Friday, November 7, 2014

From a Narrator’s Viewpoint


Vows and Victims cover
The latest book Michelle gave voice to
Keeping with the audio theme I mentioned yesterday, today is the second installment in the three part series featuring two authors who have audio books and the narrator who gives voice to their words.

Today I’m delighted to welcome Michelle Babb, the first narrator I’ve had the pleasure to host here at Thoughts in Progress. Michelle is joining us to tell how she got into narrating and how she goes about doing it.

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Michelle. Welcome, Michelle. Tell us how you the audio process works from the narrator’s viewpoint.

Thanks so much, Mason, for allowing me and my authors to invade your blog this week. I’m happy to share with your readers about our collaborative process for bringing books “to life” through audio.

HOW I STARTED: I’ve always loved reading aloud. When my kids were little, I read the Harry Potter books to them, and they always insisted that I “do all the voices.” Then in 2013, an acquaintance mentioned that she was listening to an audiobook and that the skill and style of the narrator made a big difference in her enjoyment of the book, and she said “You’d be really good at that.”
 
SavingGracieSo I started looking into it, and found that many audiobook narrators (and other voice actors) work from home studios, since the editing software is very user-friendly and affordable, and MP3s can be uploaded from anywhere. It’s actually been fascinating learning about the craft, using both dramatic and technical skills, and working to get better and faster at the whole process.

HOME STUDIO: I’ve got an AudioTechnica 20/20 microphone in the closet of the smallest bedroom in my house and I record onto my Toshiba laptop, which is OUTSIDE the closet, so that the microphone won’t pick up the sound of the laptop motor. The closet has some clothes on hangers at each end, AND I’ve hung sleeping bags on either side of me, all to absorb sound and decrease reverb.

So I just hit “record,” get in the closet with my script (oh, yeah, and a LAMP! …forgot about that, I’m scared of the dark), close the door, wait several seconds to record some dead air, and then start. I can’t gesture or “talk with my hands” much, because it’s a really small space and the mike picks up my shoulders rubbing against the sleeping bags. And if the dog down the street starts barking or if one of my neighbors starts mowing his lawn, then I’ll just have to pick another time to record. Smile
UnclaimedLegacyaudio 2nd 
PROCESS: First, of course, I read through the whole book like a normal person. Then, I read more minutely through each chapter before going into the closet, er, studio. I usually e-mail the author for clarification --- sometimes just pointing out typos that won’t affect my pronunciation, but sometimes making suggestions as to dialect or clarifying which character is speaking, and so on.
 
Then I narrate the chapter. I do one continuous recording, so what’s going to end up as a 12-minute chapter might initially be a 15 or 20-minute reading. Especially for dialogue, I frequently say the line 2 or more times, knowing I’m going to edit for the best “take.” And THEN I edit the narration, cutting out the bad takes and the breaths and throat-clearing and so on, dubbing in “dead air” and adjusting the space between sentences so the pacing is right for each scene.

CHAEveryHillMountainaudio 3rdRACTERS: It really helps to have an actor in mind, or just an acquaintance of mine, that I think would “play” this part. Terry Lee (author of SAVING GRACIE) told me that her main character, Quinlan, would be played by Betty White, and that Ruby would be played by Rosie O’Donnell. 

Check the sample audio HERE to see if I got it right. 

Or I imagine what the character looks like physically, and it helps to inform their voice. In Deborah Heal’s second book, UNCLAIMED LEGACY, I pictured Lucy being a solidly-built, no-nonsense lady with a double chin. And in Deborah’s EVERY HILL AND MOUNTAIN, Kate is a chirpy college student who I think would talk with her hands a lot…well, unless she were in a closet with sleeping bags hanging on both sides of her. Smile

AUDIOBOOKS IN GENERAL: Technology has really made audiobooks much easier and cheaper to obtain, carry and listen to than they’ve ever been before. Everybody’s got a Kindle or a Nook, and you can hook TimeAgainAudioCoverup your Kindle with Whispersync, or get a smartphone app, or Bluetooth from your laptop, so there’s no reason not to stay entertained and informed while you do your housework or commuting or whatever. I recently saw a twitter hashtag, #listeningisthenewreading. I totally agree with that.

Some people will always prefer reading, of course, but the audio adds a different dimension, a different way of accessing the story. I suspect that there are separate audiences for these media. I have no idea how much cross-over there is, of people listening to a book that they’ve already read, but that would put a little pressure on me. Sort of like making a film adaptation of a book, where the audience may have a definite idea of what the characters should sound like.

Michelle, thanks for joining us today and sharing this insight into how an audiobook comes about. While I’m a firm believer in print books, I also love audiobooks. They’re great when I want to read a book that features foreign lands with names I would never be able to pronounce correctly.

