction with goodies outside my typical genre fiction. Time for me to start enjoying more non-fiction, literary fiction and even some great classics. Time for me to turn my addiction into an opportunity for self-improvement.


Dawn Temple

Back when her twin sons were young enough for daily naps, Dawn Temple took advantage of those quiet moments to pursue her dream of becoming a published romance writer. Sneaking in an hour here and there paid off in 2005 when she sold her first book, To Have And To Hold, to Silhouette Special Edition. She managed to secret away enough time to write and sell the second book in her Land’s Cross series, Moonlight And Mistletoe, but alas, her boys outgrew naps and Dawn let go of those stolen moments with her laptop to enjoy life with her two little guys and her big guy, hubby of 21 years.
But now, as an officially retired stay-at-home mom, Dawn has once again found the time and the creative drive to return to writing, and this time around, she’s set her sights on independent publishing. Her first self-published book, Peace of Heart, is scheduled for release in 2017.

2 thoughts on “Looking and Listening From Different Angles

  1. Great post, Dawn.

    It reminds me how much I enjoy live music — if I don’t pay attention right now, I’ll miss something important. Music on a CD will cycle back around exactly as it was before, but a live performance can never be repeated even with the same musicians and the same musical score.

    Your observation about your brain “skimming” genre fiction is very insightful. You know intimately how romance stories are constructed, so the only real question or surprise is in the execution — as you’ve noticed in your political intrigue foray: the actual writing.

    It’s a great lesson to us as genre writers to pay much more attention to how we get to The End.

  2. For me, listening to audio books (besides the obvious reason of making my commute less onerous) has been beneficial for several reasons:

    1. I hear things that I might pass over in the reading. For example, one book, by a very well known author, was utterly loaded with adverbs. Now, I won’t lie. I have an unhealthy love affairs with adverbs, but when I heard this ridiculous overuse, I came to understand why adverbs should be used sparingly. Most times, the writing would have accomplished what it needed to do without the adverb. And second, it got to be a distraction for me. To be fair, this story was an early work of the author, but still . . . less is sometimes more.

    2. I really notice Voice – the author’s voice and the individual voices of the characters. This is especially true when you have a great reader.

    3. As you mentioned, Dawn, it has also encouraged me to “listen” to stories outside of the genre I write and read in. By doing so, I have learned writing styles differ from genre to genre. For example, I’m currently listening to a “police story” where they must solve a double homicide that has ties to a 25 year old cold case. What I noticed is that in this genre, there are quite a few talking heads scenes as the various detectives on the cases try and puzzle out statements and facts. I’ve always been told that talking heads scenes are to be avoided, but they seem to work quite well in the police solving crimes genre.

    Anyway, great post. Food for Thought.

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