I really enjoy audiobooks. Whether I’m cleaning my house, doing laundry, commuting in my car or walking the dog they keep me company and help me read more great books every year.
I have some serious pet peeves when it comes to audiobook narrators.
An audiobook narrator can make or break an audiobook experience. There have been too many times to count that I have stopped listening to a library book or returned an Audible book because the narrator was making it so hard for me to enjoy the story. Audiobooks are a way to become completely enveloped in a story and poor choices by the narrator can be jarring enough to pull you out of the story’s embrace.
In an effort to remain positive rather than negative, here are three things that make a great audiobook narrator:
Researching How to Pronounce Place Names
There are a lot of places in the world. And, most of the books I tend to read seem to be written/published/produced mainly by folks from the United States. But guys, when you do some research it warms my Canadian heart. You see, when a book mentions a Canadian location I get super excited.
But…when the narrator in an audiobook pronounces it incorrectly. Ugh. Massive turn off. It immediately pulls me out of the story. I get it, sometimes the author or character is poking fun at some of the weird place names my country has. But when a character is Canadian, they will know how to pronounce it. So, audiobook narrator, when you call Sault Ste Marie “salt saint mah ree” I have to cringe. It’s pronounced “soo saint mah ree”.
Google the place names before you record. Please. It’s a simple step to prepare and makes your work that much better and the book that much more enjoyable.
(And yes, this is a real example from an audiobook I read earlier this year.)
Consistency With Previous Series Narrators
Audiobooks are a great way to read a series of books. You can somehow get through a whole series in just a few weeks while still getting all your other parts of life done. And if the series is all available, you can instantly download the next book as soon as you finish the previous one.
Just like when publishers change cover designs part way though a series, it can be super annoying when the narrator for a series changes part way through. The most annoying part of this, is when the new narrator hasn’t listened to the previous narrator’s work.
How does the previous narrator pronounce character names or place names? One of the first series I listened to on audio was Call the Midwife. Two different narrators pronounced the name of the midwife house differently. It was jarring after listening to one narrator for multiple books and then having a completely different pronunciation suddenly. Nonnatus House was pronounced either “non-na-tus” or “non-na-tus”. Each time I heard the new emphasis I was jarred out of the story.
But when a narrator does listen back and mimics the old narrator. Oh la la. It is wonderful. It creates a seamless transition from one narrator to the next.
Voice Characterization Through Tone and Inflection
Remember when you were a kid and your favourite babysitter came over and practically acted out your bedtime story for you? Yeah, it was all about using their voice to identify the characters and really emoting by using their voice in all the right ways to make you feel what the characters were feeling.
A great audiobook narrator is a great voice actor who can do every single character in the book. I find some male narrators just aren’t good at voicing female characters. Sometimes the female characters just end up sounding kind of squeaky. Or, all the characters sound too deep or gravelly and I have trouble picking them out of a lineup in my head. Other times, female narrators just sound silly trying to make their voices deeper to represent a male character, and again, all the male characters end up sounding the same.
But when that right narrator comes along and is able to completely absorb me in their voice and bring each and every character to life in a unique way. Oh my gosh. It is wonderful.
Speaking of which, I have an audiobook to go listen to. Maybe I’ll mop my kitchen floor while I listen.
What are your favourite audiobooks?