Flavours of Sound

So, because my brain often goes into neutral, I totally asked for topics to write about today, and Rhys Ford being the stalwart friend and oddball that she is said “The flavors of sound” and I said “…hmmm”

Because, I TOTALLY knew what she meant when she said that, and have never verbalized it before.  But I realized, this is the ONLY way you get to experience the acting I do when I record an audiobook.  The flavors of sound.


Audiobook narration (it really irks me that audiobook isn’t an accepted word yet… stop underlining my profession as wrong you cursed spellcheck!)  Anyway.  Narration is acting.  Hard stop.  We use the term “voice acting” because it differentiates things a bit to the medium of acting, and I think that’s legitimate, because we also say “stage acting” and “screen acting” so.. yeah. Voice acting, is still acting; but we are so limited in how we can convey things to you because there are no facial expressions, no movements, no effects.  Just voice.  That means everything has to be conveyed in that one part of the medium, and frankly it’s astounding that you can get SO MUCH across just with that.

Think of how much a text message lacks because there is no vocal flavor. No sound nuances.  I think one of my favorite commercials from a while back was the same message, presented two different ways.  It said: “Ken.  I know we were going to have dinner tonight, but I’ve got other plans.”

First presented on a plain white background.

Then presented over an image of red satin sheets, a pair of handcuffs and a whip.

Visual flavor.  Audible flavor.  Changes Everything.


I make a myriad of conscious and unconscious choices in how I present the flavor of the audio I create.  Is the narrative voice gruff, or wispy?  Low, or medium or high?  Uncertain?  Confident?  How long are the pauses in delivery?  Is the main character bold, or timid?

Some pieces are very single note or simple flavors.  Some are a veritable stew… but even then, you have to be careful how MANY flavors go into a piece.  Some develop as two distinct dishes that fold back and forth, and eventually meld together.

That’s not to say I have everything mapped out and do them by the numbers… but I don’t cook that way either.  I generally have a feel for things, and let them go from there.


An example.  Next week I am recording my first book for Riptide Publishing, it’s Lisa Henry and JA Rock’s “When All the World Sleeps” and I’m 90% of the way through my planning read.  (Finishing that after this)

The book has 2 very unique narrative points of view… not QUITE a swapping POV narration, but close.  One, following the police officer main character is limited in note to start.  He’s steak.  Rare, and salty and bold.  It’s a narrative style that has firm edges, and simple desires.  There’s some baked potato, and a little pepper, but that’s it.

The love interest character with a tragic past is, at the outset, compost.  He’s not even ingredients, he’s a jumble of things thrown into a bag.  There are hot peppers, and mushrooms, and also crazy spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.  There’s a hunk of chocolate, and some apples and all sorts of crazy shit, and it’s not even cooked.  It’s messy, but it’s also compelling.  It’s sharp.

These elements are going to get together.  Conceptually and audibly they will start to mingle.  The steak will get initially diced up, and suddenly there will be strange shit on the steak’s plate.  The dinner will be ruined… there will be discord.

And then the ingredients will start to blend.  The peppers and mushrooms and steak will simmer… the apples will get minced fine, the spices, the chocolate will play… and there will be Chili.


And the narration will reflect that.  I’ll color code the script to remind myself of the shifting dynamics of the style and flavor.  The simple bold unrelenting feel, the chaotic jumble… then the changes, the melding, the creation… new flavors, and new approaches.

New sounds, new emotions.



5 Responses

  1. ELF
    ELF at |

    Oh, I love this description! I am not an audiobook fan, but this certainly makes me want to listen to one of yours. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Colette Miranda
    Colette Miranda at |

    That was a great explanation – I love audiobooks and yours are some of the best I have listened to. I am so happy to hear you are narrating When All the World Sleeps. It is a favorite of mine and I know you will bring the 2 main characters to life.

  3. lisa44837
    lisa44837 at |

    So excited to hear you’re narrating a Rock/Henry book! And welcome to Riptide, I love their work!

  4. p-la
    p-la at |

    I too, am a huge fan of yours. (total fangirling right now) This was a lovely way to think about what it is you must do. Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work!

  5. Sadonna
    Sadonna at |

    Fantastic! I love JA Rock and Lisa Henry books – looking forward to another great listen 😀


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