Does the ear make the writer?

Audiobook-Logo-White-2-No-BIn Letters of Ted Hughes, the English poet and children’s writer, husband of Sylvia Plath, offered advice to his daughter Frieda in a letter about the importance of reading aloud – “Read every sentence as a separate music speech unit – advice which he subsequently explains he himself received from T.S. Eliot:

T.S. Eliot said to me ‘There’s only one way a poet can develop his actual writing – apart from self-criticism & continual practice. And that is by reading other poetry aloud – and it doesn’t matter whether he understands it or not (i.e. even if it’s in another language.) What matters above all, is educating the ear.'”

Then Hughes continues, “What matters, is to connect your own voice with an infinite range of verbal cadences & sequences – and only endless actual experience of your ear can store all that in your nervous system. The rest can be left to your life & your character.”

Although he was referring specifically to poetry, Hughes was also a “supremely original writer of imaginative and critical prose.” Is it reasonable then that the same is true of the writer of narrative prose? Does reading aloud also help develop a writer’s Storytelling? And if the experience of the narrative writer’s ear, as they read aloud, contributes to the development of their skill as a writer, then is this where the oral and literary traditions intersect? There in the nervous system of the writer? Is it that “infinite range of verbal cadences & sequences” that culminates in a narrative voice telling a story that the writer hears and then records for consumption by the eye? And does the reader then hear that same voice? Is the reader’s satisfaction directly related to the fluency and clarity of that narrative voice? Who might answer these questions? J.K. Rowling? George R. R. Martin? Hemingway? Shakespeare? The New York Times book critics?

So then, when a Story is read aloud, is the listener’s enjoyment and satisfaction directly related to the reader’s ability to find and channel that same narrative “voice?” Writers and audiobook narrators want to know. My money is on yes.

What It Takes: What Are Love Stories For?

Audiobook-Logo-White-2-No-B“The Obsession Love Story concerns physical Desire. This is the first level of love,thinking someone is cute and wanting to possess them.…” – Shawn Coyne, What Are Love Stories For?

In Part 3 of his 6 part guest post series on, Shawn Coyne breaks down the Love Story genre into its three sub-genres, Obsession, Courtship, and Marriage. He introduces the qualities that define each sub-genre and also presents a convincing discussion of the role Love Stories play in our lives. “Love stories give us prescriptive (positive) and cautionary (negative) tales to navigate love’s emotional minefield. They give us tools to try out and behaviors to avoid.”

Shawn covers all of this in greater detail, as well as the breakdown of the other literary genres, in his book, The Story Grid. Written primarily for editors and based on his twenty-five year career in publishing, The Story Grid is also a valuable resource for both aspiring and established writers. In it he approaches the global concept of Story through deconstruction of genre based on Content, Structure, Time, Reality, and Style. Love Story is, of course, one of those genres. I use The Story Grid‘s concepts to analyze Stories that I’m preparing to narrate and produce as audiobooks.

My current production is Vacation by JC Miller. A Courtship Love Story set partially in the Cotswolds, the walking capital of England, where the lovers meet. In this preview clip, we find all the main characters who appear in the walking tour part of the story. Two extremely attractive and cultured French women, a gay couple from North Carolina, an older couple from Australia, Annie from Vashon Island, Washington, William, our hero, and their bumbling tour guide, all deal with a “wee” change in itinerary.

Vacation is set for a summer 2017 release.

Why Love Rules By Shawn Coyne

What I Mean by Love Story By Shawn Coyne

What Are Love Stories For? By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Controlling Idea By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Obligatory Scenes By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Conventions By Shawn Coyne


In Production | Vacation by JC Miller (clip #2)

vacation-cover2Sneak Preview Clip #2. Vacation is a delightful courtship Love Story, by JC Miller, set partially in the Cotswolds, the walking capital of England, where the lovers meet.

This clip is the beginning point of the story’s build, just following the inciting incident where William, our hero, the geeky and overworked head of the Pathology Department at Seattle’s Northwest Hospital, goes against his nature and agrees to take his first vacation in a decade.

In this scene he arrives at the airport the morning of his flight to England on his way to a walking tour of the Cotswolds, the walking capital of England. Verdant hills, country gardens, meandering streams, and honey-colored stone villages await him. Not to mention romance. Hope you enjoy it.

Vacation is set for a summer 2017 release.

What It Takes: What I Mean by Love Story

Audiobook-Logo-White-2-No-B“In Chretien’s popular story, Lancelot, The Knight of the Cart, the pivotal love story notion of a “proof of love” comes to the fore. And that proof of love element proved so cathartic for his audience that it became the must-have for every love story that followed…” – Shawn Coyne, What I Mean by Love Story

In Part 2 of his 6 part guest post series on, Shawn Coyne looks back to the 12th century and the original Arthurian literary innovation as the genesis of the obligatory “proof of love” scene in any Love Story.

