Listen and Learn

I’ve said it several times before, if you want to be a writer you must do two things religiously: write and read. Today I’m going to add one more item the must do list. You must also listen.

Let me explain. I walk to and from my “day job” nearly every weekday. I take the car only when it is raining (this being Oregon, what we call “rain” would be considered a biblical deluge most anywhere else) and when winter ice makes the trip near impossible. It’s 3.7 miles there and back. Sometimes I listen to music during my walk. Other times I contemplate a scene or chapter during the 25 minutes it takes to get from my front door to my desk where I work as an analyst for a large national corporation.

Lately I have been listening to books-on-tape, or to be more precise, books-on-kindle. This last week I have been listening to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep as read by Ray Porter. Before I go any further I must include a little caveat. I’ve known Ray Porter since 1990, when he came to Southern Oregon for his first season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. You must remember Herself and I have been associated with OSFA on and off since the late 60’s and have had the pleasure to have seen many excellent performers. Ray stands out as one of the best. He is an extraordinarily talented actor, musician, and narrator.

Ray Porter 2.jpg

Ray’s reading of The Big Sleep is masterful to say the least. He gives each character their own distinct voice, gender notwithstanding, while allowing Chandler’s writing style and literary voice to shine through. His Vivian Sternwood Rutledge has the feminine, smoky timbre of Lauren Bacall.

So what has this got to do with writing? If you’re at all like me, you hear the voices of each character in your mind as you write. I have found that listening to a skillful reading of a classic like The Big Sleep helps me more clearly delineate my character’s voices. Characters become more three-dimensional and defined.

I highly recommend you find several well done reading of prominent works within your chosen genre and let the words flow over you. I guarantee it will improve your writing.


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