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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Hobart

Let me tell you a story ...

Dog sleeping on book
Am I boring you?

Or should I say - let me tell your story more effectively.

How many of us who write books dream of someone optioning the rights to our work and then seeing them 'adapted' for the small or big screen. We all accept that there's no way that our books will be literally taken word for word and made into a film or a TV series. Imagine how dull they'd be?

Ever since audio books became a big seller in the days of first cassettes and then CDs - we've been used to seeing 'abridged' versions of novels appearing on the shelves. As a result, the 'unabridged' versions became sought after too. So there is a precedent for adapting prose and text into a product more suited to the listener.

What I'm proposing is that it might also make sense to take this process a step further.

Cutting and editing the text to fit a certain span of time is fine, but what about altering the text too? What makes me suggest that?

To explain what I mean, I want to again take you back to my first term or semester at the Cardiff Journalism School in Wales. Using old school typewriters, we had endless sessions focused on teaching us the art of writing for the EAR.

Not the eye. The ear.

We spent that term, as my old mate Yoda might say - 'unlearning what you have learned.' That is to say, any vestiges of essay writing or fiction writing style were drummed out of us, to be replaced with the elements of broadcast writing style.

What were they? Well, I could write a book on them, but here are some obvious ones:

  1. Short, crisp sentences with one thought per line.

  2. Use the 'active' tense. Even if the clip you're using is hours old - the person still 'says' rather than 'said'.

  3. Write like you speak. i.e hadn't rather than had not. Couldn't rather than could not.

  4. Be conversational.

Those are just a few of the techniques we were encouraged to adopt. It's so different from written prose or text from a non-fiction title. It's the sort of thing that drives copy editors and proof-readers nuts - but the scruffier and more natural the writing, the better a listener picks it up. And boy, is it easier to SAY!

Don't forget the audio book listener often has only one opportunity to pick up the meaning of what's been written. Can you see what I did there? No 'what has been written' for me.

So next time you consider posting up on ACX for your work to be narrated - I'd urge you to consider re-working the text a little. Your listeners will thank you for it!

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