Narration can be a lonely game
Starting a new narration project can be tough. There's a sense of adventure as you enter the studio of course, but also a tinge of fear. What if I can't nail a character voice? What if I can't find the flow and make the prose sing? What if I misinterpret the author's vision and voice?
Just some of the questions that nag at you as you start recording.
But there's another factor in play; the knowledge that no matter how accurate your read and performance, and no matter how effective your studio kit and environment is, you're committing yourself to hours in the booth, locked away, alone, listening out for errant mouth clicks or stomach rumbles, or any extraneous noise that could impact your recording.
As every narrator knows, a new project is a marathon commitment. It will live with you whether you're in the booth or not, day and night. You measure your day-to-day activities to ensure that none of them impact on your voice or energy levels. You go to the match, but you refuse to chant for the team. That run can wait until I've done my day's work in the booth thank you very much. Reserving energy for the performance comes first. Narrators know this, and so do sympathetic partners, but the fact remains, only you truly live with the pressure of a project and the professional demands to ensure nothing impacts on the quality of your production.
That's why it was so delightful to spend an evening with one of the best narrators in the UK this weekend. Greg Patmore has established himself as one of the best in the business, working across multiple genres and for clients worldwide. We met in Harrogate where Greg was a guest for Harrogate Noir held in the town's stunning library. (Our publishing house Hobeck Books were co-sponsors of the event.) Greg spoke warmly and honestly about the challenges of narration, of dealing with author egos or mastering accents and creating character voices. He also performed extracts of novels from the other guests at the event - no easy challenge in front of a live audience on a microphone prone to plosive pops.
Greg joined my partner Rebecca and I for post-event drinks and a Japanese meal, and it gave me a chance to share narration war stories and also technical tips. I can't tell you how good it feels to know that it's not just me who wrestles with the challenges of the narration business and craft. I also picked up some very useful ideas for improving my pre and post studio workflow. As any narrator will tell you, the quicker you can make the process, the more projects you can take on.
Above all though, I took away a simple but important message. What we do as narrators is a true skill, and not one that anyone can master or indeed begin attempting. As Greg told the audience, you try looking yourself in a wardrobe for eight hours and read a book out loud and see if you like it. Not that many of us can sustain our voices and performance levels for a full working day, but his point was a good one. Audiobook narrators are a special breed - the marathon runners of the audio world. It's a long time between entering that studio with a fresh project and sending off that final polished audiobook to the client. It's nice to know I'm not alone in feeling that apprehension after all.