Writing/adapting specifically for audiobook

HareBrain

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In this thread the point was raised that the word "said", often cited as being invisible in text, does not go unnoticed when read aloud. It would be better to limit its use as much as possible, maybe cutting the number of dialogue tags altogether (though this runs the risk of losing some readers as to who is speaking) or using actions instead (though this runs the risk of inventing pointless-seeming actions merely to indicate who is speaking).

These strike me as compromises, though. The ideal seems to me to leave the written text alone for silent readers, and adapt the dialogue for audiobook.

My first question is, do many writers do this?

My second is, what would change?

My own thoughts as to the second, assuming a competent voice actor, are:

1. Eliminate identifier dialogue tags altogether, once the voices have been established, since the actor's voice should show who's speaking.

2. Even action-tags intended to convey emotion (a facial expression, for example), though necessary in text, could be removed if the same emotion can be conveyed by voice.

3. However, the actor might still need to be told of a particular emotion behind a speech that a now-removed tag would have revealed, if the emotion isn't obvious (such as irony). So would you need to add in voice directions for the actor's benefit?

4. Dialogue tags are often positioned to create pauses in the speech. If the tags are removed as redundant, then presumably, again, some kind of pause direction would be needed, or dashes inserted.

Any others, or points unrelated to dialogue? (This is just a thought-experiment, BTW, I'm not doing this myself at the moment.)
 
In this thread the point was raised that the word "said", often cited as being invisible in text, does not go unnoticed when read aloud. It would be better to limit its use as much as possible, maybe cutting the number of dialogue tags altogether (though this runs the risk of losing some readers as to who is speaking) or using actions instead (though this runs the risk of inventing pointless-seeming actions merely to indicate who is speaking).

These strike me as compromises, though. The ideal seems to me to leave the written text alone for silent readers, and adapt the dialogue for audiobook.

My first question is, do many writers do this?

My second is, what would change?

My own thoughts as to the second, assuming a competent voice actor, are:

1. Eliminate identifier dialogue tags altogether, once the voices have been established, since the actor's voice should show who's speaking.

2. Even action-tags intended to convey emotion (a facial expression, for example), though necessary in text, could be removed if the same emotion can be conveyed by voice.

3. However, the actor might still need to be told of a particular emotion behind a speech that a now-removed tag would have revealed, if the emotion isn't obvious (such as irony). So would you need to add in voice directions for the actor's benefit?

4. Dialogue tags are often positioned to create pauses in the speech. If the tags are removed as redundant, then presumably, again, some kind of pause direction would be needed, or dashes inserted.

Any others, or points unrelated to dialogue? (This is just a thought-experiment, BTW, I'm not doing this myself at the moment.)


I usually listen to non-fiction audiobooks, but I have listened to a few fiction. In all honesty I prefer my audiobooks to be unabridged. As soon as you start removing words - any words - you begin to lose the author's voice, and who knows where it will end.

Even with a competent narrator, you would be hard pressed for them to come up with more than two or three voices that can become easily identifiable by the reader. And of course the temptation is to make the voices noticeably distinct from each other, which further steps away from realism.

Peesonally, I would leave this style of creating an audiobook for adapted dramas - which is why such things exist. I'm thinking of the likes of the BBC's adaptations of Lotlrd of the Rings and The Hobbit, which involve a cast of professional actors to take the roles.
 
Peesonally, I would leave this style of creating an audiobook for adapted dramas - which is why such things exist. I'm thinking of the likes of the BBC's adaptations of Lotlrd of the Rings and The Hobbit, which involve a cast of professional actors to take the roles.
I'm inclined to agree with @paranoid marvin that editing for the audiobook does sound like moving towards an "audio drama adaptation" rather than a narrator reading out your book.

On a very loosely related point, I submitted some stories for live reading events some years back and having written the stories I then rewrote with a view to reading aloud, taking into account how easily the audience would follow and also how easily the prose could be spoken. It's amazing how something that works fine on the page can prove to be a tongue-twister, or a comprehension mess. With the benefit of hindsight, I would probably have made more changes.
 
