Friday, April 01, 2011

The Voices in My Head

Brent Ghelfi chiming in on Friday...

All of my books are published in audio editions. The first three were read by one of the best in the business, Stephen Hoye, who has worked for many years as an actor in London and Los Angeles, and has read dozens of books, including one of my favorites, James Ellroy’s “The Black Dahlia.” Hoye received at least one award for his reading of my first book.

But I haven’t listened to any of them.

I tried once. I was thrilled to have the chance to hear my words come back to me in the dramatic voice of a professional. Like most writers, I read my drafts aloud. James Sallis taught me that trick years ago. It helps writers find a rhythm, smooth rough patches, eliminate overwritten passages. But an audio book would be different, I thought. Better. Especially one read by an actor with a flair for characterization, like Hoye.

I stopped listening after the first line. Hoye’s voice wasn’t the voice inside my head, the voice that personified my character and turned him into a constant companion. This new voice sounded so alien that I had to stop listening before it took root.

I wonder how many other writers can’t listen to audio editions of their books? I suspect I’m not alone in this. One of the irreplaceable benefits of reading (and listening) is that the words allow each reader to tailor the story to fit his or her own worldview. The words project these tailored images, ideas, and emotions into our minds, so much so that I suspect that’s one reason we’re often disappointed by movies based on books we’ve read. The movie jars against the mental images and impressions we’ve already formed, just as that new voice on the audiotape jangles so discordantly in my ear.

So, I’m stuck. I can’t listen to Hoye’s magic. I’ll have to be content with the voices in my head.

1 comment:

Vicki Delany said...

I like the audio versions of my books. I think the reader does a great job, although she gets the Canadian accent wrong and mis-pronounces words like Trafalgar (the name of the town - kinda important). it's great fun and I always listen to it all one time through. I actually learn something as well - its a very different experince than reading your MS on computer or in galleys.