On Reading Charlie…
Fledgling authors are admonished, “write what you know.” Your life experience provides the basis for the authentic depiction of subject, characters and plot. After reading the words of hundreds of authors, I discovered that advice is completely superfluous. An author has no choice.
Charlie Grant illustrates the point perfectly. The life experience is evident in every line. His fictional characters possess the expected primary traits that clearly establish their roles in the story. What makes his stories interesting and the characters captivating is the variety and depth of their personalities. This depth not only creates believable characters, but sometimes actually drives the direction of the plot. Characters with different value systems react very differently to the same stimuli. The ability to create characters of this quality requires not only a fair amount of life experience, but an acute interest in and attention to the human condition.
Fiction writing is essentially storytelling. It began in the aural tradition, spread by wandering storytellers with stories and folk tales passed verbally from generation to generation. With the advent of the printing press, a new medium emerged – the book. And now, applying even newer technologies, we have come full circle to the verbal telling of tales in the guise of audiobooks.
Enter the narrator.
In one respect, the narrator simply represents a change of medium – from print to sound. But there is a bit more to it than that. The narrator must also be a storyteller. The content is still the product of the author, but the narrator brings it to life as sound.
One of the most challenging aspects of narrating audiobooks is the matter of doing justice to the intent of the author. Ideally, as narrators, we should deliver the story in such a way as to convey the meaning the author had in mind when writing it. How can this be done? A conversation with the author goes a long way in understanding the desired tone and flow of a story. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, and in many cases, the interpretation is ultimately left to the narrator.
In the books of Charlie Grant, fortunately, the richness of each character’s personality shines out clearly from his or her thoughts and actions. You don’t have to be told and you don’t have to guess. But now I have to tell you another little secret. The delivery of a story – any story – by a narrator will be flavored by the reader’s life experiences just as the manuscript is flavored by the author. The end product is of necessity a collaboration. When things go right, this effort allows listeners to suspend disbelief and to plunge head-first into the author’s world to participate in a thrilling adventure. Charlie makes it easy and fun for us all.
This was written at Kathy Ptacek’s request. She mentioned that Charlie’s (and her) birth date was approaching and that several folks were contributing articles to celebrate the event. She felt that some of his friends and fans might be interested in hearing about the production of his books into audio format. I never had the privilege of meeting Charlie, but through this process feel as though we are now acquaintances. The production of the Black Oak series has been pure pleasure.
(C) Art Flavell 2016