Now let me share a bit about Michelle.
Michelle Babb is a native Midwesterner who enjoys knitting, gardening and time travel. 

As of this writing, she just completed narrating VOWS AND VICTIMS, a Presley Thurman Mystery, by Laina Turner.

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Michelle’s visit. This series will conclude on Nov. 13th when author Deborah Heal visits. Have you ever thought about trying to narrator a book? Do you have a favorite book you’d like to hear narrated? Or do you have a favorite actor/actress you’d like to hear narrate a book?

*This post contains affiliate links.

22 comments:

  1. Michelle, thanks again for visiting with us. It was interesting learning how you go about doing the narrations for a book. Wishing you much success.

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    1. Thank you Mason for inviting all of us! And thanks to Deborah & Terry for helping to bring this whole collaborative process of bringing characters and stories to your readers...and listeners! Michelle

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  2. Wow, I didn't realize it was that involved. So much work on your part. Most of the authors I know who have chosen to make an audiobook have gone the royalty-share route with their narrators. So you could be doing a lot of work for very little money if the book doesn't sell well.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Alex. Yes, it can be a gamble, but I'm betting on myself, AND on these lovely ladies who've already put more time and care into WRITING the book, than it takes me to narrate it. Of course, I do try to consider how well the book will sell, the author's track record, etc as I audition for new projects. But I gravitate toward books that I just plain LIKE, because you know, I also have to consider whether I can STAND to be trapped in a closet with these characters for 300 pages! ;) Michelle

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    2. Michelle, I often wondered about this...how you decide:)

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    3. It's probably much the same as the way you decide what to write about, Terry. They say "write what you know" or "write something YOU would want to read." I may be young and naive(well...I may be naive, anyway) but I think I probably do my best when I'm telling a story I love, or reading characters whom I feel I've met somewhere.

      But maybe this is an area for future career development. I guess if I were a true professional, I'd be able to maintain the same consistent enthusiasm for a 600-page Vampire novel as I could for Saving Gracie, now wouldn't I? ;)
      (no offense intended to vampires and those who love them)

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  3. That's a lot of work! I enjoyed hearing how it all comes together. And I'll second Alex...with royalty share, it could be a real gamble, I'm sure, considering all the hours you put in.

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth/ Riley! I'm always excited to talk about the process, which I have compared to knitting: The tools are simple and readily available, but the product varies significantly depending on the time put in, and the attention to detail. Thanks for stopping by! Michelle

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  4. Mason - Thanks for hosting Michelle.

    Michelle - Thanks for sharing your experiences. It's very interesting to find out how it all works from the narrator's perspective.

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    1. You're welcome, Margot, and thank you for stopping by! I think we've all read books that we could "see" or "hear" in our heads; I just get to act them out!
      Michelle

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  5. I worked on a military project with a guy who recorded all of the narration in a giant box. (He was a big guy, so seeing him go into that box was funny.) Sleeping bags on the walls is a good idea. That's wonderful you found your calling in narration.

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    1. Yes, I often wonder at how much time I spend talking to myself...
      Michelle

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  6. I didn't know for sure, but suspected that narration was hard work. I LOVE audio books for my car. What a great career you have, Michelle.

    Thanks, Mason!

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    1. Yes, I suppose it's like a lot of things that look fun, but turn out to be more complex and demanding than one originally thought. Fortunately for me, I like BOTH the creative, "drama queen" side of things, AND the meticulous editing aspect(again, the knitting analogy...) so yes, it suits me very well. Thanks for dropping by, T. Powell!
      Michelle

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  7. Michelle, that was really interesting. I love how you put your studio together. :)

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  8. Yes, there are tons of instructional blogs and videos on how to put together a home studio. One can purchase soundproofing "bricks" to construct a home studio "box" like L. Diane Wolfe's friend(above), or go the closet-and-sleeping bags approach. And I am nothing if not cheap. Necessity is truly a Mother... Thanks for stopping by!
    Michelle

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  9. Thank you so much. I loved learning about something which I had never even thought about. And Michelle's studio sounds like a triumph of ingenuity. Mind you, my hands and shoulders DO talk with me so I would have some problems...

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    1. Right, all kinds of obstacles to contend with. Before narrating I have to put the cats out, make sure the dishwasher's not running, and unplug the phone---ESPECIALLY prior to the recent elections! Also looking forward to winter, with fewer motorcyclists and lawnmowers running! Thanks for stopping by.
      Michelle

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    1. And you, my friend! Now we both get to sit back and heckle as DEBORAH posts on Thursday! (evil grin)

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  11. Mason, thank you for introducing us to Michelle. There is a lot involved in being a book narrator. I had no idea.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.