The Art of Listening

by RS on June 7, 2010

As you can see, Rebeca Schiller has had a bit of a makeover. Do you like it? It’s still minimal, the palette is simple. I suppose I could get a little snazzier, but I like it.  I’m using a custom theme (The Ultimate Blogging Theme) and I have the license to use on other sites, but for now I’m giving it a test run to see how well it works.

I mentioned last week that I’ve been busy with some knitting and listening to an audiobook. The book I chose was Stephen King’s IT. I read this during one winter break in college and I really enjoyed it. I have no clue why I decided to buy the audio version, but I’m pleased that I did. Steven Weber (the actor who played Jack Rudolph in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) reads beautifully, and he acts out the parts convincingly (even the female ones). My intention is not to provide a review of the audio version, but more of my personal insight on becoming a better listener.

I’ve read a lot of Stephen King and I’ve seen the film adaptations of his books, but listening to the story opens a different world. In the beginning, I admit, I was a little impatient with the ton of detail he provides, but after an hour of listening, I started to relish all the miniscule details and see how each one fits into the story.

I always thought I was a pretty good listener and reader, but I’ve come to realize I tend to tune out a lot (I wish I could do that right now and not have to hear the mower outside my window). For someone who wants to write, listening and observation are part of the foundation of good writing (and this post is not by any means an example of good writing).  So what am I fumbling about? I guess what I’m trying to get down is that a lot of us who want to write fiction need to work on some of our basic skills. We tend to shut off the hearing for both real life situations, and we tend not to read as closely as we should. By listening to IT, I’ve gained some insight about the voice of style, balancing show versus tell, the nuances of dialogue, and the story’s pacing. Of course, these are things you look at when you read, but to actually to hear these elements in action and see how they all seamlessly fall into place, makes me want to listen to more stories and see what I missed and how I can improve my own story-telling.

So after IT, I’d like to listen to MudBound by Hillary Jordan. I stumbled across this in a brand new blog I discovered, Word Love A Bolog by Randy Susan Meyers, who wrote:

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan absorbed me from page one. Forties-era Mississippi is presented by shifting points of view from interacting characters who are opposite sides of the same puzzle: A culture-shocked wife digs deep inside herself when brought from the city to the mud-encased farm her husband buys. He clings to worn-out values, while his too-attractive brother attempts to overcome the mark of their abusive father and the bigoted culture in which they were raised. The black patriarch of a family sharecropping on this farm invokes religion to help him remain steady in this rage-invoking culture. His son, home from the war and having tasted equality while overseas, struggles to shake off the yoke of racism. His mother allows nothing to stand in the way of protecting her family.

Shifting points of view has been a topic of discussion in my online writers group, and I’m curious of how Jordan handles it, and how well the characters come across to listeners.

By the way, Meyers is also a writer. Her novel, The Murderer’s Daughters, is on my To Read list or should it be To Listen?

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