When you narrate a book, you’re taking on the role of a guide- someone who knows the way.
Just like the voice at Disney World that tells you to keep your arms in the vehicle at all times, the narrator is tasked with providing audible guardrails to keep their dear listener on track.
What does it take to narrate well? Here are 3 things you need to do for a successful voyage.
1 – Knowing All
As a narrator, you need to know how the story ends before you even step up to the mic. Being informed is key to building your confidence as a performer.
A good narrator is in full control. He or she knows the terrain, anticipates the ups and downs of a journey and serves as a constant, like the reader’s North star.
The narrator does not purposefully mislead his or her listeners. You are tasked with ferrying the audience from one end of the story to the other. The words you say are deliberate and measured. You should never be surprised by the text or anything that a character does. After all, you know everything!
2 – Being Objective
While one of your main responsibilities is to communicate the author’s intent, you also need to keep yourself at a bit of a distance from the reader.
Narrators often tell stories from the sidelines. They have a full view of what is going on and because of their vantage point, can let an audience in on privileged information many of the characters do not have.
Your perspective is free from emotion- you’re telling it like it is. Like a good journalist does, the narrator does not take sides or reveal bias. You’re presenting the facts (or the story) as the author intended it to be received.
As objective storytellers, narrators achieve the ultimate balancing act.
3 – Painting the Picture
People enjoy listening to audiobooks because they love being told a story. A professional narrator is expert at doing this. Great narrators breathe life into a text while infusing each word and punctuation mark with color and meaning.
Drawing the listener into a story using only your voice is an art. However, being able to jump from the voice of the narrator to other distinct characters is also an art. By being adept at both you have the power to endear a listener to a character or make them cringe at the mere sound of their voice.
Separating character voices and giving them unique attributes as dictated by the text is an adventure in itself. The more characters there are, the greater your opportunity for vocal experiment within boundaries set by the author.
However, always keep in mind that while there is room to improvise with the workings of your instrument, a balance must be struck with the words to maintain integrity. You’ve made an agreement with the author, and also the audience, that your part is to be played with authenticity and a connected autonomy.
What Makes a Great Audiobook Narrator?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. If you have anything specifically to add about how you feel a narrator should approach foreshadowing, please chime in on that as well.
Looking forward to hearing from you!