Dropping in Quickly…Then Staying for a While

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell is the author of seven award-winning mystery novels. Her current literary focus is Route 66 as it traverses California’s Mojave Desert. Madeline is a lifetime lover of mysteries. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the High Desert. Visit her website and Amazon Author Page.

Fotosearch_k8804412Several events/ideas have brought me to this post. My continuing interest in the importance of setting in conjunction with “taking me there,” G.B. Pool’s recent post on Openings, and my enjoyment-of and fascination-with audio books. I’ve mentioned in past posts how much I enjoy audio books—and now I’m asking myself why, in that there might be a couple writing-nuggets there worth paying attention to.

Being taken (dropped) into a protagonist’s world is what reading is all about for me, and has also been mentioned by other readers to me. In that line of thought, I’m currently listening to an audio series called Cherringham Mystery Shorts[i], and though the blurb for these audio book offerings didn’t immediately grab me, the narrator did. Neil Dudgeon[ii] I’ve liked his acting and “aura” from first seeing him in Mrs. Bradley Murder Mysteries—and I’m now realizing a lot of the like is the sound of his voice. When listening to Neil read these stories, it feels like I’m actually in Cherringham, UK. I can visualize the dual female and male protagonists, see their world. Part is the writing of course, but a large part is the immediate involvement that comes with hearing a spoken word, versus reading a sentence. Indeed, I think if the narrator reads well, the reader can so easily be “taken there.” Dropped into the character’s lives.

How can a writer do that without having Neil read their book (smile)? I suggest the knack/art/skill, is to take the reader into your protagonist’s head with your writing POV. Then once inside, see the world through their eyes. A Big deal I think, and not that easy without simultaneously stagnating the story or “dragging” the action and dialogue. But once a reader is with your character, so much easier to go into their world. There is a downside though with character identification, and one that has caused me to not finish reading more than one book. Once engaged with a character, and/or their environment, if you don’t like the character-person, interest is gone. Most recently, I didn’t finish such a book because even though the author quite successfully took me into their world, and was indeed a very good writer, I didn’t like the character or the character’s world. A future post maybe on what makes a likeable character—a protagonist you want to root for?

I’m throwing-out in this post, that a narrator, if good, does that “taking you there” easily and quickly—including setting, events, and personalities. Would very much like to hear from readers and writers reading this post on your experiences and thoughts about audio books in the comments below.

SWCoverOn a personal note, I would love to have all my books as audio, but don’t sell enough (not yet! Smile) for many narrators to take a commission-split chance on me, and can’t afford the narrator I want with a hefty flat out payment! (I’m talking about someone famous of course like Neil Dudgeon or Hugh Frasier) The talented Mei-Ling Downey, did take a chance on me and narrated Lies of Convenience, on Audible. What a joy to my writing-heart that is!

On the flip-side, a few comments from other writers have pointed out not everyone is as fond of audio books as I am! Nonetheless, the key point I’m aiming for is–paying attention to bringing your reader into your character’s world is crucial to reader enjoyment and writer success—whatever the format. Paper, eBook, or the spoken word.

Happy 2018 writing trails!Fotosearch_k8475028


[i]Written by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards about a retired NYC policeman who moves to England and lives on a houseboat solving crimes with a divorced lady co-protagonist and her two teen aged children.

[ii] Of Mrs. Bradley mysteries way back when, and currently Barnaby in Midsomer Mysteries.

18 thoughts on “Dropping in Quickly…Then Staying for a While”

  1. I love audiobooks! They make sitting in traffic jams bearable–but more important, a GOOD narrator can bring a story alive. On the other hand, a bad narrator can ruin an author’s work. I’ve given up on a few audiobooks because the narrator’s voice simply got on my nerves–including a well-respected actress who made the characters of “To Kill a Mockingbird” sound like morons, at least to my ear. In this time-crunched age, audiobooks are becoming more and more popular as a way to squeeze in “reading” time–although I have blown past freeway exits while under the book’s spell. . .

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    1. You’ve said so well my thoughts about enjoying audio books. I remember checking out books on CD from the library when going on trips. Those days are past, I now listen on my Kindle. So glad I’m not alone in my enjoyment of audio books!

