The Pleasures of Being Read To


Think back to when early humans first began to absorb long, complex stories told orally around the campfire. Now, instead of the campfire, think car; or commuter train; or plane—or wherever you can wear a headset and get the same pleasure as those primitive cavemen did by having a story told to you.

Audiobooks — those first humans were onto something.

I ended an earlier post by mentioning how I accidentally coughed into the microphone as I was recording the first page of my audiobook. It was the beginning of many mishaps that threatened to sabotage the entire production. When I started this journey, I had the notion that reading a book out-loud into a microphone couldn’t be very difficult — after all, I’d been reading bedtime stories to my kids for years and they never complained. Not once. Not even when I coughed. Or screwed up pronunciations. Or started to yawn in the middle of a sentence. My kids never told me I sucked as a reader, so why would anyone else?

But then it dawned on me — maybe I was using the wrong metric. After all, the real reason parents read stories to their kids at night is so they’d fall asleep! In fact, I had always prided myself in how my children drifted off peacefully whenever I read them a bedtime story. Not something to brag about for a would-be audio talent like me.

The cough was the beginning of the “What the heck am I doing here?” chapter of my audiobook reassessment period. I can safely say in hindsight, the more I learned about making an audiobook, the more I knew I had a ton more to learn. It took me two full months of trial-and-error recordings before I began to understand what adjustments I had to make.

Being turned into an audiobook, my novel presented some real-life challenges. Especially to me . . . a novice.

The biggest challenge I faced was how to manage the speech patterns of the characters, all nineteen of them, who had roles in the novel. My wife volunteered to be the voice of the protagonist’s girlfriend (a major role) and one other female who, before she is murdered, had an important backstory to tell. I took the voices of three central male characters: the protagonist, the antagonist and the protagonist’s partner. We figured we could do our combined speaking parts by simply lowering our voices for some of the characters and raising it for others.

So far, so good.

But hold on, I said to myself. Not so far, so good! Of the nineteen characters who have important speaking parts, only five are covered.

By now, I’m exhausted and fresh out of ideas, not to mention patience. I’m about ready to give Tom Hanks a call when my wife, bless her heart, comes to the rescue. Being the computer savant she is, she knows of a software program named Audacity.

Problem solved!

Audacity allowed us the opportunity to record every character’s lines in our own voices, then change the rhythm, intonation and pitch so that we magically became the characters in the novel.

Tom Hanks who???

By the way, The Oath is now available for download as an audiobook on Audible, Apple Books and other retail sites. You can even listen to a sample.

2 thoughts on “The Pleasures of Being Read To

  1. dkoreski

    Well done, Dennis! It was fun (when you two were my neighbors) hearing about your trials and offering what little knowledge I could about voices from my acting training. It looks like you figured it out all by yourselves. I enjoyed your article above, and I am SO GLAD you two put it all together! That must be extremely satisfying. Congrats!!!

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