[POLL] Characters: Voices or Vanilla?

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When listening to a book, do you prefer character voices or vanilla?

Poll ended at October 27th, 2015, 1:36 pm

I prefer character voices
10
36%
I prefer a straight reading with no character voices
7
25%
I enjoy both equally
11
39%
 
Total votes: 28

TriciaG
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Post by TriciaG » October 20th, 2015, 12:32 pm

When listening to a book, do you prefer character voices or vanilla (a straight reading with no character voices)?

Obviously, this is regarding regular projects and not dramatic readings. :)

Feel free to comment!
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Post by TriciaG » October 20th, 2015, 12:34 pm

OK, so I thought there was a way for admins to add a poll, but I cannot find it. If someone else discovers it, feel free to put it in for me. :roll:

-Voices
-Vanilla
-No preference
Fiction, partly about jail atrocities: It Is Never too Late to Mend
E E Cummings' time in French prison: The Enormous Room
21st Century Policing recommendations: LINK

chocoholic
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Post by chocoholic » October 20th, 2015, 1:30 pm

There is a pretty wide variation of what constitutes "character voices." It could mean anything from a very slight change in pitch to a completely different accent that sounds nothing like the reader's usual voice. Lots of readers who would call themselves vanilla still use small pitch inflections for characters of the opposite sex.

I suppose I prefer vanilla as the default. That's how I read books to myself (I don't imagine different voices in my head). Every now and then a "character voice" strikes me as wrong, and that interrupts the flow of the book. But I do like well-done character voices too, and I've gotten a lot of enjoyment from LV books read that way. The trouble is that "well-done" is too subjective to make any sort of blanket statement about. (Except one: fake Southern [US] accents drive me up the wall, since I am Southern myself. :))
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Post by Availle » October 20th, 2015, 5:04 pm

Character voices only when they are well done, I second Laurie Anne here!

I have to say that I've come a long way myself: In my first solos I tried to do a wide variety of character voices, including pitch shifts which are difficult to do (unless you do them with software). I have since moved away from this a little and try to go more towards modifications in tempo to indicate a character. No idea if my readers like it, but at least they don't have to bear too much of it since I mostly do non-fiction anyway. :)
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Post by commonsparrow3 » October 20th, 2015, 5:24 pm

When listening to extensive stretches of conversation in fiction, especially when change of speaker is hard to catch, I appreciate some subtle clue to tell the two speakers apart. But I mean subtle, not theatrical. Anything too "put-on" tends to put me off. Perhaps just one character speaking a bit quicker than the other, or very slightly higher or lower pitched. But other than that, I tend to like just a straight reading -- "vanilla" as you put it in the first post.

This preference for vanilla applies to novels and stories. Dramatic works, of course, are an entirely different matter. There, it's intended that all the dialogue should be in "character" voices, and some theatricality is expected and enjoyed.

Like Availle, I also read mostly non-fiction, where the issue never even arises!
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Post by SonOfTheExiles » October 21st, 2015, 8:44 pm

I think this can only be considered on a case-by-case basis.

That said, I think we may be able to suggest some loose guidelines.

1. As a general rule, the "hammier" the character, the more essential the need for a good character voice with which to ham it up. There's no point me using a "straight read" with the various members of the Rudd family in Steele Rudd's "On Our Selection". (For North American readers, the closest equivalents I can think of are the local yokels in "The Egg and I".)

2. When four or five people are all involved in a conversation, particularly when the writer stops using "X said", "Y said", etc, after each bit of speech, distinct character voices make it so much easier to concentrate on the plot, the give-and-take, etc, if you're hearing the story for the first time.

3. If the intended audience is young children, say, as in the Three Minute Stories Collection, I believe that good character voices are what make the story go for younger listeners. When my children were in primary school, I used to drop them off at school in the morning. And we always made a point of getting there about 20 or 30 minutes early so I could read them stories in the car while we waited for the gates to open. In the early years, the stories were obviously simple and short, but later on we worked through longer ones. The Narnia stories I always read straight, but other, more comical ones, I always made a point of trying to incorporate a good character voice or two. To this day, my take on the character of "The Old Man" (Shorty Bent's octogenarian father in Nino Culotta's "Gone Fishin'"), still cracks them up. "Hamateurs either works or pays! Hup th' lot of yez!".

So, to sum up, use your own best judgement, and let each individual character suggest to you itself whether and what characterisation is best.
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Post by RuthieG » October 22nd, 2015, 2:40 am

I have difficulty with this question. I myself am pathologically incapable of doing a straight "no character voices" reading (except in non-fiction, of course): the characters just come out seemingly of their own accord ;). I enjoy hearing well-done character voices and they do make dialogue clearer, especially if (as SotE says) the author does not distinguish between the speakers. Applying an accent to a character is, I think, another matter. It simply has to be credible, and a badly done accent is painful.

I have no objections to a plain vanilla reading UNLESS it is all read with no expression at all. That I cannot bear.

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Post by SonOfTheExiles » October 22nd, 2015, 3:25 am

I absolutely agree with Ruthie on the matter of dialect characterisations, as opposed to, for want of a better word, personality ones.

