For #BookWeekScotland The Orkney News has a new contributor
When I say the word audiobook to you, what comes to mind? The answer to that question can be many different things. Perhaps you think of radio dramatisations like those on BBC Radio 4 in the afternoon? – One favourite of mine being the 1980s Radio 4 version of Lord Of The Rings, which helped me sleep at night many a time when I was younger.
Perhaps you think of being read stories as a child? Or what might come to mind is Audible, Amazon’s audiobook platform which I personally have used for many years.
No matter what you think of or what platform you use audiobooks have come leaps and bounds in just the last few years alone. The truth is they have the potential to appeal to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a would be businessman who wants to learn tips and tricks from the best for their accounting business and you only have one free hour in the day, if you are a stay at home parent who wants Ian Rankin to entertain them while they do the ironing, or if you are truly engrossed by history and by well told stories like Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon the Great it won’t be hard to find something for your tastes
The reason I truly believe that audiobooks are so compelling is that it takes us back. Not just to when we were young but when the entire tribe was huddled against the campfire listening to the chief and the wise woman. They would tell us about the giant monstrous beasts that lived close by and warning us to be careful at night under that starlit sky.
Part of us, in fact I would say most of us, feels itself drawn to storytellers. Why else would we be so willing to sit in a dark cinema for hours watching the latest blockbuster or cheesy romance? We want to see the ending. We care about the characters involved. What’s going to happen to all the heroes in the latest superhero films? Will they or won’t they get together at the altar and who does the heroine end up marrying? Or will the police be able to catch the dastardly criminal in the act before his final and most gruesomely planned murder?When you boil a story down to its basics those questions and others like them are the ones that hook us and keep us drawn in.
Sometimes you don’t even need a question as your focus. If you’ve been reading or listening to a series for long enough you can learn to love small little scenes of characters in their own thoughts. Be it the moments between Peter Grant and Beverly Brook in the latest Rivers of London novel by Ben Aaronovitch – a series excellently narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith – or the interactions between DEATH and Susan Sto Helit in some of the Terry Pratchett novels – Hogfather in particular being a personal favourite –because those actions whatever they may be are perfectly true to the version of the characters in your mind. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve paused either while doing something minor or worrying about something important to wonder for the briefest of moments ‘I wonder what Rebus would do in this situation? Or the Doctor?’ imaging their responses and laughing. I’m sure you can all think of characters from stories that seemed unusually real to you? Ones you could imagine talking to over a nice cup of coffee or having fun with them at a party? Exactly.
All characters are real. They just have to be invented first and have their worlds maintained by authors and fans. Anyone can read books and see the appeal of a good story. But it takes a well done audiobook to make them real.