Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mysteries of Pacing Part 1 - Siri Reads Text Aloud

Mysteries of Pacing
Part 1
Siri Reads Text Aloud 

I posted an article from Forbes Magazine on the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook, and discussion erupted immediately.


Readers Still Prefer Physical Books

Since we are all obviously online and using electronic devices, you'd think everyone on this Facebook Group would be entirely into ebooks by now.  Maybe they'd all have favorite formats or providers, but you wouldn't expect to find Tree Book Lovers on a Facebook Group.  But you do!

Just as this Forbes Magazine article indicates, readers still love, appreciate, and collect hardcopy books.

Some comments pointed out how text that needs to be constantly updated, such as textbooks, and databases such as phone numbers, plus other material you wouldn't want to save and archive, benefits from ebook distribution.

A counter argument for tree books came from one of the writers on the Group Edward B.Wilson P.Eng., M.Sc. P.E.

Edward Wilson When you are serious about eternity it is pressed into wet clay and fired.

Books are a legitimate harvest of trees, and they are usually replaced quickly in North America with younger fast-growing trees that harvest more CO2 from the air. As long as the books are not burned they are an environmental draw (Perhaps a win, and certainly not a loss unless burned).

Note 30 or 40 years ago a Green organization came to the Acta Publishing company complaining about their magazines. The Greens didn't like the large amounts of clay (Sizing) and that Acta used metallic dies that were quite toxic so the magazines couldn't be recycled easily.

Acta, a science publisher explained, They publish the basis of our civilization (including the proof of Flemant's Last Theorem), their magazines are designed to last for 1000 years, not three weeks. They are NOT meant to be recycled they are meant as the lasting record of what is going on, and what is known in science and engineering (Two totally different subjects).

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Traditionally, Romance novels have been read-and-toss category, but all that changed as other genres were blended in, and a woman could become the hero of a woman's story.  Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance novels are not only breaking new ground, but also tackling deep, profound, and far-ranging topics at the edges of human awareness.

Some will become classics, republished in more permanent form.

See How Do You Know If You've Written a Classic series.  Part 1 is about people "discovering" novels, Part 2 about Spock's Katra and Theodore Bikel, while Part 3 is written answers to questions posed by the producer of a podcast who interviewed me in 2019.


One of the attributes common among works elevated to "Classic" status (i.e. that appeal to more than one generation of readers, become gifted to children by parents who want them to understand the world) is pacing.

Pacing means many things too many people.  Editors look at it one way, publicists look at it another, and writers -- well, most writers just muddle along as best they can.

But discovering what pacing is and how it alters the reader's perception of what the novel says about "life, the universe, and everything," is very possibly the most advanced lesson in writing craft.

Many writing courses emphasize that a writer should test-read aloud the words she has just crafted to discover what to change.  This works for some, and will uncover some chronic errors (accidental alliteration being one big deal! Incessant word-repetition is another.) it doesn't work well for most writers.

Writers are readers, and most readers don't SAY the words in their heads while reading.  Somewhere in elementary school, you learned to detach your tongue and throat from the flow of words through your eyes.  You don't say or hear them, you read them.

Much of the craft of "pacing" a story lies within the simple choice of word, length of sentence, and grammar.  Language usage to evoke non-verbal cues in the reader is an art form.

But all art requires craft.

Focusing on how the reader absorbs the words, and how the reader responds emotionally to the words, and how much time it takes for the reader's autonomic nervous system, and endocrine system to process the words into meaning, will help the writer unleash their art.

In screenwriting, and in learning acting, -- in casting a stage play -- there is a part of the process of production called a "Table Read" where actors who will play the parts sit around a table and read their parts, beginning to develop how to bounce dialogue off each other and create the Characters they are portraying.

Reading your own words aloud won't get you that effect because you know what you wanted to say.  It's as ineffective as trying to proof-read your own typing.

Most writers don't have a bunch of friends who happen to be trained actors or vocalists, and if they do, those actors are too busy acting to spend the hours doing chapter by rewritten chapter Table Reads of raw material.

There is now, in our modern world, a tool writers can use to get an idea of how their writing sounds when read aloud.

Experienced and very active blind people use Siri to read text aloud.

I assume other platforms have similar features, but as we were discussing the preference for paper printed books that persists, one of the responders who is severely sight impaired supplied the following information in answer to my question about how Siri on iPhone can read aloud from ebooks and pages.  I know I have a number of blind fans reading Sime~Gen as the series was one of those selected for Braille and recorded editions by the Library of Congress.

If you write on a word processor, you can use Calibre (on Mac or Windows) to convert whatever you write to whatever your voice assistant reads.  Some people might want to try different voice assistants to compare.  We are in a world full of adventure.

So to use Siri, take the advice of Cheree Heppe, experienced reader. 

The feature where a voice on the iPhone reads books and things is marvelous. It is not incompetent, like dictation.

This feature can be enabled so that it can be turned on and off with a simple command or gesture. Are use the triple click home gesture because it works fast and because I have a home button.

I think Siri can turn the voice over feature on and off, but I don't use that way because there is interfering ambient sound in some of the venues where I want to make adjustments.

I prefer an exploratory method for the screen. I do not like the method where a user simulates a board game for the structure of exploration by flicking, flicking, flicking through choices until finding the right one. This method is very 1970s and inefficient and plays on an old stereotype about blind people not having spatial orientation sufficient to explore a screen. I found out that someone invented it so trainers who are cited would not have to try to use eyes free methodologies to explore the screen.

The voice I use is the Karen voice. This is an Australian female. I have the speed and the voice set so that this voice reads my books and is my main voice for the iPhone. I have also set voices for Hebrew, German and Spanish. These have to be configured in Settings/General/Accessibility. I think the sub setting is Speech.

Once the voice or voices for the different languages is set, it is possible to change settings on the fly, such as speed and which voice responds to text, by using a gesture called the rotor. This rotor gesture is tricky to use. Especially if an operator is working eyes free, but it is a doable thing. It does require practice. One time, I got stuck in a language I didn't understand and had to call Apple to get me out of the jam.

When this voice feature is enabled through accessibility, it changes the gesture patterns. This is why it helps to be able to turn the accessibility feature off and on, especially if the phone is used by people who see, as well as by people who want eyes free operation.

Apple Accessibility Help Desk support is available 24 seven. They ask that people using their service either have a disability or that the people calling be in the process of setting up a device for someone who is disabled.

The phone number for this help desk is:
1-877 204-3930.

This help desk, which is open 24 seven, can screen share if they require detailed examination of a problem situation.

If someone were to call and need help with this service and they thought that someone was not disabled under the definition, it should be possible to solve the problem suggested in that short story, Operation High Time, where a Gen could slip through by wearing retainers.

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Here is a cultofmac.com article on getting an iPhone to read aloud.

You can use this method to find out what your blind fans will hear from an A.I. reader, which is a totally different experience from an audiobook.

Whether you want to alter your style to translate well into Siri, you will learn a lot about how your work communicates with your readers.

It is a start on unraveling the mysteries of Pacing.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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