Adapting audio to print for Subterranean Press: Water to Wine

Last year, I participated in the audio anthology Metatropolis: Cascadia from  It was a shared world anthology, built on a story by Jay Lake about what might happen to the Pacific Northwest in the future.   Because the stories in the anthology were written specifically for audio, it shaped many of the choices I made when writing it.

For instance, I began writing it in third person, but decided to rework it into first person because I think that lends itself to audio fiction.  There are emotional nuances available to a first person narrator which are somewhat removed for someone speaking in third person.

Because I knew it would be spoken, I treated it like a giant monologue and included “stage directions” for how I wanted lines to be read by the narrator, Kate Mulgrew. [1. Allow me to insert a moment of fangirl squee that Captain Janeway read my story.] In fact, the first thing on the page was this:

[Note to reader and director. Because this is audio, please cut all the lines in brackets unless you need them to distinguish characters. I put them in to attribute dialogue lines where I thought there would be some ambiguity or, occasionally, as stage directions for how I’d like a line read.]

In practical terms that means that Ms. Mulgrew saw things like this.

Lizzie scowled. “Of course it’s the wine.” [sarcastic]

After the audio version came out, I went back through the story and adapted it to the written page.  This meant writing additional material to cover the emotional content that a narrator’s voice can deliver. So that line above now reads:

Lizzie scowled and let the sarcasm flow. “Of course it’s the wine.”

The story is the same, but it is adapted for a different medium.  It was an interesting experience to tackle the same idea for two different forms of prose.

If you’d like to read the results, the print version is now available at Subterranean Press. Here’s a teaser:

Water sprayed out from beneath the wine barrel, carrying the faint stink of sulfur with it. I suppose it’s crazy to have a fondness for the smell of rotten eggs, but that means cleanliness in the wine industry. I shut off the hose and wrestled the barrel off the ancient Gamma-Jet, rolling it to the racks outside the cellar door so it could drain in the sun. I tend to grunt whenever I heave a barrel off the ground and let it drop onto the metal frame. It’s not the weight so much — an empty barrel weighed about a hundred pounds — but the size is awkward. I’ve seen men who can’t do this, and take a certain delight in being able to heft them. My hands are constantly getting nicked from where the metal hoops at the ends catch me, and the scarring would ruin any chance at a career as a hand model. As if I would leave the winery voluntarily. Still there are days when a physically easier job would be welcome.

You can read the whole story at Subterranean Press » Fiction: Water to Wine by Mary Robinette Kowal.

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6 Responses

  1. Brett WR Smith


    Thanks for posting this! I’ve been ‘away’ a while reconditioning my own first novel for pitching (it has been requested – now I’m cobbling together a synopsis!) and attending the Whidbey Island Writers Conference.

    I’ve also been thinking about learning to write screenplays in anticipation of perhaps adapting my novel. We can always dream, right?

    Many thanks, again. It’s great to see the nuts and bolts that go into the art and I appreciate your willingness to let us have a look under the hood.

    Take care!


  2. Laura C

    Oh, that’s an interesting idea! I’m glad you thought to adapt the fiction.

    I agree about first person narratives being great for audio fiction, also. If there’s a first person narrative I want to “read” I usually don’t buy it in paper but listen to it from audible.

    And…wow. KATE MULGREW. That is awesome! 😀 I can’t even imagine how that feels. That is COOL 😀