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15 May 2010 @ 04:27 pm
Podcasting, radio and so forth  
I’ve recorded a few stories now, both my own and other people’s (for librivox and everydayfiction.com), and it’s been interesting for me to reflect on which stories best suit my current reading style and skills.

Currently I’m recording solo readings of stories without music, sound effects or anything complicated. As such clear diction, good pace, and expressive reading of narration are all important. I have the technical skill to record and edit stories so they sound pretty good (though I’ll always be keen to play with new toys). The skills I want to work on include:

- Doing accents and learning to portray different characters through my voice. I have a few role models in this skill – Stephen Fry (Montmerency, Gentleman Thief), Stephen Briggs (Terry Pratchett audiobooks – especially Thud! And Nightwatch) and Adrian Dunbar (Artemis Fowl) being chief among them. Roleplaying is a good hobby to have been involved in for this, though I have a long, long way to go in developing the ability to do consistent, distinct character voices.

- Incorporating music and effects into podcasts. This is a pretty low priority for me as many of my favourite audiobooks are without music (save intros and outros), but I absolutely adore the Hitch Hiker’s Guide series which has some fantastic soundscaping

- Writing music using software. It’s fun, and useful for short films and podcasts.

- Doing a full cast reading, where I’m the narrator (and maybe a character) and each character in the story is voiced by a different person. I think this will be relatively easy to dabble in if I twist a few people’s arms at school and choose carefully for the first couple of stories (so it’s a request to read a few lines, not a few pages).

- Writing audio plays. Debbie and I have often talked about the possibilities of writing for radio, and have hugely enjoyed a number of radio shows over the years (H2G2, Bleak Expectations, Cabin Pressure, Absolute Power, The Mighty Boosh, The Flight of the Conchords). I’m thinking that in the next couple of years I’d love to write something in the half-hour neighbourhood and get students to perform it in front of a live audience, with the technical assistance of some of the savant kids at school. I may have to scheme with the drama teacher on that one, but I think it could be a lot of fun. Doing live sound effects to accompany is probably not necessary, but could add an extra dimension.

- Exploring the radio documentary genre, and possibly recording a (possibly fake) radio doco. I’ve really enjoyed some BBC radio documentaries, and the way they spark the imagination. There’s something pleasing to the ear in hearing recordings taken in different environments and the acoustics they produce. A parody doco could be an awful lot of fun, and one of the gifts of audio over short film is the freedom to write incredibly outlandish material without any consideration of how to film it.

As for what’s worked well so far, stories with a strong narrative voice and little to no dialogue suit me best. I’ve recorded a couple of stories that were nothing but dialogue and they worked well too, but the recording I think I’ve done the best job with is a story of my own, The Tunnel, which I recorded for Wily Writers last week. It’s scheduled to come out next month some time. It’s a story that’s tightly focussed on one character, and written in the third person. It has zero dialogue - something that I wasn’t thinking about when I wrote it, but which worked very well when I came to record it. With the whole story being in one ‘voice’, I was free to use the full range of my voice in expressing the narration. I sometimes feel a teensy bit constrained if a story features a character with a low, husky voice, or a particularly emotional character, that I want to keep my narration distinct from that character’s voice. This has the effect of slightly limiting the range that’s available to me for narration.

It’s probably a matter of practice, working to make character voices as distinct as possible from my normal narrating voice so that they are both distinct from each other and do not impinge on my narrating freedom.

It’s nice to have a range of things to work on :-)