Speaking of Audiobooks: Narrators Forum

Today at Speaking of Audiobooks, we are hosting our first live Narrators Forum.  It’s an event structured for narrators to come together and discuss pertinent issues in their industry as well as provide listeners with a glimpse into their world of bringing multiple characters to life.  Once the live portion of the forum is over, those involved want to hear from you.  Your feedback is important to them.

When I first started writing about audiobooks, I envisioned those reading to me in a studio surrounded by a director, producer, and recording technician.  My mind saw the director instructing a narrator to stop occasionally and try a line again or explain a needed change.  I guess I imagined something similar to a movie set with only one actor sitting in a sound booth performing all of the characters.  However, after visiting with a number of narrators this past year, I understand just how inaccurate that vision was.  Now that home studios are becoming more commonplace, narrators often operate alone and in somewhat of a vacuum.  There just aren’t that many opportunities to get together and talk about what they do day in and day out.

Meet the Narrators

Six highly talented narrators are joining us today and I couldn’t be more pleased with the group we’ve assembled for our first forum.  As I introduce each of our participating narrators, you’ll see a partial list of their romance narrations.

Justine EyreJustine Eyre – There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Justine’s past romance narrations but I must start with one yet to be released – Connie Brockway’s highly anticipated The Other Guy’s Bride (release scheduled for 12/22/11).  Justine is well known for her narration of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter Series with listeners marking both Angel’s Blood and the most recent of the series, Archangel’s Blade, as not-to-be-missed right along with me.  Justine’s other romance narrations include Cynthia Eden’s Deadly Series, Sabrina Jeffries’ School for Heiresses Series, Karen Robards’ Scandalous, Keri Arthur’s Full Moon Rising, and Julia London’s The Year of Living Scandalously.

Phil Gigante head shotPhil Gigante – Voted Favorite Male Narrator and Best Male/Female Dual Romance Narration in our 2011 Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll, Phil is best known around here for his rollicking narration of Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander Series, the male roles in Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever and Shadowfever (yeah, I’m talking Jericho Barrons), Linda Howard’s Dream Man, Nora Roberts’ Blood Brothers, and a number of both Christine Feehan and Diana Palmer titles.  Regularly performing in a variety of genres, romance listeners eagerly await Phil’s new romance narrations and it’s always duly noted when he makes a return!

Tavia GilbertTavia Gilbert – Tavia’s narration of Jeaniene Frost’s One Foot in the Grave tied for first in our Favorite Urban Fantasy with Romance Thread category of our Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll earlier this year.  She’s best known around here for her narration of Frost’s Night Huntress and Night Huntress World Series, while other regulars rave about her performance of Karen Rose’s Die for Me, Scream for Me, and Kill for Me.  Sarah McCarthy’s Shadow Wrangler Series was released this fall with Tavia’s narration making the series a hit in audio.  She’s also performed titles by Suzanne Enoch, Heather Graham, Jordan Dane, and Debbie Macomber.

Renee Black (Raudman)Renee Raudman – Narrating the works of numerous well known romance authors, Renee has proven repeatedly that she definitely knows how to perform romance.  Her narration of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels Series has earned great praise with Magic Bleeds earning the Favorite 2010 Romance Audiobook category and Magic Strikes tying for first in our Favorite Urban Fantasy with Romance Thread category in our recent Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll.  Renee’s just wrapped up the third in Ilona Andrews’ The Edge Series, Fate’s Edge, which is set for release November 29th.  And on a personal note, I must mention Lisa Kleypas’ Blue-Eyed Devil.  Renee’s depiction of the abused heroine Haven was nothing less than stunning.

Xe SandsXe Sands – New to the scene but quickly making a name for herself, Xe also won a place in our Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll with the Favorite Debut Romance Narrator award.  I was completely impressed when I first heard Xe as she narrated Anne Stuart’s Fire and Ice.  She has scored big with Jacqueline Frank’s Nightwalker Series as well and those who have listened to even one in the series can’t quit raving about her performance.  Xe will soon be narrating Jordan Dane’s Evil Without a Face.

