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When You're The Audiobook
Narrator, Who Are You, Really?

(This article is excerpted with permission from the new Part 2, Audiobooks A-Z, in the author's voice over training program, The Power of Five.)

By Vanessa Hart
Voice Talent and Trainer

Who is an audiobook's narrator?

Lots of new narrators will say, "It’s me.”

Well ... no.

With some exceptions (for accents, etc.), you will want to use your own voice, but the character of the narrator is not you.

That gives you nothing to hang your hat on. No point of view that furthers the story line.

NARRATOR IS CHARACTER, TOO

I had a lot of difficulty with this in the beginning and got smacked down pretty hard in a Masters Class.

Now I know that I need to make choices – strong choices – for my narrator, just as I would for any other character in the book.

There are many different schools of thought here. I can only share with you what works for me.

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS

First-person manuscripts will give you most of the information that you need. You know whose voice it is and you’ve done your prep work, so you know quite a lot about this main character.

You have answered all the Guideposts questions.

What you probably aren’t told in the book is the answers to the following questions:

1. Who are you telling the story to?
2. Why?
3. Where?
4. How far removed are you from the actual events in the story when you are telling the story? Last week? Yesterday? Twenty years ago?

These are important questions to answer.

WHO'S TALKING?

If the book is written in the third person you have one additional question to answer – WHO is talking?

Now here is where most people get stuck.

Why? Because you have to make it up. You have to write this story and it must resonate with you.

AN EXAMPLE ...

For instance, Blood Born is written in the third person. I knew that Chloe and Luca fall in love during a great vampire war.

I also know that at the end of the book, Chloe is pregnant with a blood born. And I know, from the book, that these children rarely survive.

I decide that my narrator is this child. She has survived and has a daughter of her own now. She is now 24 and her daughter is 8 years old and being tucked into bed when she asks her Mom, "How did the great war begin?” and the mother begins, "It was many, many years ago and is also a great love story about your grandmother and grandfather and it all begins like this . . .”

MAKE IT WORK

This worked perfectly for me. It gave me the distance that I wanted (via time passed) but also the intimacy that I needed (via a bed time story to a beloved child).

It doesn’t matter what you create here. It is no one’s business but your own.

What does matter is that it works for you. Do yourself and your listener the favor of making strong choices that you can really sink your teeth into.

Pun intended. 

ABOUT VANESSA ...
 
Vanessa Hart is an in-demand voice over artist, actor, and speaker whose work is heard every day across the U.S. She has performed hundreds of commercials, corporate narrations and national television promos, in addition to narrating dozens of award-winning audiobooks. She was a finalist for Best Female Voice in the 2009 Voicey Awards, and a finalist in the 2008 Audie Awards competition. She is also a veteran voice coach and demo producer and works regularly from her state-of-the-art recording studio in Los Angeles. The newly released Part 2, Audiobooks A-Z, in her voice over training program, The Power of Five, is available at her website.
 
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Comments (5)
Roxanne
10/4/2011 at 10:38 PM
Thank you for sharing this great SECRET!
Vanessa Hart
10/3/2011 at 2:25 PM
Thank you! And Boyd - I'm off to the post office now to get yours in the mail :)
Elizabeth Holmes
10/3/2011 at 12:22 PM
Wow, Vanessa! What a GREAT tip!! Thank you so much.
Bobbin Beam
10/3/2011 at 11:48 AM
This tip is "golden honey," my friend. Thank you for sharing it here. After a conversation we had a few weeks back I've integrated this creative point of view in my own narrator character in my latest audiobook gig. It's magic.
Boyd Holister
10/3/2011 at 3:06 AM
I've been an actor for more than 50 years, but am new to voice-acting. Your article asking "who is the narrator" was brief, yet very instructive.

But it was your inspired choice of who would be the narrator of" Blood Born" that prompted me to write this note and to click the link "Audiobooks A-Z."
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