Dr Niamh On The Plum Tree

Childhood Imagination Sows Seeds of Future Brilliance

The Narrator’s Voice With Daniel Vimont.

In this interesting piece from Daniel Vimont about reading out loud, I wonder that any word is not born to be mic373751_412242828795717_498698168_nexpressed in every way imaginable. Daniel has one of those exceptional, deep, velvety, resonant voices, with obvious technique, (such as I learned when I was a singer) that can roll words around the tongue and pronounce with perfect diction. I always read everything I have written out loud, as I find, this is the best way to edit and ascertain rhythm. As Daniel says, every good writer is aware of rhythm. Rhythm is instinctive and an-oh-so-subtle part of a writer’s voice.

The Challenges of Audiobook narration, Part 1: Reading Aloud Words That Were Never Intended To Be Read Aloud.

By Daniel Vimont. 

Most composers write music with the intention and full expectation that it will ultimately be played aloud. Such performances represent the ultimate fruition of their art — the notes in the score MUST be brought to life in this way, or else the artistic cycle is not complete! On the other hand, writers, while they may be cognizant of the possibility that the prose they are writing *might* at some point be read aloud to an audience, do not necessarily give predominant focus to the “oral readability” of their work as they write. (There are no doubt exceptions to this, particularly in genres like children’s books, but I’m speaking in generalities here.) A wonderful and complete fruition of the writer’s art might lie simply in its being read by individuals in silent solitude — the artistic cycle is complete without need of giving physical breath to the words on the page.

Thus, there is a significant body of perfectly wonderful prose that can (and DOES) prove quite a challenge to the audiobook narrator — the challenge being to bring the words off of the page and deliver them to the reader’s ears in a way that is not only crystal clear in its meaning, but also aesthetically gratifying and stylistically appropriate. A good writer *does* have rhythm in mind, either consciously or unconsciously, as they write, but it is not necessarily a rhythm that is naturally and instantly amenable to expressive and effective *oral* reading. So in some cases I find that I have to really *work* with a text, being willing to try and fail, try and fail, try and fail, until I finally stumble upon a style and rhythm that *works*.

One of my most recent challenges in this regard was in creating a recording of Jack London’s iconic short story, TO BUILD A FIRE, for inclusion in my upcoming audiobook collection, CLASSIC TALES OF HOPE AND COURAGE (which will be coming soon to classic-tales.net). I ultimately had to make three complete recordings of the text before I finally fell into the “right rhythm” in the third recording. In my first misbegotten takes I was somehow missing the mark that London’s writing needed me to hit. But those initial takes, while sounding rather forced and stodgy to me, proved to be effective rehearsals that ultimately helped me find my way into the more naturalistic and understated reading that London’s prose demanded.

Here is a five minute excerpt from my final take, in which I found the rhythm I had been looking for. Below that is the recording of the complete short story, which will require slightly over 45 minutes of your time if you’d like to experience it.

Here is the excerpt…

Listen here for the complete story recording.

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About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books. www.drniamhchildrensbooks.com

15 comments on “The Narrator’s Voice With Daniel Vimont.

  1. mapelba
    January 11, 2014

    That’s interesting. I think of rhythm when i write, but I hadn’t thought of it being different for the person reading for the audio version. It makes sense though. I like seeing into this process.

    Like

    • Daniel Vimont
      January 12, 2014

      I’m hoping to give you and other authors further insights into the audiobook creative processes. Since the Plum Tree blog is, among many other things, a blog by authors for authors, it seems the perfect venue to get up on my soapbox and encourage authors to demand higher standards from those who offer to bring authors’ words to life via recordings.

      With that said, it might be best to avoid getting too checklist-oriented when assessing the quality of audiobook offerings, since Duke Ellington’s rule must always take precedence over all others: “If it sounds good, it is good”! But in my past year of intense immersion in the audiobook world, I have been consistently disappointed in the choices that some very good authors make when it comes to selecting a narrator for their work. They certainly don’t always need to select *me* to do the work, but I am always hopeful that they will, at the very least, select someone with a certain basic minimum set of skills and talents.

