Narrating, character voices, and filling the void

I’m about to finish recording Seanan McGuire’s Chimes at Midnight, which is a series I very, very much enjoy. Narrating goes so much faster and easier when you like the book your recording. One of the nicest things about recording Seanan’s books is that I know her, so I can call up and double-check pronunciations.

The other side of that is that she knows me now, and takes that into account in audio. One thing that I particularly want to call attention to is that she gives cues about what characters sound like now. I was having this conversation with another narrator. Authors give all this time to describing what things look like, but very little to sound. Sure, someone will say “He snarled” or something but not give an accent or timbre or anything else about the voice. Given a void, a narrator will fill that.

Prime example: I read Sylvester Torquill with a light Irish accent. It made sense to the director and it also made it easier to distinguish him. There was nothing in the text to indicate what he sounded like so… fill the void.

Seanan says he doesn’t have one.

In this new book, she introduces two new characters and gives me audio cues for both of them. “A light Welsh accent” or “pure Toronto.” Granted, that means I have to learn both of these, but it’s incredibly useful to know where to aim.

So authors, as I finish up this recording, and drive to Chattanooga, think about what your characters sound like and let your POV character actually notice it.

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5 thoughts on “Narrating, character voices, and filling the void”

  1. This is very interesting and I have an example for you, across decades, of how this works.

    On my driving trip to Colorado, one of the audiobooks I listened to was Bronson Pinchot’s reading of Glory Road. When we first have him described to us, Oscar offhandedly compares Jocko, the Doral him to a Texan.

    So what does Pinchot do when he has to actually *voice* the Doral? He gives him a distinct Texan accent. We’re not given that cue (Heinlein was not writing for audiobooks of course) but the narrator filled the void, and filled it in an ingenious fashion so that the Doral didn’t sound like Oscar, or Rufo or any other male character.

  2. Torquill is such a quintessentially Scottish name that that’s how I’ve always heard him in my head. But a pure Highland Scottish accent is very similar to Irish (except prettier), so I can dig it.

      1. Oh, well, totally.

        But in my head everyone with no accent listed sounds like me (and Seanan) because my inner monologue has that accent.

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