You've probably noticed that I've restricted virtually all of mine to Australian ones. The one or two times I had to briefly do a non-Australian one, for instance that of "German Charlie" in "Send Round The Hat", I have to say, I've always been quite embarrassed by that one. I was trying to follow exactly the phoenetical speech Henry Lawson wrote the character's part in, but even so, it was not a thing of beauty. The only other accent I've occasionally had to do, as a very minor part of a much larger story, is that of the Irish. I generally just try to put a bit of a lilt and a rising inflection in my delivery, as suggestive of the accent, and leave it at that.

Maybe one of these days, we should start an "X for a Day" collection, like the Weekly Poetry, where we all progressively try to deliver a standard paragraph in a particular accent. Embarrassment-free, I hasten to add. Led off by a native speaker, perhaps, by way of a "gold standard". (Repeat after me, Ruth: "Struuuuth...")
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Post by RuthieG » October 22nd, 2015, 4:05 am

Maybe one of these days, we should start an "X for a Day" collection, like the Weekly Poetry, where we all progressively try to deliver a standard paragraph in a particular accent.
We did something a little similar in Celebration of Dialects and Accents but that was people using their own native accents, of course. It was an interesting experiment. Your idea sounds fun!

Ruth
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Post by Elizabby » October 22nd, 2015, 5:48 am

I generally prefer character voices - and I suspect that most people who "do voices" here tend to do them well. The one thing I find distracting is when the voices get mixed up, or a character voice is attempted but not sustained - that's just confusing! :shock:

I actually don't like changes of speed in reading. I tend to choose to listen to someone who reads at a speed I can handle - I can't stand it when someone reads too slow (for me) and I find it hard to follow if someone reads too fast for me, as I generally listen to audiobooks while driving. So if someone is reading "just right" but then suddenly varies the pace it throws me off. Small variations I can handle, but probably no more than about 10% change.

I like accents if they are done well. I agree that a badly done accent is painful to listen to - which is why I only do British and Australian English. I figure there are enough people on here with real American accents for me not to need to attempt one! ;)

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Post by SonOfTheExiles » October 22nd, 2015, 12:05 pm

Elizabby, you've definitely hit the nail on the head about sustaining a character voice. I find that, to ensure uniformity, I have to record a given character's voice in one sitting. So I copy the text of the entire book or short story onto a Word doco, then go through and highlight the different characters' speeches in different colours, just like in the old radio show scripts. I then duplicate the resulting doco into as many copies as there are characters, and then cut out everything but a single character's speeches. So I wind up with, say, a Dad Rudd doco, a Joe Rudd doco, a Cranky Jack one, etc. I can then go through and read everything necessary to a given character in the one voice in one recording session.

This works well for me, but, depending on the character in question, I find myself getting the strangest looks from the cat at times!
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Post by BookAngel7 » October 23rd, 2015, 10:08 am

RuthieG wrote:I myself am pathologically incapable of doing a straight "no character voices" reading (except in non-fiction, of course): the characters just come out seemingly of their own accord ;)
Ditto! I used to differentiate the voices when reading to my sister at bedtime, but I never mentioned it because I wasn't sure it was obvious to anyone but me. Then one night, I read a line without a speaker tag as the wrong character, and when I realized the mistake a few lines later, my sister laughed and said, "Yeah, you read that as (X)." I've embraced it ever since. :)

Even though I couldn't really sound like a boy to save my life, I've found that the boys'/young men's voices are usually my favorites. And for some reason, I tend to choose books with more male than female characters, which can be a real challenge on occasion. Try to cast an entire boys' baseball team with one female voice--still not quite sure how I managed that! But I've also found that it's much easier to juggle multiple characters talking at once than to re-introduce a character who's been gone for several chapters.

As far as the accents go, I've had varying experiences. I definitely don't use an accent unless it seems necessary; for example, in a story with all British characters, I'd use my normal voice and not attempt a British accent. But in a story with one British character where the fact is prominently noted, I might try. In my current solo, I felt obligated to use a Swedish accent for certain characters, and for some reason, I kept slipping into Irish. :shock: (Don't ask--I still don't know!) Even after I finally got into the right region, the accent sounds terrible. But I also had a first-person dialect-ridden Christmas story that turned out really well. Go figure!

Oh, and as far as listening--it really depends! With some readers, I love to hear the different voices; with others, I prefer a plain reading. That goes for professional audiobooks, too!

bookAngel7

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Post by ScottLawton » October 23rd, 2015, 12:48 pm

I greatly appreciate any solo that is well read, and think readers should do what's most natural to them.

Still, my favorites are dramatic readings, with character voices next. There are many readers at LV that do a good job here. I'll avoid mentioning names since that's best for the 'Thank a Reader' thread. (I should post there much more than I do....)
Cheers,

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Post by annise » October 23rd, 2015, 1:58 pm

I've been thinking about this - my original opinion was "plain vanilla" but I think I'd have to change a little.
So I prefer listening to books that I would not be able to tell you afterwards if they "did voices" or "did accents" because whatever they did worked for the book :D

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Post by ScottLawton » October 23rd, 2015, 2:09 pm

annise wrote:I've been thinking about this - my original opinion was "plain vanilla" but I think I'd have to change a little.
So I prefer listening to books that I would not be able to tell you afterwards if they "did voices" or "did accents" because whatever they did worked for the book
Excellent point. In thinking back on most of the books I enjoyed, I usually don't remember whether they were 'plain' or with mild character differentiation or 'solo dramatic works' (to coin a phrase).
Cheers,

Scott
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