Karen WhiteKaren White – After nine years of narrating genres other than romance, Karen exploded into the romance genre and won our hearts with her narration of Julie James’ Just the Sexiest Man Alive.  She has since recorded a number of romance audiobooks including Kristina Douglas’ (Anne Stuart) Fallen Series, Susan Krinard’s Bride of the Wolf, and Cindy Proctor-King’s Head Over Heels.  Coming out soon are two titles I know will be big hits – Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism and Animal Attraction.  Karen also just finished up her first Steampunk, Stacy Gail’s Crime Wave in a Corset.

How the Forum Works

At 11:00 eastern time today (November 14th), the live forum will begin in the discussion area immediately below this column.   During this live portion, only the narrators participating in the forum will post entries as they answer questions and talk with one another.  As moderator, I’ll ask a question and each narrator will answer and then discuss the issue between themselves before we move on to the next question.

We ask all of our listeners/readers to refrain from posting until the forum is complete. At that time, I’ll announce that the discussion is open for all.  I know that Karen, Xe, Renee, Tavia, Phil, and Justine are all eager to hear from you as well – both your observations and questions.

If you are unable to attend the actual event, you can read the discussion after the fact and, of course, we’ll be accepting comments from you, our listeners, for days.

A transcript of the narrators’ discussion will be available next week.  Let me know if you are interested in a copy.

Today’s Discussion Questions

To assist you in knowing the direction of the dialogue, I’m including the list of questions we will be utilizing as a framework for today’s discussion.

  • Those of us who have ardently listened to fictional audiobooks over the past ten – fifteen years have noticed a change in the method of delivery.  The art of narration now seems to require more intensity and attention to detail.  Where it may have been acceptable to simply read a book with a touch of dramatic flair at one time, listeners now expect narrators to perform.  Have you seen a gradual shift in the role of the narrator over the past fifteen years?
  • In discussions here at Speaking of Audiobooks, it’s clear that we see narrators as actors – the better the actor, the better the narration.  Since your audio listeners can’t see your body language or emotional expressions as they would on stage or in film, how do you perform your characters audibly?  And since you are required to portray more than one character, what are methods you use to differentiate your characters?
  • How do you convey emotion beyond the written word?  Do you shout if a character is shouting or just read the passage wherein the author is telling his/her audience about the action?  Do you perform a character crying if they are written as such?  Or do you literally laugh if the character is described as doing so?
  • A pure audiobook success for me is Anna Fields’ narration of Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I didn’t care much for the heroine Blue in print as I found her testy and ungrateful and therefore wasn’t too crazy about the book.  But I gave it another shot in audio and saw another Blue entirely.  Fields’ interpretation was a good humored, self deprecating character and Natural Born Charmer moved into my favorites relisten file.
  • Most dedicated audiobook fans can name books where the narrator’s interpretation of a character – the voice used, the attitude portrayed, the mood the narrator set – changed the written word from okay to a favorite re-listen or better, turned a good book into a brilliant audiobook.  Along that same line of thought, what influences the choices you make when preparing to record?  In addition to the author’s words, what inspires you to portray a character one way or another?
  • Does the romance genre demand a different approach from narrators than other forms of fiction?  Do you feel the need to differentiate your characters more for the romance genre or do you differentiate equally for all genres?

I want to give special thanks to Karen White for encouraging me to put together today’s forum.  It is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for more than a year and have discussed with a few narrators.  Karen pulled me out of thinking and into action.

Speaking of Audiobooks plans to host a Narrators Forum every few months with a new set of discussion questions each time.  We’ll invite other narrators to participate as well as ask these to return.  A number of future topics are already in the works.

Now for the live forum!  It starts shortly – 11:00 eastern standard time.  Come watch the interaction, learn, enjoy, and then share with us!