I've been writing exclusively for audiobook for a few years. I'm definitely no expert but to me the 'Jack said' tag wold kill a scene and take the listener out of it (not sure why). I think dialogue tags are still necessary in audio, but accents and tone can do the heavy lifting -the one exception is when more than four are speaking together, and a quick beat with 'said x' is probably needed there. Action tags are usefull for rhythm, to give the listener a chance to catch up or process a mouthfull of dialogue.

This is only from amateur experimentation, but I think action scenes need to be clipped to bursts of one min or so, with the harsher the words the better. I think the same for description -I reckon descriptive stuff has a sort of calming effect so might fit into an audiobook in a much different way to straight prose. I reckon you're bang on @HareBrain in point three in that it is up to the actor to express the emotion, so in some ways the storytelling passes onto them (and might not be exactly how the writer intended, but still makes for a good yarn).
 
Audio books are pretty much by definition the reading of a book. If you change it, it's another book. Granted, you need a new ISBN for a new medium, but if you make those same changes to a printed version you'd need a new ISBN as well (ie: it's another book).

Nothing intrinsically wrong with doing that but I'd be pretty pissed if I knew a book and bought an audio version for a car trip and the audio was NOT the text of the book. I'd be constantly be pulled out of immersion and feel lied to unless the packaging clearly stated "This is an audio re-enactment of XXXXX." or something else (audio adaptation) making it clear the book has been altered.

1. Eliminate identifier dialogue tags altogether, once the voices have been established, since the actor's voice should show who's speaking.

Not even your competent voice actor can do a dialog involving adult men and children convincingly, so you'd need at least two actors. It also doesn't work well for a meeting with a dozen people, especially if they interrupt each other in a heated discussion. I've been in those committee meetings and frequently, if you don't see who spoke, you can't identify who said what.

2. Even action-tags intended to convey emotion (a facial expression, for example), though necessary in text, could be removed if the same emotion can be conveyed by voice.

The "if" in that sentence begets a consistency problem as you now have an audio "book" with some facial expressions being included and some not.

AnRoinnUltra:
I've been writing exclusively for audiobook for a few years. I'm definitely no expert but to me the 'Jack said' tag wold kill a scene and take the listener out of it (not sure why). I think dialogue tags are still necessary in audio, but accents and tone can do the heavy lifting -the one exception is when more than four are speaking together, and a quick beat with 'said x' is probably needed there. Action tags are usefull for rhythm, to give the listener a chance to catch up or process a mouthfull of dialogue.


Nice. But writing for is not the same as an audiobook of "Clear and Present Danger" however.

TLDR; I agree with @paranoid marvin.
 
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1. Eliminate identifier dialogue tags altogether, once the voices have been established, since the actor's voice should show who's speaking.

Now do a meeting with a dozen people, especially if they interrupt each other in a heated discussion. That doesn't even work well with competent voice actors. I've been in those meetings and frequently, if you don't see who spoke, you can't identify who said what.
I did say "once the voices have been established" which I don't think any actor could do in that situation (which is pretty extreme -- I've never written a scene with so many speakers, and I can only think of the Council of Elrond as one I've read). So you'd still have to include at least identifier action tags here.

2. Even action-tags intended to convey emotion (a facial expression, for example), though necessary in text, could be removed if the same emotion can be conveyed by voice.

The "if" in that sentence begets a consistency problem as you now have an audio "book" with some facial expressions being included and some not.
You mean consistency in relation to the source book? That's only an issue with people who know the written text well and don't want any changes. To be honest I hadn't considered that as a possible problem, since I hadn't thought there would be much crossover in audience, and maybe I'm wrong about that. (But I'm not an audiobook listener -- as I said, this is just a thought experiment.)
 
LOL I notice that HareBrain commented on mine before I was done editing. Interesting. Guess I'm gonna have to write comments in an editor then post.
 
HareBrain - Drop the count to six and you still have the problem. In corporate intrigue novels, this is not at all uncommon.

At a blog I visit (Ann Althouse), she frequently talks about audio versions of books she listens to in travel.
 
But writing for is not the same as an audiobook
Fair enough, I'm not sure if what I'm doing fits into any category and it's probably not strictly the narration of a book. I just think of an audiobook as a separate thing to the written text. There is a wealth of voice actors out there and I reckon a quality double act of a writer and narrator could come up with great long form audio storytelling (haven't seen this in action but I'm sure it exists).
 