      Our executive friends at our favorite corporate publishing monopoly, Amazon/Audible, seem convinced that anyone with a Screen Actors Guild membership card is wholly suited to walk into a studio and began laying down audiobook tracks, and they constantly conflate the art of (short form) voiceover with the art of (long form) audiobook narration. (Perhaps they also presume that an athlete able to perform well in the 100 meter sprint can get up tomorrow and creditably compete in a marathon.)

      Pardon my digression into a gripe session! To steer things back to the positive, I hope to bring up (in future postings) some more of the aesthetic and technical criteria that one needs to be cognizant of when assessing the quality of an audiobook offering.

      Like

      • ontheplumtree
        January 12, 2014

        I understand your frustration Daniel. The art form of acting and narration have different emphases, just as writing song lyrics has a different emphasis to writing poetry ~ different again is the act of writing rhyme. Narration must emphasise rhythm…I am so impressed at how well you understand that, as I (being from an Irish tradition of writers) cannot write without the musicality of words being of primary importance. P.s. I am hoping this site isn’t for other writers but for readers too, as they are the ones that buy books!

        Like

      • mapelba
        January 15, 2014

        I’m glad to know this. I never would’ve thought just anyone could be a narrator, but I hadn’t thought about what was needed in a narrator either.

        This is all good to know. I don’t know if my book will ever be an audio book, but I feel better able to think about it now.

        Like

      • Daniel Vimont
        January 15, 2014

        Marta — I think that THE BLUE JAR could make a wonderful audiobook, if you could find the right woman to provide the narration. I can help you in the search whenever you decide to take the plunge.

        Like

  2. Patricia Tilton
    January 11, 2014

    Very interesting post. I don’t think about rhythm when I write a first draft. I’m just focused on getting my idea down. But, once I begin to revise, rhythm and pacing become very important. In terms of someone reading an audio book, like Jack London’s work, I would imagine it would take practice to find that rhythm. I listened to some of Jack’s recording, and he does have an exceptional voice that draws you into the story.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      January 11, 2014

      The voice is Daniel’s. Isn’t he great? Thank you for stopping by and for listening, Patricia.

      Like

    • Daniel Vimont
      January 12, 2014

      Thanks very much for sharing *your* creative perspective, Patricia! Your words brought to mind another challenge I recently encountered when trying to find an author’s “rhythm” within a specific work. It actually took me a few DAYS to stumble upon the right way to perform Edgar Allan Poe’s THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. Here’s a 5 minute excerpt — http://bit.ly/1hJmZu0

      (The complete short story found its way onto my recently published audiobook, CLASSIC TALES OF HORROR: http://amzn.to/H6V47t )

      Like

      • Patricia Tilton
        January 12, 2014

        Thank you Daniel. Found my way into the site and listened to The Masque of the Red Death. You really captured the essence of the work with your voice. You are very talented. And, I could see how it would take time to find your voice in such an elegant piece.

        Like

      • ontheplumtree
        January 12, 2014

        Dearest Patricia. You are a gem. Thank you for following through.

        Like

      • Patricia Tilton
        January 13, 2014

        It was very impressive. You are welcome.

        Like

      • Daniel Vimont
        January 13, 2014

        Patricia — if you’re speaking of the recording of the complete MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, I’m sorry I made you *hunt* for it! 🙂

        For anyone else who’d like to hear that complete work (along with three other short stories from the CLASSIC HORROR collection), there’s no need to hunt — simply visit this page and scroll down to the audio offerings:
        http://commonvox.org/classic-halloween

        Like

  3. thiskidreviewsbooks
    January 12, 2014

    Cool! I know what you mean! 😀

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      January 12, 2014

      Glad you like it, Erik! All this really important stuff to larn about for a budding writer such as yourself.

      Like

    • Daniel Vimont
      January 13, 2014

      Thanks for the positive vibes, Erik!! 🙂

      Like

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