Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Seven Big Mistakes to Avoid when Audio Book Narrating

A narrator can make a mildly interesting thriller riveting or spoil a perfectly good romantic suspense novel. The secret to great audio book narration is to look for common peeves expressed by the audio book listener and act up on them. After searching and listening, have combined this with my own list of things the audio book narrator should avoid.

The Best and Worst Audio Book Narrators

1 Mouth smacks and clicks. A narrator that speaks with a dry mouth is bound to exude horrible clicks of the tongue or swallowing sounds. I personally dislike them and make sure I chew gum or sip water before narrating. A click that sneaks its way into my recording can easily be edited out by zooming into the sound wave and deleting the offending click.

2 Can’t tell who is talking. Some narrators do not shift the pitch of voice to differentiate between male and female characters. I work on deepening my voice so that a woman narrator can sound like a man. In this endeavor, I try to make each character sound different, as can be heard in this recording of my audio book A Hard Lesson by Charles J Harwood narrated by Rachel Shirley.

Told from Sarah's point of view in a crowded bar, we can hear Leah has a shrill, harsh squeal; Kurt, a dark coffee voice; Josh has a gruff, tight tone and Frank has a mid-brown, husky sound.

Notice the character voices are different to the narrative voice of Sarah. The reader can easily tell when a character is speaking.

I cannot change the pitch or timbre of voice for each character in one reading and will often record character voices at different sessions when I feel ‘into the character’. I will then insert the character voices into the relevant slots of narration.

Narrators that Drone on

3 Monotone voice without expression. Audio book listeners like to hear the voice go up and down during narration. This adds expression in the tone to convey the mood intended. If the character feels grief, express this emotion; if feeling fear or excitement, reflect this in the dynamism of the voice.

4 Over breathy voice that sounds whiny and sloppy. This tone lurks in the romantic or erotic books which have purported to be too much for taste. Even when narrating the chapter title, the narrator sounds as though he/she about to have an orgasm.

5 Terrible accents. Not every audio book narrator can get to grips with accents. I myself, find some harder than others. I stick to accents I can ‘feel’ rather than force it. I have done Cockney, Midlands, Welsh and New York. If the accent cannot be cracked, keep it subtle or avoid all together.

6 Half-soaked or condescending tone. Some audio book listeners lament that some narrators sound as though they are telling a child a bedtime story. Not appropriate for a crime thriller and can make the listener feel.

7 Lazy narrating. I myself have heard some narrators afflicted with the slur or the onset of languor at the end of sentences. That final consonant of certain words just seems too much effort.

Further Articles on Audio Book Narration

How a woman can sound like a man for narration

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