Friday, 21 January 2011

Absorbing Words...

After my decision the other day to read more books, I started thinking about how many books that I actually absorb.

When I say absorb I really mean listen to...

Anyone who has listened to Radio 4 will probably have heard of Book at Bedtime; It is on at 10.45 pm Monday to Friday for 15 minutes and if you haven't tried it I'd recommend tuning in sometime. A book can be read over one or two weeks, sometimes three weeks, though there is obviously some abridging needed in longer novels.

A few weeks ago I was listening to Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, a book I've always intended to read but never have.

In the past I've fallen asleep listening to On Chesil Beach but needed to force myself to stay awake so I could follow Atonement- both by the same author- Ian McEwan-but clearly with very different results.

I remember listening to the first part of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and without knowing anything about the story- the book was just coming out at the time- thinking that the boy in the story had to be autistic (I recognised the same patterns that I've lived with every day with my own sons) and when I found out more about the story I understood why.

The books are brought to life with the very good readers, using intonations of accent when needed, easily suspending my disbelief when a male reader speaks female dialogue.

And that is something that appeals to the writer in me, not just me the the listener.

New writers are told to tune in and to listen to people and conversations going on around them- that's why I'm never without a notebook- and after a while it becomes automatic, we do it without thinking about it.

I think really we're wearing an invisible pair of headphones with an antenna attached which constantly tracks from left to right for that voice or chatter that we zero in on for some reason.

I've never had difficulty with my characters sounding different, and dialogue is my strongest area so perhaps all these years when I've been lying under the duvet listening to that week's book, my creative brain has been absorbing the skills of the readers and writers...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Reading and Writing...

Writers are told they need to read widely to help improve their own writing, so I decided this year I needed to read a little more variety than I have been doing so far...

When I'm writing historical I will either not read at all or if I do it will be a contemporary romance or a research based topic. If contemporary then I'll indulge my love of historical romance without tainting my own writing with similar sentence construction and character traits.

As a teenager I read a lot of different authors, Wilbur Smith, Graham Greene, Winston Graham and Agatha Christie among them. I devoured their words and styles of writing without any thought of the effect, but as I've got older my choices have become more tailored and I can see the various techniques the writer has used.

Now if a book just doesn't appeal and I can't get into it, then out it goes.

I've decided that's not good, sometimes I need to persevere- it isn't the book's fault (or necessarily the writer's) it's just me.

So, knowing I'm more likely to finish the book if I put it on my e-reader- so I can read it in bite-size sections-I spent a couple of hours perusing the fiction sections of online bookshops.
The thing that became very clear-as far as fiction was concerned- was that crime, romance and erotica have realised the potential of e-books and have ensured their books are out there to be bought and downloaded.

Finally I decided on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, so I paid for and downloaded it instantly.

I've decided I will keep an open mind about it, even though the opening seems a little strange - I read half a dozen pages while waiting for an appointment this afternoon.

Of course I'll still read my favourite Romance authors as well as paperbacks, but I'm going to aim for at least four books this year that I would not have normally chosen.

Any suggestions for future reads?