In the final analysis, writing fiction is nothing more exotic than storytelling. It’s proud lineage goes back to prehistoric times before the Roman Empire came into being. It includes Norsemen gathered around a fire, share-croppers clustered on the porch of a tumbledown shack, and 20th Century nuclear families crowded into the living room to listen to radio programs of the 1940s. Writers tell stories. It’s what they do.
Originally, some guy just shared a narrative about his day. Someone else built on that by adding nuance, intrigue, adventure, and drama. Maybe even some humor. Over time storytelling became an art form which transitioned from being exclusively the domain of the spoken work, to one that included print as well. Thank you, Johannes Gutenberg.
Audiences large and small appreciate the effort.
Somewhere in there someone got the great idea to record audio books. This takes the art form back to basics. It’s storytelling, plain and simple. Or is it? In truth, there’s nothing simple about telling a story. Some people can do it well, and others…well, others can’t. Just as Amy Schumer can utter a few words in a certain way that causes you to fall on the floor laughing, even through your aunt Cecilia gets only groans and looks of pity when she tells the same damn joke.
The question now becomes one of production quality. Should the author read their own work, or should they hire a professional narrator? Or should it be an actor reading the story? There is a difference between narrating and acting. One simply tells the story, the other attempts to bring the characters to life.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this puzzle. Sometimes narration works best. In other cases an actor can bring new life to a story. Ultimately, it’s not about what the author thinks, or the narrator, the actor, or even the producer. It all comes down to what the consumer thinks. If they like it, it’s good. If they don’t, it’s not.
And the beat goes on.