Green River Star -

By Jacquie Kramer
Sweetwater County Library System 

It depends on the narrator


I am a huge fan of audiobooks. I’m always listening to one in my car. Since I commute to work in Green River from Rock Springs, I start and end my workday with an audiobook.

If you listen to audiobooks, you know the narrator can either elevate the author’s writing or ruin it. I know I’ve started a few audiobooks only to realize the narrator just wasn’t working for me and then had to return the books to the library.

On the other hand, I’ve listened to some fantastic narrators who can really bring stories to life. Jim Dale is an exceptional voice artist. He is best known (in the United States) for his recordings of all seven of the Harry Potter books.

He holds the Guinness World Record for creating and voicing 134 different character voices in one book – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He’s also won a number of awards for his voice work.

I’ve checked out other audiobooks simply because Dale was the narrator. A good narrator will make you search out their other works. Just like one has favorite authors, voice artists can also garner a following.

MacMillan Audio’s executive director of production, Laura Wilson, explains in the May 2016 issue of Library Journal that she looks at the content of the book for cues about who the narrator should be. Variables to consider include whether the title is fiction or nonfiction, the genre, the mood, and the style, to name a few.

The narrator is a performer. This is why you see many trained actors and voice performers’ pictures on the back covers of books on CD, playaways, and MP3s. This is also why you don’t see a lot of authors narrating their own works. Writing a novel requires a different skill set than narrating one.

Audiobook producers and directors have a large catalog of narrators they can chose from when casting the part. Most producers always keep their eyes out for a new novel or piece of literature that might be a good fit for one of their favorite narrators.

Once a narrator is casted, the person will read through the text once to get a feel for it and then, ideally, read through it a second time to make notes about voices or pronunciations.

The idea is to make each character’s voice distinct and remain as close to the author’s intent as possible.

There are two different ways to record an audiobook. The first is called “punch recording.” In punch recording the narrator tries to perform the entire text in one take. This recording method requires the least amount of editing at the end. It definitely seems to ask quite a lot of the narrator though.

The second recording method is called “straight recording.” This allows for the narrator to perform multiple takes if necessary.

There is less pressure for a flawless performance with this method, but the editing process is much more intensive than punch recording.

Once the edits have been completed, the audio recording is checked against the print version of the book to make sure the audio is correct, word for word.

Who knew audiobook recording is such a complex process? I sure didn’t. There are quite a few more people involved in the process than I ever would have guessed.

Currently I’m listening to book 2 in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, Fool Moon. I picked this series entirely because of the narrator. He is James Marsters. For any “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans, Marsters played Spike in the TV series.

If you haven’t signed up for Summer Reading yet, come down to the library and do so. Remember, audiobooks count too.


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