As an audiobook producer/narrator I’ve begun utilizing the concepts in Shawn’s book, The Story Grid, to analyze the novels I narrate before recording them. My first application of this method is in production now. As I post this article, I’ve just completed recording Chapter 4 of Vacation by JC Miller. So yes, it’s very early to be evaluating the effectiveness of my new pre-production approach. Will it make a difference in the finished product? Will it enhance the listener’s engagement and enjoyment of the Story?

So far, I’m finding that, because I have an intimate relationship with the Story as a result of my analysis, I am much more confident in my interpretation and delivery.

For example, knowing that I’m in the “inciting incident” scene evokes a sense of drama appropriate for the event that makes the story start. It affects my oral dynamics, tone, pace, inflection, intensity. I know it’s an obligatory scene for the genre and I know specifically how that obligatory scene serves the Story. So my focus is on ensuring that the scene functions as such and serves the Story in that critical capacity. My goal is for the Story to enthrall the listener so that time is suspended as the Story fires the imagination.

Vacation is set for a summer 2017 release. Here is a preview clip from a scene shortly following the inciting incident, where William, our protagonist, worn down by grief and loneliness, has made his first mistake ever in the lab, and co-workers convince him to take his first vacation in 10 years.

I will continue posting short clips as I move through production.

Source: What It Takes: What I Mean by Love Story

In Production | Vacation by JC Miller

vacation-cover2This week I began audiobook production for Vacation [Sneak Preview], JC Miller’s charming “tale of love and loss and real friendship, artfully told. JC Miller is keenly observant not of the sensational but of the quotidian, the fleeting thoughts and sensations that overtake us when we think we’re strolling in a meadow or preparing a meal; the subtle inflections of the heart as it speaks to us. You will know her characters intimately and you can’t help but feel with them.” – Daniel Coshnear, author of Occupy & Other Love Stories, winner of the 2000 Willa Cather Fiction Prize

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.

Vacation is set for a Summer 2017 release. Listen to a Free Preview Clip from this week’s recording session.


What It Takes: Why Love Rules

Audiobook-Logo-White-2-No-B“Was there some fundamental want or need that human beings desired or required to survive a hostile environment? And could that want or need be fulfilled by simply following the behavioral prescriptions inherent in a compelling story?” – Shawn Coyne, Why Love Rules

Source: What It Takes: Why Love Rules

In the first of six guest posts about Love Story in Steven Pressfield’s blog series, What It Takes on, Shawn Coyne introduces the use of genre as the lens through which to view the writer’s craft of Storytelling. His method is both enlightening and accessible, a powerful tool to guide any writer, editor or, in my case, audiobook narrator in delivering compelling Stories, Stories that “work.”

The building blocks that make Story work vary from genre to genre.

Shawn Coyne is an editor, literary agent, co-writer, and ghostwriter with twenty-five years experience, including the Big Five publishing houses, independent publishing, and Hollywood.

In this series of guest posts, he examines the craft of telling Love Story from the primordial ooze of human emotional need to the themes, conventions, and obligatory scenes that define the Love Story genre, make us feel its special magic, and keeps us coming back for more. This is not simply a breakdown of the modern Romance novel, but rather a close examination of the functional elements of any Story that “concerns romantic love, which is love with the possibility of sex.” That is Love Story and its three sub-genres, Obsession, Courtship, and Marriage.

Shawn Coyne’s book, The Story Grid, is his 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 elements that make it “work”.

As an audiobook narrator, I have begun using The Story Grid to analyze the Story before recording it. This helps give me a more intimate connection to the Story and an awareness of how the author uses their building blocks to construct the Story and convey its controlling idea (theme). I want to understand how and why the author’s execution of the building blocks makes their Story work. My goal is to tell the Story that the author intended for the reader to the listener, to faithfully tell the story that was written for the eye in a way that is most satisfying for the ear.

What Are Love Stories For? By Shawn Coyne

What I Mean by Love Story By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Controlling Idea By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Obligatory Scenes By Shawn Coyne

Love Story Cheat Sheet / Conventions By Shawn Coyne

OMARI AND THE PEOPLE by Stephen Whitfield Read by Curt Simmons | Audiobook Review | AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award Winner


Thank you to AudioFile Magazine for the Earphones Award for Omari And The People. This is my first audiobook award. I am truly honored it comes from AudioFile Magazine.3d2bcover

AudioFile Audiobook Review:  Like Robin Hood, the Phantom Thief, Omari, robs from the wealthy and gives to the poor. But he’s changed when flames engulf his City on the Sea of Providence, somewhere in Arabia. Curt Simmons has a great baritone voice with a charming timbre. He adds a subtle Middle Eastern accent to his narration of this atmospheric action-adventure. Besides Omari, the magical tale is peopled… Read More

Source: OMARI AND THE PEOPLE by Stephen Whitfield Read by Curt Simmons | Audiobook Review | AudioFile Magazine