Thoughts on narrating and mistakes

Narrating audio books is such an odd thing. There are times when I can’t get through a sentence. I mean, really, there was a sentence today that it probably took five takes to get through and even then, it is going to be stitched together. I followed that by recording for eleven minutes flawlessly. That means, I went for six pages with no stumbles, not mis-pronunciations, no hesitations, no missed emotional beats, no mis-attribution of voice parts, or any other hiccups. And then later, I had another sentence that I just could not say. Could Not.

Sometimes, this is a bit of particularly tricky text, things like “supremacist’s street,” or “she said, succinctly.”  Sometimes it is an emotionally intense character that needs to be read fast to work, which makes me stumble.  Sometimes, the tricky word is after a linebreak and catches me off-guard. Sometimes it is a foreign language and I have to fight to make it sound natural.

And sometimes, it is just fatigue as I get tired then begin to second-guess myself with words that I know how to say. Is it OHpalescent or AHpalecent? And then, after I get that sorted, I start thinking about the fact that I goofed earlier, which takes my head out of the book and I stumble again. Rinse and Repeat.

I have a director and and engineer who are spotting for errors as I read. When the book is finished, it will all sound like that eleven minute run today.

It is easy, when screwing up, to get irritated with myself even though I know that this happens to every narrator. The thing to keep in my head is that mistakes happen and as long as I am patient, I will get through whatever sentence is killing me. In fact, I have to cut myself some slack because getting irritated with myself will only make me tense and make it worse.

This is something that I wish I could apply to the rest of my life. That moment of irritation is just that — it’s a moment. The longer I dwell on it, the longer it lasts.

11 Responses

  1. Christopher Wright

    I podcast some of my stuff and when I finish I frequently wonder if I’m losing the ability to process language. It’s nice to know that happens on a more professional level, too.

      1. Christopher Wright

         Well, that’s… sort of terrifying, actually. But there’s a comfort in that terror. A cold, bare comfort, that isn’t actually emotionally comforting, just a stark intellectual consolation. :-D

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal

          Heh. Fair enough. What is useful though is recognizing that it is fatigue and not any inherent problem with me. At that point, I know that I need to lean back from the mic, shut my eyes for a few seconds and let everything settle. When I come back, whatever was a problem usually is so simple that I wonder why I had trouble with it.

  2. Grant Gardner

    I had the opportunity in college to sit on the other side of the glass and be the one running the recording gear.  We were recording guided relaxation scripts for the school’s counseling center. I was absolutely amazed by my fellow student/colleague who was doing the recording – a “non-traditional” (read older) grad student from South Africa.  I could sit and listen to her accent for hours (and did when doing the edits).

    Sorry, side tracked – anyway, her way of dealing with the mess-ups was to have a good laugh, take a swig of water, and then tell herself “FIDO”. After the first session I asked her about it and she said she it was something she picked up when she was learning to drive in the States from her instructor – stands for Forget It, Drive On. It was just her way of reminding herself to let the past go and refocus on the present. I totally stole it and try to use it whenever I find myself getting too focused on a mistake I had made.

    That said, get some rest, sounds like you need it.

  3. Diatryma

    I’ve been doing a lot of teacher read-aloud lately– I’m the one who really likes doing it– and while the pressure isn’t the same at all, some of the sentences are.  The kiddos don’t know the exact sentences I’m reading, so it doesn’t matter what I accidentally change while I wander the room, but voices matter to me, if not to them.  

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