Being born and having spent the first half of my life in Ireland, the term 'Seanchai' (shan-a-key) was something I grew up hearing in both history and Irish language lessons during my school years. In the days of old, the ‘Seanchai’ (teller of old lore) would have been either a wise and trusted village elder, or sometimes a travelling itinerant using their oral skills as a means of bagging a meal and a bed for the night. Invited into people’s homes, they shared their versions of folklore and adventure, always in the form of oral shorter narratives. Stories were told, retold, embellished, passed through generations during an era where the resident story teller was a person who commanded respect.
And what are we writers, if not storytellers? As human beings we all have stories to tell, but though the need to tell a story may be instinctive, the art of committing it to paper is not easy. The novelists among us choose to write 100,000 words. Others use less words, telling shorter stories but those of us who seek recognition in either genre have to adhere to many rules. There are always rules.
I’m quite sure the ‘Seanchai’ sitting by the parlour fire was less confined by rules. I’m sure their use of adverbs was frequent. They would have loved ‘telling’ as much as ‘showing’. A switch of point of view would have been a must. Plotting and planning would have been exempt from their lexicon. All very well with each tale being told, retold and lasting mere minutes, not alas for the modern equivalent of oral storytelling – the audio book, i.e. the audio novel.
Despite hard recessionary times, the audio book is an area of publishing witnessing steady growth. According to a 2008 APA (Audio Publishers Association) survey, 28% of adults and 53% of teens surveyed listened to audio books in the previous year. As a writer who dreams of commercial success, this market share is something I, and others like me, certainly need to be aware of.
However, all books do not translate well to the audio medium. I’m not aware of the rules but there must be some! My current WIP, my second novel, almost finished at 96000 words is dialogue intense and though every piece of dialogue I’ve written is read aloud by me many times to ensure its authenticity, I’m not sure the novel lends itself to a single narrator being able to tell the full ‘story.’ So, is that a major ‘faux pas’? Have I made an already difficult job harder, effectively cutting off a potential market or could a professional abridger edit the work creating an audio version, whilst staying true to the spirit and content of the story? Hmmm. I'm not sure I’d recognise it. The fact is that I've written a book that I feel needs to be read.
Maybe this was subliminal on my part. The writer in me also loves to
read and I prefer longer narratives than would have been favoured by the ‘Seanchai.’ Had I lived in that time, before most of their audiences could read and write, I would definitely have occupied a worn out corner near the fire. Today, I’m lucky enough not to be affected by physical or educational limits and so, I choose to read the story the writer sought to tell. I want to hold a book, to feel it, smell it’s scent, put a bend in the spine.
It does bear thinking about for the future though. Perhaps book three as well as being a quality work of unique fiction depicting endearing character's lives, their struggles and conflicts whilst never using adverbs, with authentic dialogue that illuminates the characters and always moves the story along with wit and pace and panache (Breathe...!) Perhaps it also needs to be written to be heard? Just as I thought I was getting the hang of this writing thing. Pah.