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    1. I had to smile, I’ve spelled my name incorrectly more than once! Yes, eyesight is the reason I first started listening to audio books. And I have a 98 year old cousin that I wish liked them because her eyesight has deteriorated, alas, like you, she doesn’t like them. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

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  2. I loved audio books when I lived in SoCal and commuted to work. They distracted me from the tedium of long-distance driving without distracting me from the driving. I found listening to audio books an excellent way to ‘read’ many classic novels, as their pace often matched the traffic flow. And when you get the right marriage between words and narrator, it’s bliss. Nowadays I don’t commute so I prefer to read, but I’m experimenting with alternate forms of books other than print.

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    1. The last car I rented, Miko, had an earphone jack type plug that I could plug my Kindle into and hear through the car’s speaker system. Technology is just whizzing forward, and I’m not keeping up. Would love to hear your experimenting results when you have them–intriguing!

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  3. I have mixed feelings about audio books. I know it’s just me, but I tend to giggle when I hear a man read a woman’s line. There’s just something about it… My husband and I used to listen to audio books when we traveled, but that time has passed. Now I prefer to read rather than listen. I have to admit, though, it would be exciting to hear my stories being read aloud. Like I said,mixed feelings.

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    1. I can certainly understand the mixed feelings, Marja. Especially when I think about the memories you must have with your husband. I’m the same way about the sex of the narrator, if the protagonist is masculine, I need a male voice sounding in my ear. Haven’t listened to P.D. James audio books (my favorite author!) because when I read her books, Adam Dagleish is talking to me, and a lot 0f her audio books have a female narrator.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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    1. Commuting seems to be the prime time for listening for many. Wish they were available when I had a long commute (dark ages!) Though I think books on tape (or a similar name) were definitely available for the blind. I remember once wanting to read for the blind…but never followed through.

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  4. I guess I’m in the minority when it comes to audio books. It isn’t that I don’t like them, but they always make me fall asleep, even though I’m very interested. I once listened to Atlas Shrugged (14 tapes) via audio and it made me fall asleep each and every time. That book is based on Ouray, where I live, so I was fascinated with it. Since that experience, I’ve never tried audio books again.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jackie! Funny that, in that falling asleep was what first attracted me to them. I’d listen and fall asleep! So now listen at bedtime, and fall to asleep without my mind going all over the place, which it has a tendency to do when I want to sleep. Fortunately Kindle has timer settings so the narrative doesn’t go on and on after I’m asleep! But, if you’re really into reading, like you were with the Ouray book, you DON’t want to drift off.

      I love all your mountain snow pictures. Take care.

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  5. At the time of the 1994 earthquake, I was living in Northern L.A. county. A horrendous commute to West L.A. became much more so. My solution: audiobooks, lots of them. Other commuters have the same idea, as the the library shelves emptied. But normally, unless I’m on a long trip, I rarely “read” books that way. The narrator does makes all the difference and I imagine I could listen to Neil Dudgeon forever. I just watched the latest Midsomer episodes. One thing I’ve noticed is that the narrators tend to use a quivery voice for the older women characters—which seems to be anyone over 50.

    Susie Bernais narrated my first book, Murder at the Book Group. She was excellent.

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    1. Wow, on the earthquake–I wasn’t in area then. And you’re so right about the male narrators and female characters–interesting to hear how they do them. And some don’t balance the “acting” and “reading” as well as others. I checked out Susie Bernais on Audible–she has a nice voice. Put Murder at the Book Group on my list (unfortunately long!) for when I get my next audible credit. Kudos! Thanks for stopping by, Maggie, I’m really enjoying hearing about everyone’s audio experiences.

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      1. Madeline, thanks for putting my debut mystery on your list. Let me know what you think. I understand about long lists!

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  6. The Voice. So important to the story the writer is telling. If the story is in First Person, the voice has to be appealing or they toss the book. But even Third Person stories have to “speak” to the reader through what the characters, especially the main character(s), are saying. I get inside my characters by writing a biography for them. Then I start writing and wait for them to take over the story in their own voice. It really happens… in a literary way. Very good post and so important to have those books and stories “speak” to the reader.

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    1. Yes, Gayle, you’ve summed it up in two words, ” the voice!” And so agree, if you’ve developed/imagined your character well, they’ll take the lead… (I wrote a sentence today I really liked the sound of, the feel of–but then Leiv (the character) said, “No, that’s not me. Maybe some other character. Not me.” Alas, my perfect sentence is now gone. (smile)

      Thanks, for bringing some of our thoughts here to point!

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