- Lea Hensley

Tags: , , ,

248 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: Narrators Forum”

  1. Justine Eyre says:

    Like Xe said, I think we do all have an innate style but the exciting thing about recording different genres is trying to escape, to some extent, that style! I love getting the opportunity to cover a variety of genres, put me out of my comfort zone, what fun!

    I think with the explosion of home studios and projects now available online, we do have to don all the hats, we are an entire film set rolled into one person, from casting director down to script supervisor!

    • I think with the explosion of home studios and projects now available online, we do have to don all the hats, we are an entire film set rolled into one person, from casting director down to script supervisor!

      LOVE this, Justine!

  2. Renee Raudman says:

    Yes, Lea. I agree. I guess what I’m saying is… I came into audiobooks, not really ‘knowing’ any better. I just figured it was another extension of my regular acting roles (on-camera as well as VO). So I went in, giving it my all (so to speak). Meaning, I committed to each character, what they wanted, what their obstacles were, etc. And I still do. Now, I’ve discovered, much later into the game, that this was NOT how all audiobooks were read. I think certainly when looking at different genres, adult vs YA, and non-fiction, etc., you adjust accordingly. (Just as if I’m adjusting if I’m doing a Soap Opera, vs a sitcom vs film, vs one-hour drama.) But I realize either folks like my characterizations or the more ‘committed’ style or they don’t! And that’s OK! I don’t think either is bad. But I did have to come to terms to be OK w/ how I narrate. There was a lot of second guessing on my part, until I realized… you know… this is just who I am, and I like doing it this way! And when it just doesn’t work for me anymore, I’ll change it up!

    • Karen White says:

      Renee Raudman: Yes, Lea.I agree.I guess what I’m saying is… I came into audiobooks, not really ‘knowing’ any better.I just figured it was another extension of my regular acting roles (on-camera as well as VO).So I went in, giving it my all (so to speak).Meaning, I committed to each character, what they wanted, what their obstacles were, etc.And I still do.Now, I’ve discovered, much later into the game, that this was NOT how all audiobooks wereread.I think certainly when looking at different genres, adult vs YA, and non-fiction, etc., you adjust accordingly. (Just as if I’m adjusting if I’m doing a Soap Opera, vs a sitcom vs film, vs one-hour drama.) But I realize either folks like my characterizations or the more ‘committed’ style or they don’t!And that’s OK!I don’t think either is bad.But I did have to come to terms to be OK w/ how I narrate.There was a lot of second guessing on my part, until I realized… you know… this is just who I am, and I like doing it this way!And when it just doesn’t work for me anymore, I’ll change it up!

      Again, Renee, I love hearing this! I am such a Type A “pleaser” that I can get stuck in trying to make everybody happy. But I know that my best really comes from following my instincts (after having done the research and making sure I keep my rednecks distinct from my Oxford dons).

  3. Lea Hensley says:

    I don’t want to discourage any continuing discussion on the first question, but when you are ready, here is our second question:

    In discussions here at Speaking of Audiobooks, it’s clear that we see narrators as actors – the better the actor, the better the narration. Since your audio listeners can’t see your body language or emotional expressions as they would on stage or in film, how do you perform your characters audibly? And since you are required to portray more than one character, what are methods you use to differentiate your characters?

  4. Xe Sands says:

    Justine – Oh I love the escaping too! But I do think there is something deeper that is uniquely “me” or “you” that can’t be changed. But it’s just the foundation…like you said, there’s much room to play, much fun to be had in covering a variety of genres and stepping outside our comfort zones.

  5. It’s a funny balance between being physical enough to have a relaxed read and being quite enough so no noise is picked up on mic. As far as differentiating characters…

  6. Justine Eyre says:

    Okay, for Lea’s second question:
    Well, let’s just say the first audiobook I did, I was REALLY into all my characters, one was a gesticulater so my arms were always flying out and CLUNK, hitting the mikestand repeatedly and one was a loud talker so I would raise my voice to the point where the levels were off the charts. I learnt mighty quickly to channel everything through voice!

