The most important thing about an audiobook is the words read out. The second most important thing about an audio book is the spaces between. Consideration should be given to the length of pauses and the pacing of the reading as the words are spoken.
How to Audio Book Narrate
A book that is read in a galloping pace throughout is the audible equivalent to being bludgeoned over the ears. Beautifully written prose is nothing if it is read like a robot or without feeling. This is why heeding the spaces between the words is so important.
Take a listen to this excerpt from my audio book the Shuttered Room by Charles J Harwood, narrated by Rachel Shirley. The main character, Jess has been abducted and is pursued through the woods. The slight shifts in pace reflects the suspense build-up as Jess hides in the woods. But we suspect something explosive is about to happen, and the acceleration in pace is saved for when it is needed.
Pacing the Book Reading
Often, I will read the script with pacing in mind, but often, pacing will require tweaking in the sound editing process. This means lengthening or shortening the silences between the wave patterns that are spoken aloud.
When it comes to audio book narration, the following needs bearing in mind:
When a sentence requires emphasis, a pause is often required. A character might reveal a secret, answer an important question or express deep emotion. Pauses are everything in such scenes. These longer-than-average pauses differentiate themselves from the rest of the narration.
When it comes to narrating action scenes, a faster pace is often required. This might be a chase, a gambling scene or a fight in the street.
When it comes to suspense, shifts in pace are often required. The moment before an explosive event might be slow, and then quicken once action commences.
Pacing in dialogue is another matter to consider. People speak in different speeds in different situations. A revelation of a secret might require emphasis between certain words and therefore pauses. A panicked person trying to communicate important information is likely to talk at a faster pace. Some characters might speak more slowly than others, and this can reflect who is speaking without having to use attributives.
How to Pace your Narration in an Audio Book
Instinct and the inner ear is important when fine-tuning the pacing of your audio book. It is also a good idea to listen to other audio books and pay attention to the pacing of the reading. Is yours faster than the norm? Does yours sound too slow after listening to a few audio books? Take a listen to lauded narrators with good reviews. How does your pacing sound by comparison? If undecided, I find it a good idea to do about three listening of each chapter. I always find a section of recording where the pause was far too short or where a piece of dialogue was rattled off too quickly. In such cases, I can adjust the pauses between the sentences or words.
Most recording software (I use Audacity) has a function where you can adjust the tempo of a recording without affecting the pitch. But use it sparingly. I will notch up or down the speed slightly. It can make all the difference to the spoken word. Always listen to the recording in context once the tweaking is done, to make sure it sounds right.
Be prepared to re-record the section if it continues to sounds wrong. The problem will continue to niggle, and will likely be picked up by the audio book listener.