Whew! The last few weeks have been a whirlwind!
I got a cold, then the flu, and somehow managed to throw my back out in the midst of it all. (“Throw my back out” is one of those phrases that makes you feel really old, by the way.)
Then this past weekend, I was speaking at the annual conference of my organization, where I got to meet hundreds of other Christians (gay, straight, bi, and trans) and hear so many wonderful stories.
I am exhausted, but happy.
…And I get to read it myself!
You guys. I’m so excited. I love listening to audiobooks, and from the earliest moments of writing TORN, it was always my dream to someday get to do an audio version of it. I used to read it out loud to myself while I was writing it, both to ensure it flowed and to see what it would sound like if I ever got to do an audiobook.
I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it’s happening!
But with that exciting piece of news comes a sobering realization: That means I have to do… the voices.
Dun dun DUNNNNNNN!
As I said, I love listening to audiobooks. I listen to them on the drive to and from work. So I know that one of the most important features of a good audiobook is a compelling narrator who is able to get into the story and portray the different characters with their voice.
It’s not just a matter of immersing you in the story; it’s also a practical consideration. In print, quotation marks and paragraphs help you distinguish one character from another in a dialogue:
“You mean like this?”
“I think so.”
When you can’t see the page, it’s the narrator’s job to convey that information through audio cues.
Of course, TORN isn’t fiction. But because it’s filled with personal stories and quotes from other books, there are a lot of different “voices” represented. Today, I started going through a copy of the book, marking each new character or voice with a sticky note. About halfway through the book, with the pad almost gone, I started panicking.
How am I supposed to communicate all these characters?
“What are you worried about, Justin?” my close friends will probably say. “You do voices all the time!”
It’s true. Spend much time with me in person and you’re likely to hear me break into some silly character as a gag. I do over-the-top accents and cartoon character impersonations all the time. It’s fun and it makes people smile.
But the voices I do are humorous and exaggerated. They’re absurd caricatures—the California surfer who sounds suspiciously like Crush from Finding Nemo; the stereotypical Southern hick; the rich brat who talks like Thurston Howell III. These aren’t real people. They’re outlandish characters only inspired by reality, kind of like Hollywood movies are “inspired by” true stories.
The people in my book are real, though, and I’m not sure how to do real people’s voices. I don’t want to give Dan Savage an exaggerated foreign accent or turn Philip Yancey into a Ninja Turtle. At least, I don’t think I do.
I’m kind of freaking out a bit here.
So if you should happen to talk to me sometime soon and I say hello to you in four or five different voices to test the sound of each, well, you’ll just know that I’m practicing to make my audiobook the best it can be.
Either that, or I’ve completely lost it. It’s a 50/50 toss-up, really.