Since June Is Audiobook Month – and you know that’s a BIG deal in my world – I couldn’t let it pass without a little celebration! So for the month of June, Saturday’s Fun Question Posts have been taken over by audiobook related themes. And I’ll be giving away ONE AUDIBLE AUDIOBOOK of your choice at the end of the month (see rafflecopter below to enter). This is open in the US & Canada only (since I don’t think you can get Audible books International).
Anyway, join me every Saturday as I ask a Fun Question that’s been on my mind. I’ll give you my take, but I really hope you’ll jump in with your answers too, since I’m really curious to know what my fellow readers and bloggers think! So today’s question is…
What makes a great narrator?
This is a question I ask myself every time I write a review for an audiobook. I know if I had a good, great, or just ok listening experience, but nailing down the why can be a bit elusive. Sometimes it just didn’t FEEL great. But I think most audiobook junkies would agree that finding a great narrator is probably the difference of tolerating, liking, and LOVING audiobooks. The narrator makes or breaks it! And… I think there’s definitely a bit of room for personal taste. If I love a narrator, you might just like them or even hate them. That being said, there are some things I think makes a narrator great:
I know, this is a duh! point, but also one of the most important. A good narrator has a variety of voices for the different characters. Hell, even the worst narrator understands this point and gives the different characters some variety in voices. But a GREAT narrator infuses the voices with personality – a personality that FITS THE CHARACTER. I can’t stress this point enough. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but from time to time you’ll listen to a book and think there’s something not quite right about that voice. I bet it’s because the voice doesn’t fit the character. If my character has a funny, spunky attitude and deep, serious voice, it doesn’t matter how well the narrator does that voice, it’s just wrong!
A great narrator who I think nails the voices: Amanda Ronconi
This goes hand in hand with the voices, but I have to separate it because their are plenty of narrators I’ve read who are flipping fantastic at voices and then get taken down by an accent. And I think the reality behind this is just that accents are HARD and yet 100% IMPORTANT. I recently read a series where the narrator did a really good job most the time and then the characters end up talking to some Mexicans. She tanked so bad – I laughed my ass off! It was just bad! But then I’ve read series where each book brings in yet another accent and I’ve literally been in awe at the narrators ability to nail yet another accent! I should mention that IMHO machines have accents! If you listen to anything that has talking machines or robots you’ll understand what I mean – it just sounds wrong if they don’t have a bit of a tin to their voice and a great narrator gets that and delivers.
A great narrator who I think nails the accents: Rebecca Soler
The ability to be androgynous!
Am I beating a dead horse? Is this still voice to you? Well, yeah I guess it is, but it’s such a BIG factor that it deserves a heading of it’s own. See I’ve read really really good narrators who are GREAT at all the above for characters of their gender but then they have to go to the other side and BAM! they’re not so good anymore. In reality, most narrators I’ve read are great at one gender and good at the other. Most female narrators can’t quite nail a deep male voice and most male narrators’ female voices have a bit of a falsetto. It’s totally not a deal breaker for me, but a GREAT narrator nails both genders!
A great narrator who I think nails both genders:: Bahni Turpin
Depending on how you listen, pacing can be a null point since you can often change the speed of your playback. But in my opinion, a great narrator has the right pace from the get-go. If I speed up a great narrator, it’s because I’m in a hurry, not because their pacing was off. To an extent, pacing should fit the character and tone of the story. Great narrators change their pace a bit within the book, adding a certain amount of anxiousness to exciting scenes and slowing down when it’s over. For me personally, though, nothing’s more annoying than narration that’s too slow. Even if it’s mood appropriate, there’s a point where you’re going too slow. Long pauses, where I even wonder if I’ve hit the pause button by accident are a real pet peeve of mine. That’s just too slow! This is especially important for books that have a poetic cadence to them. The pace the words are spoken makes all the world of difference!
A great narrator who I think nails the pacing: Kate Simses
This is something that I think most narrators are really good at honestly. But it doesn’t change that it’s really important. If you give a character a specific voice, please please please don’t change it. Not even a little bit, k? I think this is probably most challenging for narrators who read series – since there’s a lot of space between recording books. But from my experience, 9 out of 10 narrators get this right every time. But you can’t be a great narrator in my book if you don’t! The one exception would be series that change the point of view the book is being told from – in that case, I’m okay with the MCs voice changing a bit to make the whole book flow better.
A great narrator who I think nails consistency: Lauren Fortang
One of the best treats about listening to an audiobooks is having all those words you would stumble over while reading pronounced correctly for you. So if you’re listening to an audiobook and you KNOW they’re pronouncing something wrong – like a character’s name- that’s really really annoying. But when you’re listening to a series where there’s lot of slang that you JUST KNOW you would have tripped all over, it’s really great to have a narrator who knows how to make it come to life and just feel natural. Here’s a big way they can help the author bring the world to life – if you’re stumbling over words there’s a barrier between you and the world you’re reading. But if the words are flowing off the narrators tongue naturally, you’re there! You’ve been transported. I find this particularly true for the Downside Ghosts series, which is why there’s no doubt that Bahni Turpin (listed above for both genders) nails pronunciation too. But since I already mentioned her, I’ll give you another one 🙂
A great narrator who I think nails pronunciation: Marguerite Gavin
Of course, just because I mentioned a narrator in one heading doesn’t mean they aren’t good in other areas too. Most these narrators nail every single aspect I’ve listed, which is why I consider them my favorite narrators (so far). But some books have given narrators an opportunity to stand out in some areas above others. Click on their names to see the great books they’ve narrated!
And to wrap up this month’s audiobook celebration I have a final opportunity to enter the giveaway for ONE AUDIBLE AUDIOBOOK of your choice. Good luck!
What makes a great narrator in your opinion? Who are your favorites?