  7. Phil Gigante says:

    Tavia—I recently did a cross-over series of stories for an author friend. Since there were already audios out of the individual books, I felt I had to call Dick Hill, Scott Brick and Lee Child to reprise their characters from those booke. They are icons to their listeners, and it was a ball to work together. Oh, and Dick would have kicked my butt if I had done his Jack Reacher character! LOL

    • Phil Gigante: Tavia—I recently did a cross-over series of stories for an author friend. Since there were already audios out of the individual books, I felt I had to call Dick Hill, Scott Brick and Lee Child to reprise their characters from those booke. They are icons to their listeners, and it was a ball to work together. Oh, and Dick would have kicked my butt if I had done his Jack Reacher character! LOL

      Sounds great! Wise of you to value the characters those actors had created. Not all publishers or producers understand that when a voice actor creates a role, listeners relate the voice actor and the character. Changing the voice actor would be such a loss! Not to mention getting to work with great people!

  8. Xe Sands says:

    Justine – Oh I love the escaping too! But I do think there is something deeper that is uniquely “me” or “you” that can’t be changed. But it’s just the foundation…like you said, there’s much room to play, much fun to be had in covering a variety of and stepping outside our comfort zones.

    And Renee – I {{heart}} you! Yes. Everything you just said (or typed just before I started typing this, at any rate).

  9. Karen White says:

    Some of my techniques for differentiation of characters:
    I type up all physical descriptions the author writes, and get a clear image of each character from that. I choose adjectives from the text that seem specific and unique to that character. Then, I use something I learned from working in improv, which is to create a “hook” for the character, a phrase I can repeat to remind me of who that person is. Sometimes it is a phrase they actually say, sometimes it is a descriptive phrase that is meaningful to me.
    In the Jill Shalvis books I just worked on, where there are 3 brothers that are very similar physically, I experimented with using Laban technique. There are core adjectives that you choose from that describe speed, weight and duration of a person’s movement. So, one of the guys was a “press”, one was a “dab” and one was a “float”. So, even though they all had deep voices and were big romantic heroes, each had a different energy.
    Sometimes it’s just a placement in my mouth. I literally speak from, say, the back left upper corner.

  10. Phil Gigante says:

    Lea—I have toned down my arm gestures in studio—but I would hate it if anyone could see my facial expressions and tics while I record!

    • Karen White says:

      Phil Gigante: Lea—I have toned down my arm gestures in studio—but I would hate it if anyone could see my facial expressions and tics while I record!

      OMG I hadn’t even thought about that! Again, the blessings of working alone. Especially in those “intimate” scenes!

  11. It’s hard. This is a difficult question to answer.
    The way I differentiate character is different based on the project, too, but broadly, character voices come from a different physical center, pacing, placement in the mask (or face)…You have to differentiate character internally first and then allow that to inform your performance.

  12. Xe Sands says:

    RE: Question #2

    LOL! Justine – same thing here! One of my was an alcoholic, and to really get the feel of her voice, I had to have a tumbler in my hand (sans alcohol though)…kept smacking it into things.

    But as for how we convey the emotion of a scene with only our voices…I think the reality is that we don’t only use our voices. In some cases, it’s a matter of matching facial expressions – you can actually hear a smile in or grimace or such in someone’s voice. If you feel a hitch in your throat or breath, you can convey the restrained voice of someone talking while crying. But for me, the best way to perform credibly is to feel connected with the character in the moment – to feel what they feel. As for differentiating, there’s the obvious: vocal pitch/tone, speed/accent. Then there are the more intangible ways of differentiating – by affect or the emotional MO of the character, so to speak.

    • Kaetrin says:

      Xe Sands: But as for how we convey the emotion of a scene with only our voices…I think the reality is that we don’t only use our voices. In some cases, it’s a matter of matching facial expressions – you can actually hear a smile in or grimace or such in someone’s voice. If you feel a hitch in your throat or breath, you can convey the restrained voice of someone talking while crying. But for me, the best way to perform credibly is to feel connected with the character in the moment – to feel what they feel. As for differentiating, there’s the obvious: vocal pitch/tone, speed/accent. Then there are the more intangible ways of differentiating – by affect or the emotional MO of the character, so to speak.

