The last bit of The Body in The Bathtub is happening this week and I’m also recording industrial training narration. The corporate narration is great because the clips are short and I get feedback immediately. I still get to practice all of the tips I’ve written about before here, and here (plus two new ones at the bottom) but evaluating the impact is quicker.
Tip #1 – GESTURES – in this case, less about a movement for each character, and more about using my whole body to be encouraging and energized about the learning content.
Tip #2 – WARMUPS – (for my jaw especially) to loosen up my physical performance.
Tip #3 – Nose Breaths – still working on these. I’ve been doing editing on BITB too and I actually think the nose breaths are just as loud as the other kind if I actually run myself out of air.
Tip #4 – Attitude – the attitude for the technical training content is interesting. It is conversational speed, clear, but also warm and encouraging. I do a lot of smiling and imagining a classroom in front of me, but the attitude is pretty much just…Me. Helping people who need to know stuff. Surprisingly gratifying.
Tip #5 – Character Sheets – When I was taking classes at Voice One I was given a sample Character Sheet to complete. The goal is to fill out everything I know about the character, in particular, physicality and vocal descriptions. This is one way to “know” the character so well that the characterization is consistent. But it doesn’t always work. I am doing my homework, believe me. I know a LOT about these characters and have even talked to the author about them as if they were living beings (in some cases the human beings they are actually based on!) It is going back and forth rapidly that is challenging for my consistency.
So I’ve been cheating. I’m honestly not sure if this is OK or not, but until someone comments or “catches” me at it, I’ll keep doing it: I imitate. Yes, I love imitations, and my imitations are not good enough that I’ll sound *exactly* like a person or character, so a lot of the time I’m using characters I love and know well. Like, say…Glinda, The Good Witch of The North. Or The Wicked Witch of The West. Or even Dorothy Gale. (Spoiler Alert! Mary Poppins and Wendy Darling are coming up in Viola Roberts book 6, just wait.)
I’ve been playing at sounding like those characters/people for so many years that the FEEL of them is already in my mouth, my jaw, my posture. So I assign characters in the book who may share characteristics with other fictional characters to BE those characters. Vocally I know I’m ripping off someone else’s work; another actor’s interpretation as a basis for voices in the books. If I was terribly, terribly GOOD at, say, my Lily Tomlin impression, for extended periods of time, I might worry.
As it is, what I’m worried about right now is CONSISTENCY. I want a character to sound like the same person from scene to scene and book to book. If that means they sound a little bit like ‘Yvette doing her Lily Tomlin impression’ ALL the time, I consider that a win (for now).
Soon, I’m throwing in a little Paula Poundstone. When The Body in the Bathtub comes out, you can tell me if you recognize which character name I’ve given that impression. And if it’s bad, you can rib me about how awful it is…but it’ll be unique and consistent.
Tip #6 -Through Line – Mystery. The idea of tip 6 is that as the narrator, I am supposed to discover the narrator’s voice (not the character who is in the moment, but the narrator telling the story later). Then find their attitude and a way to give the whole book a sense of “throughline story.” The Viola Roberts books are mysteries, and my coach encouraged me to find a way to be telling the story of The Mystery!
This is where I admit that tip 6 is still something of a mystery to me. It is very Meta. Express the story about the story. I understand it logically, stepping back from it, but in-the-moment, when I’m reading, when I’m moving, when I’m vocalizing each character, when I’m remembering attitude and what each character wants from the scene….Well…in between, I guess I tend to “forget” the narrator and the through line.
Something to continue getting better at. No one said this stuff was easy. Hopefully keeping it in mind as much as possible is the best way to slowly but surely get better at it. Perhaps one day soon, mid-book, it will just CLICK.
The only way to know is to make more books and have my listeners provide feedback.
(Pssst! That’s you. PLUG: Buy my audiobooks and tell me what you think!)