Styles of Voice Over Narration
If you are an author or a publisher and would like to turn your book into an audiobook, there are several things to consider when getting started. You may be wondering what type of voice you should hire to make your audiobook a success: Should it be a natural sounding narration? Should you look for a voice that can put on many character voices and accents? Should you even use more than one voice?
The answers to all of these questions will vary based on the content of your audiobook, such as, what reading style you would like your audiobook narrated in, how many characters are in the story and the genre of your audiobook.
There are 4 different reading styles of voice over narration that you can utilize in the creation of your audiobook and each style is best suited for a genre. Depending on the target audience of your audiobook, the narration style will need to be chosen to best suit that demographic.
4 Different Types of Narration
To dissect which types of voices will work best in your audiobook, you will first need to know about the different styles of narration that can exist in audiobooks. For instance, some types of narration include more than one voice actor while others include just one voice actor – this is referred to as solo readings. Determining the reading style that will best suit your audiobook will help you decide how many voices – or character voices – you will want to use in the final production.
Here are the 4 voice over narration examples:
Fully-Voiced Reading (solo narration)
A fully-voiced reading is probably the most commonly recognized style of reading. This is a style in which all of the characters are vocalized in a dramatic fashion or in a way that makes the characters distinguishable from one another. This dramatization is maintained throughout the entire audiobook and the voices are usually all done by one voice actor/narrator. These types of narrations are generally reserved for audiobooks that are a bit more playful in tone. For these types of readings, you will want to hire a voice actor who can really bring your characters to life and add a unique spin on each character.
Voice actor, Allyson Briggs voiced an audiobook with 16 characters and feels that a fully-voiced reading creates a unique listening experience. “I think it helps the listener keep track of everyone since there are so many characters. I feel the constant changes of voices keeps you engaged. It adds dimension, personality and fun,” she says.
Genres best suited for this style of narration: Fantasy, Children’s Books, Motivational Books.
Example: Allyson Briggs’ “The Chameleon.”
2. Partially-Voiced Reading (solo narration)
A partially-voiced reading is one where the voiced production (usually done by one narrator) focuses on giving certain characters a distinguishable voice – most commonly the protagonists or any character who has a distinctive voice in the narration. This could be a great option if you have many characters – in which putting on a voice for every single character could become a bit complex – so instead you select only certain characters to be voiced differently from one another. Remember that characters do not need to sound dramatically different from one another.
Genres best suited for this style of narration: General fiction, Action, Mystery, Fantasy.
Example: Stephen Fry, the narrator hired to voice the audiobook versions of “Harry Potter” for the UK audience. Fry gives characters like Hermione (who speaks famously fast) a distinctive-sounding voice, but doesn’t overly dramatize any of the other contributing characters. You will also notice that the accents/styles of voices from one character to the next do not sound vastly different.
3. Unvoiced Readings (solo narration)
Despite the name – this style of narration is not silent. In this reading style, the narrator reads the story in a natural, more straightforward tone. There are no changes in voice for different characters. The story is told in the narrator’s voice and the whole book is usually voiced by one voice actor. This is the best option if you are looking for a more natural-sounding narration. Generally, an unvoiced reading, without any vocal dramatizations, is great for works in which you would like to adopt a more serious, or entertaining tone, without the dramatics. In certain genres, too many characters can be distracting.
Allyson Briggs thinks narration depends on the context of the audiobook: “It can create a very different atmosphere if it is all one character. Having all the different voices can create a unique energy and pace of the book, but it is not always needed or appropriate to the material,” she says.
An unvoiced reading doesn’t mean that the voice should be void of emotion. In fact, it is quite hard to read a piece without inflecting emotion into the tone of your voice, especially if you familiarize yourself with the narration. “The human voice, like the eyes, are a window to the soul. It’s hard to mask how you really feel when you are speaking, especially if you are passionate about a subject or overwhelmed with emotion,” says Voices Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie Ciccarelli.
Genres best suited for this style of narration: Romance, Non-Fiction, Thriller, Suspense.
Example: Voices talent Stella Stocker.
4. Multicast Readings / Full Cast Readings
A multicast audiobook reading, as you can probably imagine, means that there is more than one voice actor hired to read the audiobook. This can range from two characters (duet narration) or more. Each actor will play a different character and use their voice to create a convincing read of that character. Think of this kind of narration as more of an audio play. These types of audiobooks can sometimes be called Dramatizations and the terms are often used interchangeably.
Genres best suited for this style of narration: Plays, Children’s Books, Fantasy.
Example: Simon and Schuster’s recording of “Romeo and Juliet.”
What Type of Narration is Most Suitable for Your Audiobook?
The style of voice you choose will be determined on a number of factors. You should know your target audience in order to be able to select which style of read is best. Generally, listeners like to hear the voice of a peer – someone that sounds like them. If you are targeting young adults, then it would be best to have a voice actor who has a sound age of a young adult.
Once you’ve figured out your target audience (note: you can have more than one demographic – just be sure to pick a voice that can cross-over between different groups), you should then take a look at the characters in the story and decide how many voice actors you would like to hire to do the job, or if one voice actor who is able to put on various different voices will be suitable for your needs.
Genres like fantasy and children’s books tend to use one voice actor that can voice different characters as the mood of these types of stories tends to be more light-hearted and upbeat. The voice actor, should similarly adopt an upbeat and friendly tone.
However, stories more serious in nature (non-fiction, mystery, suspense) might require an evenly unvoiced reading done by a voice actor with a more neutral and serious voice.
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