      Yes. That! I remember having some singing lessons a while ago and the teacher told me that I had to “see myself” hitting the note before I actually sang it – I think narrating must be a bit like that – the emotion in scene is felt internally and those emotions come out with the words. Or something.

  13. Phil Gigante says:

    The old adage in film is, “If you have three bad guys, one will be the mid-range smart one, one will be higher pitched and high strung, and one will be the low voiced muscle.” Simplistic—but a great fall back for a base. Especially when you’re performing a room full of US military generals or politicians…

    • Phil Gigante: The old adage in film is, “If you have three bad guys, one will be the mid-range smart one, one will be higher pitched and high strung, and one will be the low voiced muscle.” Simplistic—but a great fall back for a base. Especially when you’re performing a room full of US military generals or politicians…

      Exactly. And what Karen said is true for me – I am literally talking out of part of my neck, head, mouth, even chest.

  14. Lea Hensley says:

    Phil and Tavia – oh, the facial expressons and tics! Another thing I hadn’t thought of but how could you perform without these? At least for me – a talker who can’t talk without my hands in full motion.

    • Phil Gigante says:

      Lea Hensley: Phil and Tavia – oh, the facial expressons and tics! Another thing I hadn’t thought of but how could you perform without these? At least for me – a talker who can’t talk without my hands in full motion.

      And I’m Italian and Scottish—not exactly geared to quiet gestures and emotions! LOL

  15. Renee Raudman says:

    During the ‘chase’ scenes, (you know what I mean) high drama parts of the book, I hold both my arms high in the air in a ‘goal post’ position away from my body, fingers wide-spread. This ensures I have the energy in my body the scene demands, and keeps me quiet at the same time, while allowing me the tense-ness as well (cause, my arms are certainly tense!). When I’m narrating a letter I put one hand up, and literally ‘write’ w/ one hand while I’m speaking. I often teach this technique as well, as it completely changes the perspective, and you just ‘know’ it’s a letter being read or written. And for the love-making scenes… I…. oh never. mind. (is it too early for a little humor?).

    • Phil Gigante says:

      Renee Raudman: During the ‘chase’ scenes, (you know what I mean) high drama parts of the book, I hold both my arms high in the air in a ‘goal post’ position away from my body, fingers wide-spread. This ensures I have the energy in my body the scene demands, and keeps me quiet at the same time, while allowing me the tense-ness as well (cause, my arms are certainly tense!). When I’m narrating a letter I put one hand up, and literally ‘write’ w/ one hand while I’m speaking. I often teach this technique as well, as it completely changes the perspective, and you just ‘know’ it’s a letter being read or written. And for the love-making scenes… I…. oh never. mind. (is it too early for a little humor?).

      Awesome advice!! Love the letter writing!! And for the love scenes—well, there are tics there too!

  16. Justine Eyre says:

    Xe, you hit the audio nail on the head…it isn’t just about voice but more about being that character.
    I also work very visually, using the text as a guide…if that character has a wall-eye, I want to know about it so that I can ‘have’ that his visual makeup when I am voicing him. From the author’s description, I build a picture and then fill in the character’s personality and the voice gets channeled out. Of course, any textual clues as to how they speak are highlighted…sometimes I envision a different voice tone and then read a point in the text where ‘she spoke with her usual gruff tones’ and realize the dulcit soprano tones arent in keeping with the author’s vision.

  17. Xe Sands says:

    Lea – ha! That presumes we’re NOT talking with our hands! I find that I get a more authentic performance out of myself if I let my hands (quietly and AWAY from the mic) tell the story with me – as I would in real life.

  18. Phil Gigante says:

    Amen, Xe!

