Friday, August 19, 2016

It's the Heat - Honest #FridayReads

There are some parts of the country where it is hotter than it is here in Texas. I know that, but it always seems the hottest where you are, especially when you have to go outside and feed animals, mow pastures, and clear the endless debris that comes with owning property with trees that shed limbs like dogs shed fur.

This is my dog, Poppy, who leaves enough hair around, I could make another dog when I sweep. She also loves to play with Harry.
So I am blaming my curmudgeonry - is that even a word? - on the heat.

Back in May, I posted here about what I learned listening to audio books. I have been doing that - listening not posting - for 7 months now since my eyes are impaired and I am not able to read for long periods. In May, I was confident that the health issue would resolve quickly, but quickly has not even been on the radar. While I am better, the better has come slowly, and I still have no idea when, or if, I will get back to 100%.

Maybe it isn't all the heat?

Anyway, the more I listen to audio books, the more I notice little mistakes that grate on my very last nerve. In the May post, I wrote about the irritation of listening to all the "he saids" "she saids" in books by Robert B. Parker. And the irritation is still strong. When reading the books, those dialogue attributives are easily overlooked. Aloud, they end up sounding like fingernails scraping on glass after a while.

I broke my vow not to listen to another Parker novel when Painted Ladies became available in audio at my local library. It is the final book that Parker wrote before he died in 2010, and since I had read, and enjoyed, so many of his books, I wanted to give this one a try.

I have long been a fan of Parker's stories, and for many of us mystery writers, he was our teacher. Not literally, of course, but by reading his books where we learned about spare writing, revealing character through dialogue, and twisting a plot into such a knot, the reader wonders if it will ever get untangled by reading his books.Those are just a few of the many reasons that Parker won prestigious awards for his writing: The Shamus, The Edger and the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award.



So it is again, hard for me to say anything negative about his work. However, I am struggling to stay with it. The story line is good. The banter is pure Spenser, maybe not at his best, but certainly in character. And I really do want to know why the art history professor was blown up, but the fingernails are reaching for the windowpane.

Thinking about how much better it would be for most of those dialogue attributives to be skipped, I wondered why people who are narrating a book for audio versions don't automatically make changes that would make the listening experience better. Or how come they don't correct a mistake that the author made, and the editor did not catch.

For instance, in another book I listened to, a character was called by the wrong name for several exchanges in a scene and then went back to the real name. As a narrator you would think that they could say, "Oh that's not the right name I should probably not say it even though the author wrote it."

I did a bit of surfing on the Internet to see if I could find information on what a narrator can change, or not change, in a book, and was not able to find anything. From performing in live theatre, I know that actors are not supposed to change words in plays, especially those that are published by the majors like Samuel French. However, I have been in productions where some words were taken out or changed, but only a tiny fraction of the overall play. That seems to be okay, as long as the percentage is so low it is hardly noticed.

So the actress in me wonders why an audio book narrator can't smooth out awkwardness, like the "saids", and fix the mistakes.


What do you think? Should narrators fix mistakes, or simply read what the author wrote?

 Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

19 comments :

  1. Thanks to Elle for telling me curmudgeonry is a real word and giving me the correct spelling. I kinda liked curmudgery, but correct is always better in a blog written by editors. :-)

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    1. Maybe there are more curmudgeons here in Aus ;-)

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    2. Probably not Elle. Just better spellers. LOL

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  2. Absolutely, the narrator should do those little fixes that make the author look good. Who's going to complain about an upgrade in quality? Uh...somebody, no doubt, but I want to believe most writers would be grateful. Love this post, Maryann. :-)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Linda. Glad you liked the blog post and appreciate the support for my position. I am so looking forward to being able to read again so my brain will automatically skip over those irritating little things that are so much larger in the audio books.

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  3. "I love what you said in this post, Maryann. I'm with you," Cara said.
    Maryann said nothing, just scratched her fingernails on the windowpane.
    "Oops, I'm sorry," Cara said, "didn't you need that attribution?"

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    1. "SO," Maryann said. "Are you agreeing with me or not?"
      "I'm not sure," Cara replied. "I have to think about it for a bit longer."
      "Well, don't take too long," Maryann said. "I can't wait forever for your answer."
      "Well, aren't you the snippity little thing," Cara observed.

      Seriously, the lines of dialogue that all start with "well" or "so" also had me cringing. This was fun, Cara.

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    2. Urg, I hate "Well", "You know", "You see"... ugh, ugh, ugh!

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  4. I think I would be fired as an audio book narrator. I change almost every line when I read aloud to my kids. The number of sentences starting with gerunds turns my hair grey. Not to mention the number of times I read a line of dialog in a normal tone only to hit, "she whispered". Gah, too late to whisper now - leave it out. I usually use different voices or accents to differentiate characters, so just gets in the way particularly in the middle of a line of dialog.

    That said, I do think audio is a different medium to text. Those dialog tags or action tags in the middle of a line of dialog can work nicely to break up a lengthy speech. Read aloud, they don't work as nicely. So, yes, I think audio books should be read from an adaptation rather than verbatim, but I don't necessarily think writers should strip out every single tag in a printed book simply because it sounds redundant when read aloud. It's a fine balance, really.

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    1. I agree, Elle. The dialogue tags should not be taken out of a print book. Some kind of adaptation for audio would be a great solution.

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  5. I have to say, I generally don't listen to audio book, primarily because a) I fall asleep, and b) I'd rather imagine voices the way they sound in my head. I hope your eye health improves soon.

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    1. Thanks, Liza. Before this, I had trouble listening to audio books, but while I have been unable to read or watch television, the only thing I can do some evenings is listen to audio. Looking forward to when that changes.

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  6. Good post, Maryanne. I have four of my books in audio, and the first narrator ADDED said attributions. I made her take them out. A narrator should be able to make character distinctions with voice. Besides, when there are two people in the conversation, it should be clear who's speaking. I may have allowed her to add a couple for clarity, but overall she did a terrific job on the audio. I agree about Parker in audio. All the he saids/she saids were ultra annoying, enough that I won't listen to any more of his books on audio.

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    1. I am surprised that your narrator added dialogue attributions to your stories, Polly. I have three books in audio, and in them all the narrator stayed true to what I wrote.

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  7. I don't listen to audiobooks, but even in a print novel I think it helps to have someone "read it" back to you. There are several software programs and apps that will do so. It is one way of catching more mistakes.

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    1. Absolutely, Diana. Having someone read it to you is better than reading it aloud yourself. Although, that does work, and I have caught mistakes by reading my work aloud.

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  8. I never listen to audio books either, but I'd think if the narrator were to fix the mistakes, the narrator would have to do a disclaimer, since the original work would have been altered.

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    1. That's a good point, Morgan, and one I thought about when I made the suggestion. Maybe for another blog post I should interview some of the major audio production companies and narrators and get opinions from them. As an author, I would not be against having minor things changed in the narration.

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  9. As someone who's in the midst of getting two books into audio via ACX, if you want your book to be available in "Whispersync" from Amaazon, the text and the narration have to match, almost word for word. Right now, I'm "proof-listening" to my In Hot Water, and I'm following the narration against the manuscript.

    I know Parker's use of dialogue tags is proof that they're invisible to the eye, but sadly, not to the ear.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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