Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

When an audiobook narrator doesn't see your characters the way you do (1 Viewer)

sunaynaprasad

WF Veterans
I've just had my first two series installments recorded into audiobooks (Book 2's is published, while Book 1's is still in the process). Both narrators are pretty talented.
However, one thing that is bugging me about book 2's audiobook narrator is that she doesn't portray my MC's guardian the way I envision him (the caregiver, not the girl MC). The woman has narrated him as stern and firm at times when he is supposed to be the complete opposite: sweet, soft, nurturing, patient, and enthusiastic (when he's in a good mood). I have told her how that character is supposed to be portrayed and have even stated in the story how he is supposed to be the traits I've described him with here as well as shown it throughout the book.
One part that stands out to me is where he has comforted my MC after she has gone through something horrible (and she even cries) and has taken her home. When she reveals that she hasn't had a chance to eat breakfast, the guardian says, "I don't want you skipping another meal. It's not good. You really should eat something. It doesn't have to be anything heavy, though."
While I pictured that character saying it softly and gently, the audiobook narrator made him sound angry. I was hesitant to have her redo it since that was a long chapter. I've had her redo other chapters where she made the guardian sound angry when I pictured him sounding soft (including moments he used terms of endearment). Another thing that happens after that quote is that my MC lies on her guardian's lap. So, having him sound stern would not want to make the MC bond with him like that. For both of them, it's out of character: the guardian to sound stern through the audio version when he is supposed to be soft and gentle there. And for the MC to physically bond with him after sounding stern, it doesn't feel believable (the MC is only 13 in the events of that book). As the author, I will say that he is supposed to sound soft and gentle during that quote I used.
Because the audiobook is already published, it's too late to request changes. It also might be against ACX's policy. So, at some point, if I can make myself more successful, like have prospective readers get to know me rather than my books first, I am considering recording the audiobooks myself and submitting them to another service. Only 2 copies of book 2's audiobook have sold anyway.
I'm not planning to remove the ACX versions from the market ever. But I do plan to record them myself eventually as another option.
Anyhow, is it normal for readers to envision your characters' developments differently than you do? How do you handle that?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I don't have any experience with recording my own audio books, but I am currently listening to Queen's Gambit on audio books right now. The narrator is making everyone at the orphanage sound stern. I find it odd. I wish they would just read it and not add their own spin on the characters personalities. Do narrators have to change their tone for each character, or can they just read it?
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I don't have any experience with recording my own audio books, but I am currently listening to Queen's Gambit on audio books right now. The narrator is making everyone at the orphanage sound stern. I find it odd. I wish they would just read it and not add their own spin on the characters personalities. Do narrators have to change their tone for each character, or can they just read it?

I only have experience with one series. In a Mr. and Mrs. Spratt oddity, my wife had only listened to the Amelia Peabody series by Barbara Mertz, writing as Elizabeth Peters (the given names of her children). They were her commuting entertainment for quite some time (about 20 books worth). I only learned of the series when Barbara Mertz passed away, and thought the idea of mysteries about archaeologists in late 19th/early 20th century Egypt sounded interesting. I got the books, started reading them and THEN found out my wife had listened to all the Audibles. So she had never read the books, and I'd never listened to the Audibles.

A couple of years ago we started listening to the Audibles on trips and drives around town. After reading all the novels, of course the narrator's take on the characters didn't match my well developed imagination of them. I would come to learn that Barbara Rosenblatt is beloved among long-time fans of the series, and while she doesn't match my inner performances, her narration is entertaining.

She does indeed act all ALL the dialogue--in various voices--although most of her time is spent voicing Amelia, since the books are first person, narrated by Amelia. We're into the 8th or 9th volume, and I'd certainly hear Barbara Rosenblatt's Amelia should I read the books again.

I recommend the series. The mysteries are entertaining, and the style is consistently amusing. But since these are the ONLY Audibles I've ever listened to, I don't know the answer to your overall question of how common it is for the narrator to act versus simply reading. My wife says that it's common for narrators to add characterization ... especially the popular narrators.
 

TWErvin2

Senior Member
Thus far I've had 10 novels and 1 short story collection made into audiobooks. In the process I have worked with 4 different narrators.

Getting the right narrator for a project is important. That will help ensure that the right 'talent' and 'voices' are part of the process, and it will result in a positive experience for listeners.

Unless the author is going to do the narration, I don't think every character is going to be 100% the way the author imagined. But also realize that rarely are the character voices and tones and mannerisms imagined by the readers, 100% of what the author imagined when creating the characters and tale.

The best way to get alignment between author and narrator (and even publisher) is to carefully scrutinize sample readings, and take a look/listen (when possible) to a narrator's previous projects. This would mean the sample's script should include what is deemed important (important characters, situations--such as if it is a military adventure, or a teen horror or mainly cozy mystery, etc.)

If I feel strongly about certain characters, I provide some insight and specific notes to the narrator before the narration process begins. I also realize I cannot control/micromanage the entire project.

After that, in the end, if the readers are happy with the result, I am happy with the result.
 
Top