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Getting to Know Your Characters Through Audio

I’ve been an avid reader ever since I learned to decode strings of printed letters into words, but it’s only now that I have a smartphone that I’ve really gotten into audiobooks and podcasts. I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of listening to fiction—it takes me way longer to listen to a book than to read it, and once I’m into the story I want to load it into my brain as quickly as possible.
Close-up of a microphone
But I love using audiobooks to research my characters.

When I started writing Marriage: Impossible, which featured a Navy SEAL hero, I was lost. I didn’t have any close friends or family in the military, and I certainly didn’t have any firsthand experience. How was I going to get far enough into my hero’s head that his dialog and internal thoughts would sound like those of a Navy SEAL? I started watching documentaries and reading blog posts.

But audiobooks were what really helped me. To get to know my hero, I listened to all kinds of audiobooks, from autobiographies of Navy SEALS to journalists’ accounts of modern warfare. If I was working out, cooking dinner, or doing laundry, I was also listening to my latest audiobook.

Immersing myself in my hero’s world on a daily basis flipped a switch in my brain, so that the mindset and word choices I had been struggling with began to flow. Finally, my hero sounded like a Navy SEAL.

I also discovered self-publishing podcasts. My current favorites are The Creative Penn, featuring an eclectic selection of guest interviews, covering everything from using dictation to increase your daily word count to Facebook ads. Joanna is such a great interviewer that I tend to come away with useful information whatever the topic. For a more marketing-focused podcast, I also love the Self-Publishing Formula.

What about you? Do you listen to audiobooks or podcasts for fun or research? What are your favorites?

10 responses to “Getting to Know Your Characters Through Audio”

  1. I haven’t thought to use audio sources as a research tool, so this is fascinating! I have little “quiet time” to listen to things, but I’ve been traveling a lot this summer and realizing audio books make that time in the car pass quickly. I leave for RWA today (an 8-hour drive) and plan to listen to 11.22.63 by Stephen King, since I haven’t found time to read the book. It’s a 30-hour audio book, so I’ll have to take a couple trips. LOL

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    • Wow–30 hours.

      One of the things I notice when I listen to fiction audiobooks as opposed to reading is that I get a lot more of the little details regarding setting, etc. I guess my brain thinks of them as extraneous details and skips right over them when I’m reading. Sometimes it’s nice to slow down and really get every detail out of the book.

      Hope the drive goes quickly. 🙂

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  2. Tamara Hogan says:

    Ava, thanks for the tip about The Creative Penn. I follow Joanna on Twitter, but I haven’t listened to her podcast.

    I enjoy listening to workshops and podcasts while I’m mowing the lawn and such, but I have a strong preference for printed content over audio or video in most things, and despite trying, I just can’t get into audiobooks. There’s something about a voiceover artist’s performance that creates an undesirable layer between me and the work, if that makes sense? I get really distracted, end up rewinding, and quit listening out of frustration. 😉

    To everyone on their way to RWA16 – safe travels to everyone, and have a blast!

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    • I understand what you mean. I definitely have to make sure that I’m okay with the voiceover artist before I buy an audiobook.

      Several of the nonfiction audiobooks I’ve listened to recently have been narrated by the author. That comes with its own set of problems if the author isn’t a natural performer, but if they are I think it does help in terms of getting rid of that layer.

      Hope you like The Creative Penn!

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  3. I listen to both the Creative Penn (Joanna has such a great accent!) and Self Publishing Formula. I also like the Self-Publishing Podcast (with Johnny, Sean and Dave from Write, Publish, Repeat) and Rocking Self Publishing (Simon also has a very nice accent). I only recently started listening to the Sell More Books Show … it features publishing news and the hosts’ take on it.
    In case you couldn’t tell, I listen to a lot of podcasts. Got into them when I moved a year ago — I STILL haven’t plugged in my TV (though I do now watch a few shows on Hulu).

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    • Hahaha. Yes, I find my TV largely unnecessary. It just sits there in case I want a big screen to watch netflix on once in a while.

      Thanks for the podcast recommendations, Arlene!

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  4. Thanks for the tips. I haven’t listened to many audios yet but there have been times I would have found them convenient!

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  5. Elisa Beatty says:

    Brilliant idea, Ava!!

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