Revising Leah

October 21, 2008

Leah’s Voice

My previous post about Podiobooks attracted a lot of hits from a lot of different sources, including folks from the Podiobooks website itself. In my post, I described three reasons why I would have a hard time creating my own audiobook version of my novel, even though I think that creating such a version might be fun. One reason I mentioned is that I am not an actor. In the comments, Evo Terra mentioned that one doesn’t have to be an actor in order to record an audiobook. Of course, that is true, but what I meant to say (and obviously I wasn’t clear) is that I don’t know if the voices that I would create for the narrator and the characters while I read the story out loud would be the “right” voices to present the story.

Let’s take the narrator of the story, for example. The narrator is simply a neutral (though sometimes sympathetic), third person narrator. Could my real voice serve as the narrator of the story? Sure, but since I am male, that would mean that the narrator’s voice would be a male’s voice, and that could have either positive or negative implications for how the listener perceives the story. If a woman read the story and gave the narrator a female’s voice, then that would transform the story into something different than if I read it. Even though both I and the woman would be reading the exact same text, the assignment of a gender to the narrative voice would necessarily affect how the reader receives the story. Until now, this is something that I haven’t really thought about with respect to Leah because I have only imagined the story existing in print form, but if the novel were to be “performed” then this issue of gender becomes something that is very important to think about. Should my narrator’s voice be male or female? I’m not sure.

Leah Nells herself would present another interesting challenge if I were to perform the novel. When I read the story out loud as a revising tactic, I find that I tend to alter the tone of my voice just a little bit when I read the characters’ dialogue. Sometimes I do this automatically, without even thinking about it. That’s only natural, I guess. When I read the story silently, of course, I imagine different voices for each of the characters, and when I read it out loud, I’m trying to recreate the voices I hear in my imagination. But I’m not an impressionist or an actor, so obviously I can never recreate the sound that I hear in my imagination with my speaking voice. But with respect to Leah Nells, I have discovered, when I reach one of the very few lines of dialogue assigned to Leah in the story, that I’m not sure what to do with her voice. It’s funny because when I am reading a passage out loud, I will actually stop and ponder Leah’s dialogue for a moment and try to think of the best way to speak it — and usually whatever decision I make with my voice doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

It’s not a matter of not understanding her personality or her character. If you presented me with a scenario in which to place Leah, I could tell you exactly what she would be thinking and doing in that scenario. I know her as well as she knows herself, but I’m not sure what her voice sounds like. In the text, she’s usually described as whispering or mumbling when she speaks. She is soft-spoken and not used to speaking loudly; she never shouts or yells in the book (Nells = No + Yells??).

I don’t think that I’m capable of reproducing her voice with my voice. That’s why I could certainly read the first chapter — Leah doesn’t speak at all until chapter three — but trying to record myself reading the entire novel would be very dangerous indeed.

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