  19. Justine Eyre says:

    Renee, you kill me…never too early for humor! Again, that is where the sanctity of the booth is a good thing, especially when working solo on some of the more steamy reads…no hairy grips are breathing heavily while watching, it is just ‘you’ and the hero…or heroine. Thank goodness.

  20. Xe Sands says:

    Renee – it’s NEVER too early for a little scene humor on a romance forum ;) I’ve always envied those performers who could deliver a spot-on performance while remaining perfectly still. Me? I’m like you – I prefer bits of acting it out to really add that speck of nuance that (for me) seems to make the difference between a listener hearing the story and experiencing it.

  21. Phil Gigante says:

    Right, Justine! It’s very interesting doing those steamy love scenes with a co-reader…Harder or easier? Ladies?

  22. Preparing the text is key. Paying attention to all the cues the author gives you and using them.

    Saw Pinter’s “Betrayal” this weekend, and it reminded me how interesting it is to narrate prose by a writer who writes in subtext.

    • Phil Gigante says:

      Tavia Gilbert: Preparing the text is key. Paying attention to all the cues the author gives you and using them.Saw Pinter’s “Betrayal” this weekend, and it reminded me how interesting it is to narrate prose by a writer who writes in subtext.

      Folio Technique does work for books as well! Harder—but the clues are there!

  23. Renee Raudman says:

    Justine: Ahhhh…. but I do have an engineer I work with in my studio. And I ALWAYS to make sure to have PLentT to read after a love-making scene before we take a break. It’s always a bit uncomfy to come out of the closet (so to speak) right after you finish a hot-and-heavy! I’m red in the face. He’s red in the face….

  24. Xe Sands says:

    Justine – isn’t that such an odd moment? When you have a characterization in mind and all of a sudden you realize the character is entirely different?

    So a related question for all of you: how do you deal with the sometimes inevitable, “Character B just won’t come out of my mouth sounding the way he does in my head!”?

  25. Justine Eyre says:

    I think when you are committed, your brain, voice and body are all in collusion so legs and arms get in on the act, they can’t help themselves. The art is finding a way to keep the body quiet so the voice can work without extra noise…

  26. Xe Sands says:

    Phil – I haven’t done one yet and confess that I wonder about this quite a bit. How have the rest of you handled a co-read of the steamy bits? What is that like?

    • Phil Gigante says:

      Xe Sands: Phil – I haven’t done one yet and confess that I wonder about this quite a bit. How have the rest of you handled a co-read of the steamy bits? What is that like?

      For me, it depends on the co-reader…I’ve had an author who thought we must be doing the deed in the studio, it sounded so real—with other readers, the scene sounds great, but we just try to avoid eye contact as we blush…

  27. I just started running a humidifier in my booth for a few minutes before I go in to record, and then on breaks, and it makes me so happy. My voices are more easily created, I’m more relaxed, my body feels better. I want to work in a custom-built misted box now. Ha.

  28. Xe Sands says:

    Tavia – really? It doesn’t provide too much humidity for the equipment?

  29. Karen White says:

    I’ve never read an audiobook with another actor actually in the room – only narrated or directed different sections. I think the love scenes in the room would be, um, awkward?

    And Renee, I am with you. When I’ve had to record love scenes with an engineer, I try and clear the air with a joking comment at the break! And timing the break is key, too!

  30. Renee Raudman says:

    Co-Reads: Yes, I’m on two series (one w/ Patrick Lawlor – Suzanne Brockmann author, one w/ Paul Costanzo, – Catherine Coulter, author). And all I can say is, thank goodness we know each other well (and our significant others too…). It really does become a bit like being on a movie set. In FACT, having done love scenes in soap operas, I can tell you this is worse, because the descriptions of what we say/narrate is WAY more specific and detailed. :) Ya just jump in the fire and enjoy it!

  31. Phil Gigante says:

    Jealous, Tavia—but aren’t you worried about the effects on the mics or electronics? It sounds great!! Vicks vapo-inhaler has been my substitute.

