Monday, November 5, 2012

Writing for the Ear

Anyone who has been writing fiction for a few months or more probably knows to write for all the senses. When describing a scene what is heard or felt or tasted or smelt is as important as what is seen. But most descriptions you read are for your eyes because when you read, you visualize the sense, often in your mind's eye. That's only natural, humans are very visual and sight-dependent creatures. But you can write for your ears too.

Perhaps this is just me, because of all the poetry I've written or maybe I have visions of having my novels turned into audiobooks, but it seems to me that writing so that your words sound good when spoken is just as important as writing that reads well. I am reminded here are an interview with Robert Jordan that took place after the first books of the Wheel of Time became audiobooks. He observed that he listened to the books because that give him a different view of his writing and his story.

I think he's right about that. When I listen to a book, my mind is free to notice all sorts of things my eyes don't. And I always listen to my own writing to ensure it sounds good -- or more importantly -- to make sure it sounds the way I want it to. You see, there are two versions of any story: the one in my head and the one on the page. When I'm really lucky, there are the same. But most often than not, the one of the page is a shadow of the one in my head. So by listening to a chapter in a novel, I can bring the two closer together.

But how do I listen? Simple. Most computers now have text-to-speech features. So I let the machine speak it back to me. I had to purchase a human-sounding voice because I couldn't stand the mechanical ones provided. And I had to adjust the pronunciation of some words but was only successful up to a point. The word 'mages' sometimes is 'migs' and 'read' (the past tense of to read) is sometimes spoken as if it is the present tense.

But I ignore this errors on the part of the machine and make adjustments for the ear as I go. I think my work is better for the effort. I hope you will think so too.

Keep writing everyone.

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