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Audiobook Narrator: Do Listeners Find You
InterestING Or InterestED? They'll Hear It ...

March 2, 2017

By Jim Conlan
Voice Actor, Audiobook Narrator, Coach

What makes a story interesting?

For years I’ve been saying that if what you’re narrating matters to you, it will matter to your listeners. But how do you make it matter?

Logically, you might say (and I’ve heard many say it) that you need to "be interesting.”  

Well… OK… but have you ever tried to "be interesting”? I have. Any number of painful dating experiences comes to mind.

By when trying to be interesting I was putting the attention on myself, not on the other person.  


So, what if we changed the adjective a little: instead of trying to be "interesting,” how about being "interested”?

Whether you’re narrating an account of the murder of Robert Blake’s wife (did that) or the ascent of Mt. Ararat (did that) or an hour-by-hour description of the taking of the Scheldt River Estuary in WWII (yeah, did that, too), you’ll keep your listener’s attention in proportion to how interested you are in what you’re narrating.  

In practice it works sort of like this:

Before you narrate a single chapter, adopt the attitude that you hope your listener will have: be curious.
  • Say, "I wonder what this is all about?”
  • Read each page with a sense of discovery – that you’re going to find out something new.
Hopefully, this will generate an undertone to your narration that has an unspoken "Huh!” at the end of each sentence.  

The result is that, instead of trying to sound interesting, you’re sharing a mutually interesting experience. Who wouldn’t be interested in that?  
James Conlan is a narrator with nearly 70 fiction and non-fiction titles. He has trained dozens of extremely interesting audiobook narrators.



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Comments (5)
Dan Bolivar
3/11/2017 at 10:25 PM
Great article, spot on!

It's no wonder that when a voice artist narrates his own books, he or she sound much better than when they're narrating someone else's story.

A good tip by far is to be part of that book, get involved in the story, really feel each character and location.

If the narrator doesn't believe it, it'll show and the audience won't believe it either.

I've returned many audiobooks narrated by some of the best in the industry who simply bore me to death.

John Tambascio
3/5/2017 at 10:01 PM
Since almost no one listens to an audiobook in one sitting, my mindset is to perform so the listener will want to pick up where they left off and finish. Make it interesting? You bet.
Karen Estep
3/5/2017 at 1:55 PM
Thanks so much, Jim -- I'll be keeping this in mind when I finally (what, a year and a half late?) get started!!
Elizabeth Holmes
3/2/2017 at 12:11 PM
Thank you, Jim! As a long-time audiobook listener, I agree whole-heartedly with your advice. The narrator's intent comes through his/her performance. Presumably, the author was interestED enough to write the book in the first place. A narrator who is focusing on being "interesting" probably isn't focusing on the author's intent.
Bettye zoller Seitz
3/2/2017 at 10:18 AM
Wonderful! I tell my students same thing when delivering often-boring commercial copy! In today's sound bite world, interesting speakers are few! I like to call most TV speakers, "chirpers! Also ask yourself "why am I doing this and who am I?" The answer may scare you...always know you are not starring! You are a lowly storyteller!

I love you and hope we teach together soon!!!!
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