Okay, so I’m back with part TWO of “10 Things I Learned (as a Sci-fi & Fantasy Writer) from Producing an Audiobook“!
Let’s get it! 😉
6. Don’t be afraid to give your characters uniqueness, extreme personality, voice, and dialogue patterns!
This is a given when writing pretty much anything in fiction, but sometimes we’ll hold back on it in the interest of trying to be PC or non-stereotypical. True, there can be a thin line between writing a stereotyped character and writing a real, colorful one. But go with your gut! I suggest that you be as colorful with your characters as possible, especially if your sci-fi or fantasy world has a large cast. Every person of import needs to be distinct from the others.
To take that point further, colorful characters are integral to producing a great audiobook. Trust me, it’s so much fun to hear an actor latch onto a character’s speech pattern and mannerisms and just go to town with it!
For example, one of the very minor characters in my novel had a Bostonian accent (a fact that was merely stated in the character cast list), while another more major character was literally just written as a Bostonian– dialogue, intonation, and all. Well guess what? My actor totally nailed the major character because the guy was literally a Bostonian personality and spoke like one, whereas the minor character’s accent wavered occasionally because I didn’t write him as a Bostonian. You need to remember that voice actors literally embody the character they’re playing, and to do that effectively, voice actors need, well, VOICE. So don’t skimp on it!
7. This is your actor’s medium. Unless you feel as though he or she is totally going to tank your audiobook, it’s best just to follow his lead!
This doesn’t mean keeping quiet if the actor is messing up a character’s voice or mispronouncing words throughout the book. Obviously, you have a right to guide your audiobook to successful completion. However, there are some of us who take a tyrannical role when producing an audiobook, and this can produce some unfortunate results (especially if you aren’t actually PAYING the actor upfront).
Letting go of the work you shed so much blood and tears over is hard, I know. But while prose is your speciality, you must remember that voice acting is your actor’s speciality. Embodying character and voice in real time is just what actors do, all day every day, point blank, period. So if your actor has an interpretation on a character, a story theme, tone, mood, or whatever, just go with it and see where it’ll take your audiobook. You might (and most likely will be) pleasantly surprised.
As a special note to writers doing a Royalty Share agreement (wherein you don’t pay the actor upfront, but you guys split royalties per sale of each audiobook): When you and your actor decide to take a no-money-down risk on your audiobook, you move from solo writer status to a partner status. You are not paying the actor upfront, so essentially your actor is a partner, not an employee. He is risking just as much time and money on this audiobook as you are, so keep that in mind when you’re giving him direction. Giving narrators their 50% ownership over the audiobook property means just that, so please, trust them with the process. They know more about audiobooks than you do, after all.
8. Be prompt in responding to your actor’s questions and concerns.
I was HORRIBLE at this at times, and I know my actor wanted to kill me. Taking into account audio recording, listening, and editing, each chapter of your book is costing the actor about 4-6 hours of work time. Honestly, if you want your audiobook finished on time, PLEASE communicate with your actor in a timely fashion. Don’t be like me!
9. When you’re listening to a first draft of the actor’s audiobook, make sure you have your original written file open on your computer!
This isn’t so that you can follow along. Actually I recommend that you DON’T follow along. So then, why do I say to keep your original file open? TYPOS & CORRECTIONS. And I cringe even as I write this because technically in a final draft you shouldn’t want or need to change anything.
But alas, nothing in this world is perfect.
I found at very rare moments in my novel that there was either a minor preposition that was missing from the text (my fault) OR that I wasn’t really a fan of how I’d written a certain character’s dialogue line. Again, these instances were extremely rare, but being that, as indies, we now have the ability to change and re-upload our digital and print book files, I say take advantage of it. If you hear a typo or want to tweak some dialogue, crack that ebook file open and do it.
Your actor’s audiobook will reveal all the gems in your work as well as the rare flaws, and you have every right to rectify those in the other versions of your book. So take advantage! (And make sure you ask your narrator to please re-record if absolutely necessary.)
10. Enjoy the show. No, really. Enjoy it.
As an aspiring tv writer, I can tell you that a tv writer’s greatest dream– beyond actually getting hired to do what he loves on a daily basis or becoming a showrunner of his own show– is to see something he’s written actually acted out and then aired for millions of people to see. You can think to yourself: “Wow, I wrote those words, I created that tense scenario, I authored that car chase, and it looks AWESOME.”
Well, guess what? Short of seeing your novel on the silver screen in Hollywood, the audiobook is the novel writers’ version of “seeing” an episode or film he’s written aired LIVE, with all the characters and situations brought to life. And wow, is that an amazing fuck-all feeling.
In all, an audiobook isn’t just an audial translation of your work. It’s a performance! And performances need to be enjoyed and savored with all your rapt attention. Your actor has worked really hard to bring your world to life, so get immersed in it and love (or hate) the characters you’ve created together. It’s SO much fun!
So that’s it for my tips! Feel free to learn from my hard-headedness and avoid the same mistakes I made! Any more tips you have on audiobook production? Add them in the comments below! 😉
I’ll be back soon with a few more things for ya as we bring July to a close, but of course, in the meantime…
Keep it indie!
<3 Colby R Rice