Art of Storytelling: Characters

June 06, 2023 08:30 AM By Paul Boucher

Storytelling is crucial in voice acting across various mediums, including audiobooks, animation, and video games.

It brings characters and narratives to life, captivates audiences, and creates immersive experiences. Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as picking up the script and going for it. What you're hearing turned around in a short delivery window comes from years of experience.

Character Development: Strong storytelling skills create a thread for listeners to follow. We leverage those skills to convey the characters' emotional journey and growth, making them more relatable and memorable.

Narrative Engagement: Voice actors are responsible for engaging the audience and holding their attention throughout the performance. You can call them "tricks" or "techniques," but experienced voice actors are "apprentices" constantly training to be "masters" of pacing, tone, and inflection to create suspense, build tension, and elicit emotional responses. Look for and to create inspiration, do we. 

World-Building: In animation and video games, voice acting helps construct immersive worlds. In documentaries, the narration can re-create worlds gone by. In eLearning, we help learners visualize the concepts on the page. By using unique and distinct voices for different characters, voice actors contribute to the richness and believability of the fictional or non-fictional universe. 

Here are a few things that a professional voice actor explores to create unique and memorable character voices. Keep in mind that an experienced pro voice actor can compress this process to a "quick & dirty" few minutes to create character "sketches" to anchor their performance, but depending on the project, it can take much longer.

Research and Observe: Study the character's background, personality, and traits. Consider their age, gender, culture, and specific vocal attributes mentioned in the script. Observe real-life or media people with similar qualities and use their voices as inspiration. Gotta love YouTube and other resources for this.

Experiment with Vocal Range: We explore and push the range of our voices and experiment with different pitches, tones, and accents. We play with variations to find a voice that suits the character while also being distinctive and memorable.

Physicality and Body Language: Connecting a character's voice with our physicality and body language is another important attribute. We consider and incorporate how their posture, gestures, and facial expressions would affect their voice. Combining these elements can add authenticity and help shape the character's voice.

Practice and Refine: We'll practice the character voice extensively to become comfortable and consistent. We'll record passes and listen back to adjust and refine the voice as needed. Experimentation is a relative of the mother of invention. It can yield different deliveries and nuances to make the character's voice unique.

When you're looking for a voice actor, remember they have to know that practice, experimentation, the ability to adapt to different characters and storytelling styles, and specific direction styles is when X marks the casting sheet. A pro continuously refines their skills to enhance their storytelling abilities.