  32. I’m running it for like five minutes at a time, so not enough to accumulate to become the rain forest like conditions that would be so glorious.

    • Phil Gigante says:

      Tavia Gilbert: I’m running it for like five minutes at a time, so not enough to accumulate to become the rain forest like conditions that would be so glorious.

      Gotta try that!!

  33. Justine Eyre says:

    Tavia, the humidier sounds likes a great idea, very in keeping with the steamy topic under discussion…
    Phil, I had never heard of shared romantic interludes! I am used to fulfilling both roles, ahem. I know from having had many a steamy session in the booth that being committed is the only way to salvage a friendship with the engineer/director. Then we can go off and have our lunch break and discuss…other things ala Renee.

  34. Lea Hensley says:

    You know, I try to avoid asking about the steamy scenes ONLY because romance readers are so often pegged incorrectly as reading just to get the sex. Such a wrong impression.

    However, I love hearing all these bits about how you perform the steamy scenes because, believe me, listeners want to know how, in the world, that is possible!

    • Karen White says:

      Lea Hensley: You know, I try to avoid asking about the steamy scenes ONLY because romance readers are so often pegged incorrectly as reading just to get the sex.Such a wrong impression.However, I love hearing all these bits about how you perform the steamy scenes because, believe me, listeners want to know how, in the world, that is possible!

      What is fun to me, Lea, about the steamy scenes (though I’ll have to try Tavia’s humidifier idea, too) is that they’re ALL about the imaginatiion, just like the love stories. Because it’s fantasy, it’s fun to dive into. That said, it can be a little disturbing if my 8 year old knocks on the window to ask a question. That’s when I thank the gods for a good sound proof booth!

  35. Phil Gigante says:

    I have had the great joy of performing intimate scenes with someone I’m actually intimate with….If the scene is well written, steamy, heartfelt—it can be great fun, but can also lead to longer breaks! I also find I do great love scenes with actors I DON’T get along with—I think the friction adds to the heat in a strange way…

  36. It’s funny to be in a climactic moment, make a mistake, pick it up and go right on, as though there was no interruption whatsoever.

  37. Xe Sands says:

    You know, don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be in the booth solo most of the time (even sans engineer) :) When I narrated my first romance novel, I thought I would blush out my ears! Can’t imagine making it through that first one with ANYone listening. Although when your kiddo and her friend pop by the booth to say “Hi!” it has a very, very disconcerting effect!

    • Karen White says:

      Xe Sands: You know, don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be in the booth solo most of the time (even sans engineer) When I narrated my first romance novel, I thought I would blush out my ears! Can’t imagine making it through that first one with ANYone listening. Although when your kiddo and her friend pop by the booth to say “Hi!” it has a very, very disconcerting effect!

      Ahh, the life of a working mom. We were writing about the same situation at the same time!

  38. Phil Gigante says:

    Yes, Karen!!! Or when you’re on a roll and mispronounce something—and suddenly the engineer jolts you back to reality…

  39. Lea Hensley says:

    Once again – keep talking about our second question as long as you want (and the many side trails it has taken). But here is the third question when you are ready:

    How do you convey emotion beyond the written word? Do you shout if a character is shouting or just read the passage wherein the author is telling his/her audience about the action? Do you perform a character crying if they are written as such? Or do you literally laugh if the character is described as doing so?

  40. Xe Sands says:

    @Tavia – OMG you are hilarious.

    RE: Question #3 – to get the ball rolling…

    This gets a bit tricky and I suspect there may be some difference of opinion on this. As we discussed earlier, some feel that a more subdued and nuanced performance is always best, while others feel there is a place for the drama of the moment to come through in the read. Personally, I differentiate based on where the author places the action. Take this example:

    1. She laughed. “Bob, I really don’t think that’s an appropriate use of a spatula.”

    Vs.

    2. “Bob, I really don’t think that’s an appropriate use of a spatula,” she laughed.

