“I’m not an actor…I’m a MOVIE STAR!” Thoughts on narrating for others…

Well, “A Little Too Broken” has passed review at Author’s Republic, and now it’s in the corporate inbox at Audible, iTunes, etc… That’s a load off – it means that the Audacity ACX-check did exactly what it said it would! It should be smooth sailing approval-wise now. It’s only the great and terrible oceans of waiting that remain to stress me out now.

And yes, I am going to create a video on how to narrate and produce your own audiobook with Audacity, end to end, spending no more than $500 (including a computer). It’s the same reason I put up my CreateSpace template on my Self Pub Help page – there are people out there telling poor bastards that “I will format your CreateSpace book for $600.” Jesus Howard Christ, once you have a template, it takes between fifteen minutes and an hour to copy/paste chapter content into said template (depending on how many chapters you’re talking about). And nobody’s making money on their fucking CreateSpace versions! They exist solely as promotional tools! Thus It Hath Become My Mission, to save the poor dumb bunnies out there from those who would be the Man Behind the Curtain, who’s basically Homer Simpson, napping and eating donuts for $600 an hour.

All that said… I’ve been approached to do narration for someone else’s book, and I’m giving it some thought. It would be a very different experience from narrating my own, for a number of reasons, and I’m thinking out loud here about the pluses and minuses.

Before we begin, of course I’m prescreening out anything I couldn’t convincingly and enthusiastically narrate. As I said before, I can’t possibly say anything like “I’m going to sex you up and down, Tyler Skylerton, till the stars fall from the sky and you know that you are mine!”

[Hilarious side note. A fan read that post and commented on Facebook that she just had to say the words “Tyler Skylerton” out loud. Her two small children heard it and immediately began running around the house screaming, “Tyler Skylerton! Tyler Skylerton!” Made my day.]

First off, when I narrate my own books, I am the Lord thy GOD of my characters. ‘Twas I who Commanded Them to Go Forth and Be Fruitful and Move Lots Of Full Price Units. I know them better than anyone because I made them. All of my main characters have a little slice of me in them. So when I speak for them, I have the confidence that this is who they are. There’s no debate with anyone but myself on it.

Second off, narrating other people’s books would be a collaborative process, in which I would not be in charge. I’d be working for someone else. That author has his or her own vision of these characters, how they act, how they sound. So the question would be, how many iterations would I have to go through before I delivered voices for the characters that the author would be happy with? I know that the ordinary narrator $$ formula is “per finished hour,” but what if I’m going around and around with someone on this? As any contractor knows, a “difficult client” can be a money pit, as you do more and more work, but for no more than the previously agreed amount.

It’s different from book editing – yes, as an editor, you have a client, but you’re giving them feedback, and they can choose to take it, or not. You’re in control of the content creation process, that is, the content that is your feedback. They’re then free to do with it what they want.

I’m a conflict avoider, which is probably why I don’t and won’t collaborate. I’m just not emotionally equipped for entanglement in situations full of feelings running high. I just say Fuck It and walk away. It’s why I’m terrible at joining groups, because as soon as those group dynamics kick in and the struggle/arguing begins, I’m out.

So the first question in my mind is, do I have the temperament to narrate for others? And the other question is, do I have the talent?

It all makes me think of Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year. He’s a famous film actor who’s suddenly forced to perform live on TV, after a lifetime on sets with plenty of takes he can flub. Terrified, he announces, “I’m not an actor, I’m a MOVIE STAR!”

An actor subsume himself into someone else’s words, someone else’s creations. He effaces himself to make room for that person someone else has made. Yeah, he puts his own experience into that character, but he didn’t make him. My voice is of course perfectly comfortable reading my own words out loud, because I spoke them all in my head before I wrote them down.

I don’t know as a writer that I could just read someone else’s book like a script. I don’t know that I could help myself from interfering, from telling the author, “This is a weird transition for this character, why all of a sudden is he this and that?”

For instance, I’m watching The White Queen now, and the future Richard III has just suddenly and without any prior setup turned from milquetoast youngest brother into a rage-spiraling warmonger obsessed with military glory and honor. With not one sign previously in the show that this was in his character. My God, if I was the actor I’d be spinning, putting my foot down and ordering them to put in at least one scene in a previous episode that at least hints that he has a Dark Side. But then, that’s because I’m not an actor, I’m a novelist, and these things stick out like sore thumbs to me…

So, I’m…pondering. I have this novel to read before I even open negotiations on the process, and of course my whole life lately has just been about getting my own audiobook finally, finally done, and then collapsing from exhaustion. On the bright side, it’ll never again be as hard as it was this first time.

I would leap at the chance to narrate nonfiction, with no question. That’s all about vocal tone and style and isn’t, you know, subjective like fiction. Nonfiction doesn’t inspire the same sort of emotionally protective feelings in its authors that fiction does.

But whether I can do someone else’s novel, I just don’t know yet. It’ll depend on the book, the author’s requirements and temperament, the amount of money we could agree on, etc. etc.

And so on I ponder…I’ll let you know how it goes…

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