Learn when it is appropriate to have more than one voice narrate your audiobook. While the most typical audiobook is narrated by a single voice, there are many times when using multiple voices is a better choice. Examples include children’s books like Tamara Shiloh’s Jaxon’s Magical Adventure with Black Inventors and Scientists, business books such as Gil Broza’s The Human Side of Agile, travel books like Chris Santilli’s The Naked Truth About Hedonism II and full cast projects such as screenplays (JD West’s Cosmic Cowboy.
Today we’re going to talk about when it’s appropriate to have more than one narrator for an audiobook project. I have many authors who will ask me this question when they’re thinking about their fiction title that has a lot of different dialogue in many different voices: male, female, all gender, and they’re trying to figure out how that’s handled. Typically, these are authors who haven’t had a lot of experience listening to audiobooks, but they’re interested in getting their book into audio. Well, first of all, I would just suggest, try listening to a bunch of audio books because they’re great!
But to answer the question – most typically, the most standard basic audio book approach is a single narrator, a single storyteller, who then will modify their voice for the different characters. So you can keep track of who’s who. And when you’re casting the project or having your producer cast it, you would be looking in that case for a narrator who’s good at that kind of character differentiation with their voices. There are a lot of great audio book narrators who aren’t great at that particular skill. And that’s fine. But you want to be looking for one, if you have a fiction book with many different characters, you want to be looking for someone who has those skills.
Now, let’s think about what kind of projects are great with more than one voice. For example, if you have a title where there are multiple chapters, and you have kind of a consistent pattern of chapters being presented from one character point of view, or a different character point of view. An example of this would be some of Jojo Moyes books, such as One Plus One or Me Before You. Anyway, she does that where she’ll have different narrators, because the chapters are written from different perspectives. So that’s a great way to handle that kind of approach.
Now, there are many other opportunities and sometimes using more than one voice can actually solve some problems. That was the case with a project we did for Gil Broza. He’s the author of The Human side of Agile, and as is probably obvious, it’s a nonfiction title. In this book, he has a lot of sidebars, and a lot of stories that he uses to illustrate the points that he’s trying to make. It’s really beautifully written book. One of the things that was kind of a “problem” that we had to solve was that he didn’t really want us to use “sidebar” and “end sidebar” as a way of verbally acknowledging a change in the text. That is one way that we would often handle a sidebar, so that the listener doesn’t get confused about what’s going on and what that flow of text is.
In this case, many of the sidebars – most if not all of the sidebars – were stories, and so we used the approach of having a different voice handle the sidebars and some of the other stories that were in the context of the flow of text that were kind of treated almost as if sidebars but not not created that way in the print version. So it was a way of of differentiating segments of text to help the listener follow what was going on, and also to make it a little more personal in some ways. It really felt more like different people were telling their stories instead of Gil telling everybody else’s stories. So that was a nice way to use more than one narrator.
Another project that we worked on with Chris Santilli was The Naked Truth About Hedonism II. This is a really fun – also nonfiction – book. It’s humorous. It’s a travel book, and it’s about Hedonism II the resort. And the, the way that the story is written is there’s almost a kind of party vibe about it. This feeling of a whole bunch of people getting together and sharing their stories. And in this case, again, there were many quotes within the flow of the text. And so we had four narrators work on this project, and created that flow between the different narrators, almost as if they were at a party sharing their stories about this amazing place. So that was a fun way to use it.
We had another this is a much more unique approach that we did with Tamara Shiloh’s children’s book in the series. What If There were No Black People in the World? And this was book one. It was Jaxon’s Magical Adventure with Black Inventors and Scientists. And in this story, these characters from the past literally pop into his life, like, you know, they just suddenly appear. And so to help support that idea, and also to give some more interest in flavor to the way that we were approaching the audio book, we cast the different inventors and scientists with different voices. So that way, you know, we were really hearing it in a very appropriate way to the story, these voices popping into Jaxon’s life.
And then one more example I would like to share and that is, there are full cast kinds of projects. And if you enjoy listening to either like radio drama, or any of these more full cast ensemble productions that are becoming more and more popular, you you may understand a little bit more about what I mean. Full cast production is where you’re casting each character in a story. There can be overlap (double casting) but the idea is you’re casting essentially, one person, per character in the story, and it’s usually written as a screenplay or a or a play script. theatre play, or something or radio drama. Those are the most typical kinds of projects. We did a screenplay by JD West called Cosmic Cowboy the Musical, really fun project. And when he came to us, he had fully produced songs that were that came as a part of this project that we were building from the songs and then the voiceover narrative, and pulling this all together into a single piece. I don’t actually remember how many we back actors we had on that project. I think it was about 17. And some of those were double cast with small roles, but using slightly different variations on their voices. And so this again, is another moment where or another kind of project we’re using multiple voices really works well.
If you’re wondering About your own book and whether your book should have multiple voices or not, or what the challenges are. Those are certainly questions that I love talking with people about. Please feel free to set up a Discovery Call with me. Go to ProAudioVoices.com then you can schedule right there. Have a great day.
In this episode we discuss when it may be appropriate to use multiple narrators:
- When the story suggests the idea of new voices suddenly appearing
- When vocal differentiation may help clarify content or structure
- When the vibe of the content will be enhanced by multiple voices
- Full cast projects like screenplays, theatre scripts or radio drama
- When full chapters are written from differing character perspectives
If you’re not sure about your project, schedule a Discovery Call with Becky to discuss it.