    If phrased like the first sentence, I would not normally insert the laugh – it technically comes before the dialog. However, I might put in a VERY SLIGHT laugh within a word if the sentence is structured like #2, because the author has included the laugh within the dialog.

    That said, as many experienced directors will tell you, less is more. Not less acting, but less melodrama, less volume. Much intensity can be conveyed with a quiet voice, whether it’s an action sequence, a sexy bit, a emotional breakdown.

    And when I’m doing my own QC after a session, I’ll listen with an ear toward catching overly dramatic reads, anything that might distraction from the listening experience, anything that sounds overwrought.

  41. Phil Gigante says:

    So Tavia—I’m producing this series…;-)

  42. Xe Sands says:

    Clarification: meant that some listeners and publishers have preferences either way – not necessarily referring to the six of us (although we likely do as well).

  43. Justine Eyre says:

    Ok, I slipped through the e-cracks, are we still up and running? Is it just me?

  44. Phil Gigante says:

    It depends on the book, for me. Something that can be big—comedy, romance, thrillers—I do add the human touch of laughter, tears, etc—as long as it doesn’t detract from the words. There is certainly a place for quietly nuanced readings—but I think the book has to dictate how “real life” the characters get. Laughter, tears, moans of pain or pleasure are another audio enhancement for the performance, if done well.

  45. Karen White says:

    Onto question #3 (not that I didn’t like where #2 ended up)
    I think we addressed a lot of this in previous discussion, but in thinking about this one thing came up for me. I try to go on the emotional journey with the characters as much as possible (when keeping in mind things we’ve said like avoiding mic noises from waving hands and puffing mouths). But sometimes a PERSONAL response can happen that isn’t appropriate to the the book.

    I remember one book, THE FOREST LOVER, a historical fiction by Susan Vreeland, where I started weeping when the main character’s dog died. Even though I am sure she was upset in the story, my reaction was a little extreme. I had to calm down before I could continue. And blow my nose of course.

  46. As always, it comes from the text, from the world that the author has given you. I keep thinking about Lamb, a title I narrated this year, which was a startling, beautiful, disturbing, evocative novel. The writing drove my read in a completely unique way. I pulled my performance so far back for it. So the narrative “he laughed,” or “she cried,” would have been handled in a very different way than most books I work on.

  47. Renee Raudman says:

    When I prep the script and the emotion is described afterwards, I just give the emotion a quick ‘highlight’ in yellow. And my brain is sorta trained to keep an eye out for it as I read down the page. I try to give the dialogue as much ‘essence’ as possible w/out encroaching on the sound quality in either direction (whisper/yells). There are obvious obstacles in audiobooks that you don’t find on a stage, that you have to deal with. In addition to that, I just trust where I am in the story and try not to do my ‘idea’ if that’s not where the natural read is going. As far as crying… you know… I actually, most of the time let how I’m feeling dictate it. There are often time, where I personally am moved to tears. And I though (again) I don’t encroach on the sound quality, I think it’s OK to go w/ what you’re feeling. You certainly would on on-camera set. And I usually find this works. It seems pretty ‘honest’ anyway.

  48. Justine Eyre says:

    Good, found you!
    For me, like Phil, it depends on the book…I also often do the moment before…so the dialogue comes in after a laugh, or during a break in tears…I have had sobs before and gasps do play a part…so long as they are true to the story and don’t interfere with the scene.

    • Justine Eyre: Good, found you!
      For me, like Phil, it depends on the book…I also often do the moment before…so the dialogue comes in after a laugh, or during a break in tears…I have had sobs before and gasps do play a part…so long as they are true to the story and don’t interfere with the scene.

      Yes! That’s right. Exactly.

  49. Phil Gigante says:

    There are many actors who can transmit the emotion just through the authors words. I can hear Dick Hill saying, “Travis moooooaned in pain”, or “the wind hisssssed”, and it being bloody wonderful.

  50. Lea Hensley says:

    Justine – I think everyone may have had to take a break to switch their minds from performing the sensual scenes back to just plain old emotion.