Today’s topic for Audiobook Week is narrators. After listening to as many audiobooks as I have the past few years, I have very strong feelings about the art of narration.
~ First, authors should only read their own books if someone they trust to tell them the absolute truth tells them that they should. There is one author who is very well-known, and whose work I enjoy in print, but who I will never listen to on audio because she insists on reading her own work, and she has a very grating voice and monotone reading style. If you’re interested in some really good author-read audio, looks for David Sedaris, Neil Gaiman, and Joshilyn Jackson.
~ When a book is in first person, I want a more straight-forward type of narration. I love narrators who can do accents and vary the characters’ voices greatly, but it doesn’t make sense to have huge fluctuations in voices when the story is being told by one person. I like just enough variation to distinguish between characters. Of course, with every rule, there is an exception. I love Cassandra Campbell’s narration of the Valentine series by Adriana Trigiani, and they are told in first person. She does the Italian and New York accents of the characters perfectly, but in that case, it has the effect of Valentine telling you about her family, and impersonating them perfectly.
~ If a narrator is going to read a book with characters of various nationalities, they better be able to do the accents. The accents don’t have to be strong or perfect, but they do have to be believable. Nothing is more distracting than listening to a book with an English character who speaks like he or she comes from Australia.
~ For sweeping books like the Outlander series, you want a narrator who can do all the accents, all the voices, who is a true performer without being melodramatic. Davina Porter’s reading of this series is simply breath-taking, and should not be missed. She does Scottish, British, and French accents – among many, many others.
~ I can put up with a “just okay” reader for a short book, but if I’m going to invest hours in listening to something, I want the narrator not only to be good at reading and doing the voices, but also to have a voice I want to listen to for hours. There are certain narrators (Simon Vance, Scott Brick) whose voices are so fantastic, I would probably listen to them read the dictionary.
So, those are my thoughts on narration. What do you look for in a narrator? Who are your favorites?