Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sound and Screen Combined

Mark Coker discusses the future of ebooks on GalleyCat.

Here's my two cents:

In all the prognostications about the future of ebooks, nobody seems to mention the obvious: Sound. Sound and screen combined. The audiodisc (formerly the audiotape) will be just as quaint as the printed book. Instead, the print and sound will converge into one. You can read the story, or you can listen to the story, or you can do both at the same time—on the same device.

Authors and publishers haven’t realized the implications of this convergence. As an author, I’m just beginning to figure it out. I stumbled into this intersection when I embraced podcasting a couple of years ago and, more recently, started converting my titles to ebooks. Two years of podcasting my novels has taught me how to use my voice dramatically, how to adapt my writing to the best features of my voice, and—perhaps the most exciting—how to integrate music into the story. I’m not talking about background music. I’m talking about music that is an integral piece of the plot.

In my first two podcast novels, Clear Heart and Boone Barnaby, I used music as an intro and outro to each segment. For my third podcast novel, Babcock, I continued the intro and outro music but also found a few opportunities to use music within certain episodes. I could do this because it was the story of a rock band, and their songs were part of the plot. I like the result, but I’m also frustrated by the fact that I wrote the novel in 1992 with no awareness that I might one day be singing parts of it to an audience, so it is written for the printed page, not taking full advantage of the possibility of musical drama.

I’m now writing a new novel about blues musicians. For the first time I’m creating a story with an awareness of how the music will be integrated into the podcast. I hope more authors try this. Soon I hope to post a rough draft of a sample chapter so you can judge for yourself.

(By the way, I'm sorry about the lack of posts to this blog recently, but as I said, I'm writing a novel. It takes all my time.)

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