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C.C. Hogan

Preparing a audiobook script for recording

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The tree-friendly approach to scripts

In the good old days, scripts were printed on paper and the voice over would go through the lines with a pen, marking it up so he or she had a better chance when it came to recording.

In our modern world, paper is seen as a waste of trees and many of us work on tablets, though I imagine plenty still use paper scripts. So, how do I prepare my script?

The lovely world of the e-book reader

One of the nice things about working with ebook reading software, as opposed to some sort of document writer, is that they are designed to be read. The default font is friendly, it is easy to change size and layout, and flipping from one page to the next is quick and intuitive - essential when wading through War and Peace.

More usefully, at least on a tablet, it is silent. One problem I had over the years even with the best voice overs was page turns. The shorthand for this problem was simple. I would thump the talk-back button and mumble "paper." They always knew what I meant, and would rerecord the line without the accompanying rustle. Some of the actors for drama were wonderful. They would hold the page they were reading delicately and lift it away from them in a big, silent gesture as they read over onto the next page. They would then bend down slowly like a ballerina and gently deposit the page on the floor while the next actor did his or her lines. It would be a wonderful dance.

But the tablet on a stand is much better!

Start with Word (other writing software is available)

Marking up the script is simply about using a selection of marks so that you know when to pause, what to emphasise, where to change pace and so on. It is important that the voice marks up their own script in their own way for two reasons. One, they know what they marked and why, and two, marking up serves as a rehearsal - a good voice will speak out loud while marking up.

Although I do this digitally now, I use the same rules and methods that I always used on paper. 

/ - single slash. This is like a comma, but it serves to tell me when to breath as much as when to pause. Sometimes breathing at a comma is uncomfortable, but you have to breathe sometimes - the slash tells me the best place that keeps the sense of the sentence.

// - double slash.  Pretty much like above, but this is for a more substantial pause; perhaps letting something sink in.

Underline. This tells me what to emphasise. I sometimes underline only part of a word, especially when making comparative emphasis.  "The man overreacted."

Double Underline. Okay, so this doesn't show up here. I use double underlines to show that this is really, really important.

Highlighting. I am a bit careful with highlighting. On paper, I would sometimes draw a circle around any very important keywords, especially in ads. Highlighting replaces that, I suppose, but I don't use it much, to be honest; it can make the script a little unreadable. It would be useful if you have a complicated conversation section and you use highlighting to make sure which character is which, but if it is well written, this shouldn't be an issue.

Adding Words. I occasionally add little directions to myself. For instance (sarcastic) just before something that is! This may go very wrong if the writer used lots of brackets already, so you might need to try something different.

Adding paragraph breaks. Writers, me included, sometimes have rather long paragraphs. This is fine on the page, but it can be a bit mind boggling for the performer, so breaking up a long paragraph with extra paragraph breaks is not a bad thing.

>> Chevrons for pace. This is something I don't do much. I knew a few voices that used arrows on their scrips to indicate a change of pace, but most of the top-end voices I worked with didn't. However, if it helps you, go for it!

You can have a lot of fun marking a script up, but I warn you, don't go completely nutty. I remember one actor who spent the previous evening marking his script up with all kinds of marks with a range of felt pens. Come the recording, he couldn't remember what half his marks meant and his script was almost unreadable!

Using the Marked Up Script

How you go about using the script is up to you, but this is what I do.

Having saved a copy of the manuscript with all my markings, I then import it into Calibre, which is a reader and converter for ebooks.

I then convert it into a Mobi so I can read it on my Kindle Fire.

To transfer it to my Kindle, I email it to my Kindle email address. Didn't know it had one? Here is the Amazon Help Page

And that is that.

As long as you have marked up your script accurately and helpfully, you should trip over less often and it will improve your read.

What should I send a voiceover?

I can only speak for myself here, but if you are using me to read your book, send me a Word Docx. It fits into my workflow neatly. No macros or anything clever, just a straightforward, double-spaced manuscript.

Please don't mark anything up!  However, if you have a lot of strange words (especially if it is a fantasy) then please add pronunciation. Just put it in brackets next to the word. The easiest system to use is the one I use on my Dirt website.  It is similar to that used on Dictionary.com and Wikipedia, so is quick and simple to use and, from my point of view, easy to read! (The phonetic alphabet is a great way to really annoy me!)

If there are recurring names or words that you need pronounced in a certain way, make up a short crib-sheet. I will print it out and stick it on the voice booth wall!

You can find the guide here.

 

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