I am excited to be approaching the final phase of a new pre-production process for my next audiobook. Vacation by JC Miller is a charming love story with an inventive redemption mini-plot. It will be about a seven-hour listen. Set in the gentle hills and stone villages of the Cotswolds of England and in the atmospheric Pacific Northwest, a vacation walking tour of pastoral England sparks an attraction between an introverted scientist and a wounded and independent history professor. Complications ensue of course.
This will be my eighth audiobook, self-produced in my home studio, a closet gutted and then treated for voice recording. One reason for this blog is to document the development of my craft. This post represents a new development in my process that I hope will enhance my storytelling and hence the listener’s audio experience.
I want to be a spell-binding storyteller. There I said it. It’s my goal. Nothing wrong with having a goal. And am I? A spell-binding storyteller? I don’t think so. At least not yet. But the glimpses I have are encouraging and fulfilling. And I do have an AudioFile Earphones Award to my credit now, so maybe I’m on the right path. The challenge is to keep moving on that path and turn those glimpses into an unbroken flow of compelling oral storytelling, and that is what my process is about. Some may say, “Just read the damn thing.” Sorry, I can’t. So, here’s what I have to do.
In my search to hone my craft I stumbled across The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. Shawn is an editor, literary agent, co-writer, and ghostwriter with twenty-five years experience including the Big Five publishing houses, independent publishing, and Hollywood. He’s also a business partner of one of my favorite authors, Stephen Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, The Lion’s Gate, The War of Art) who also writes a lot about writing. The Story Grid is Shawn’s contribution to the editing craft, for which there is no course of study, no degree, no training ground beyond apprenticeship. In it, he shares his deep knowledge of the building blocks of Story and how to break a Story down into all of the functional pieces that make that Story “work”.
What does that have to do with producing and narrating audiobooks?
The more I work with Story, the more I find myself needing to think like a writer. I find that when I spend time with an author’s work and come to know the Story intimately, then much of my work as a producer/narrator is done. Tone, pacing, emotional content, breathing, subtext, I don’t have to think about these. They are there because I’m so intimate with the Story. If I fall in love with the Story, the telling is easy, and will hopefully capture the imagination of the listener in a way that silent reading does not. And that’s why I love the oral tradition. Great writing is great writing either way, but for me, a spell-binding storyteller is the bomb. Analyzing the Story and defining the building blocks, such as the concept of the novel, the theme, the stakes, the narrative device, inciting incident, climax, beats, the obligatory scenes of the genre. How is the climax imbedded in the inciting incident? Does a scene turn on revelation, or character action? It all helps me fall in love with the Story. I guess we’ll see, huh?
Production starts March 11, 2017.