I dispute that action tags become a series of actions there for the sake of it.
There's a good chance you are right. To be honest I'm not fully sure what action tags are (I think it's something like: Flumberdink spat flame at the Gondrickle, retracted it's spline, and yelled '...). I'm also a bit hazy on what exposition is -this discussion reminds me to enroll in another writing class and back quietly away from serious critiquing/ writing discussions :)
 
I now read on average one audiobook a week, mostly fiction: but I really enjoy Simon Winchester reading his books, too. Whatever I listen to is unabridged.
I must say that "he said/she said" often times begins to grate particularly if the reader is not in the Earphones award category. The best readers seem able to make "said" disappear.

I remain in awe of readers like Scot Brick and Jim Dale who can personify a half-dozen characters flawlessly. And Meryl Streep -- well, she's Meryl Streep.
 
I dispute that action tags become a series of actions there for the sake of it. That’s lazy writing. Exposition can also be a type of action tag.
I think they can do, though.

Say you have a dialogue with various said-isms, which you then decide to remove because they sound bad aloud. Either you leave the speakers unidentified, or you replace the said-isms with actions. Those actions weren't there before, meaning they weren't necessary.
 
I think they can do, though.

Say you have a dialogue with various said-isms, which you then decide to remove because they sound bad aloud. Either you leave the speakers unidentified, or you replace the said-isms with actions. Those actions weren't there before, meaning they weren't necessary.
Or exposition. Which gives a chance to explore thoughts and motivations deeper.

And, as with dialogue, you don’t need to tag everything, just enough
 
There's a good chance you are right. To be honest I'm not fully sure what action tags are (I think it's something like: Flumberdink spat flame at the Gondrickle, retracted it's spline, and yelled '...). I'm also a bit hazy on what exposition is -this discussion reminds me to enroll in another writing class and back quietly away from serious critiquing/ writing discussions :)
Exposition is the internal thoughts etc that drive a character
 
I did say "once the voices have been established" which I don't think any actor could do in that situation (which is pretty extreme -- I've never written a scene with so many speakers, and I can only think of the Council of Elrond as one I've read). So you'd still have to include at least identifier action tags here.
I seem to recall that there were some large meetings in the earlier Bobbiverse books (written by Dennis E Taylor), though how many of the Bobs spoke at the meetings, I'm not sure. (The Bobs each had their own avatars, which tended to be based on people well-known from SF shows, so the voice actor telling the tale may** have copied those actors' voices.)

IIRC, these books were originally published as audiobooks.


** - I've only read the books; I've never listened to the audiobook voices.
 
I seem to recall that there were some large meetings in the earlier Bobbiverse books (written by Dennis E Taylor), though how many of the Bobs spoke at the meetings, I'm not sure. (The Bobs each had their own avatars, which tended to be based on people well-known from SF shows, so the voice actor telling the tale may** have copied those actors' voices.)

IIRC, these books were originally published as audiobooks.


** - I've only read the books; I've never listened to the audiobook voices.
Huh, I didn't know that. I thought the first was self-published as text and then picked up by a publishing house (like The Martian). Yes, in #2 at least there are larger and larger gatherings with a convenient FTL communication system.
 
Exposition is the internal thoughts etc that drive a character
Exposition is the background information provided by the narration. In first person or third person limited it appears indistinguishable from the pov character's thoughts. In omniscient it belongs to no character, and only drives the various characters to the extent that the circumstances thus described may impact them individually.
 
I thought the first was self-published as text and then picked up by a publishing house (like The Martian).
You're correct. (I should have checked Dennies's Wikipedia page.)

Perhaps I was thinking about the version that made the book a best seller.
 
I think they can do, though.

Say you have a dialogue with various said-isms, which you then decide to remove because they sound bad aloud. Either you leave the speakers unidentified, or you replace the said-isms with actions. Those actions weren't there before, meaning they weren't necessary.

Isn't that presupposing the first draft is perfect? Which, given the edits to remove the bad bits, is clearly not true. That doesn't mean what you add in by way of action tags is or isn't necessarily necessary - but they should ultimately serve the story.

I do agree with you, though, that action tags can be unnecessary, if utilised poorly or overused. As with most things, though, it's subjective.
 

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