A Love Letter to the Narrator

 

I’m going to be perfectly honest here – I’ve carried on affairs with a lot of you. In fact, and I blush to admit this, I’ve been known to get involved with two of you at once. There’s nothing like a little office romance while still being able to come home to a steady player. Oh, I don’t mean I’m easy. I have pretty high standards when it comes to the narrators I’m willing to take to bed with me (or the garden, or the rowing machine, or the kitchen, or even just a comfy recliner.) If you’ve caught sight of me compulsively searching your back-list at Audible in hopes of re-creating the magic we had, gushing about you to my friends, pestering your employer to find out when you might be back at work, or lurking in your vicinity on Twitter, well, I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable. I’m perfectly respectful in my admiration (after all, stalking is such an ugly word.)

You might be working in a studio – yours or a publisher’s – even as I write this. (If so, that totally wasn’t me peering in the garage/basement/second floor window.) Honestly, I don’t care if you’re mentally rejoicing over finally being able to give voice to the obscure piece of evocative literature that speaks to your heart and mind or if you’re wondering what kind of idiot actually listens to the trash you’re forced to record in order to pay for your kids’ orthodontia (if it’s the latter, you hide it well. OK, maybe one of you yawned through a book I listened to once but that’s the exception, not the rule.) Sure, there are some narrators whose performances lend themselves to a long term relationship and other narrators I hook up with for just a one night stand but I can honestly say I have never heard a narration where I thought They just don’t care.

I’m not ignoring the author in all this but when a narrator gets it right I tend to forget about the “book” part and live in the “audio” part because it stops being words and becomes a real person pulling me into their world. Like translating a poem from a foreign language, there’s a nuance that has to be gotten just right to convey the author’s intent and when it works, as it so often does, not only have I layered my visual imagination over the text to create vibrant characters but you’ve added voice(s) and an emotional impact that makes for an almost three-dimensional experience with a book. I may know nothing about you but I know everything about the characters in the books I’ve listened to because you’ve told me, sometimes in a shout and sometimes in the most subtle of ways.

I know I haven’t always been the listener you wanted me to be. Sometimes I seem to only talk about your faults and why we can never be together again (it’s me, not you!) I’m selfish and demanding (book two isn’t coming out in audio until when?!) and often think you do far too many other inessential things rather than narrating but I want you to know that each and every one of you has brought something unique to the stories you tell me. You’ve reminded me what it feels like to be falling in love for the first time. I’ve felt the adrenaline rush of running for my life or escaping certain death and never even left my living room. I’ve sent my neurons hurtling through cyberspace, seen ghosts, and traveled the stars.

You’ve allowed me to close my eyes and lean my head back and escape reality while sitting in a hospital waiting room. You’ve made my household chores fly by and livened up my work hours. There was that one time with those sexy vampires that…er, never mind. Ahem. You’re responsible for that entire box of Kleenex I went through while I paced around the house with my heart breaking over that oh so young protagonist who was making all the wrong decisions. I blame you for that trip to the psychiatrist when my family observed me bursting into laughter with no visible provocation (I’ve since switched to headphones rather than earbuds) and I certainly credit you with the fact that my youngest brother has listened to more books in the past three years than he’s read in his entire (non-academic) life. The audiobook experience is all just that much more real because there’s a real voice telling me this story.

I sincerely thank you for all those many hours of entertainment. Oh, and I’m very sorry about that rosebush I trampled while running away from your barking dog.

XOXO

Oddiophile

 

Comments

  1. This totally made my day Kelli. Not only are the sentiments precious to me, your writing is absolutely hilarious. THANK YOU!

    • Thank you for stopping by Karen and I’m so glad I could offer a small return on the enjoyment I’ve received from audiobooks like Julie James’ Just the Sexiest Man Alive.

  2. I just made my husband listen as I read this post to him – before coffee. “This is it!” I said gleefully. “This will make you finally understand why I love audiobooks so much!” I still don’t think he gets it, but this post spoke to my heart. It recalled all the times I sat in my car in my driveway in the dark because that was the only CD player I had and I just couldn’t tear myself away…

    • Before coffee?! You like living dangerously. I’m so glad my love for audiobooks was able to resonate with your experience with them and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know.

  3. Yes to all of this! Narrators are also responsible for me coming into work with red eyes because I cried listening to a book on the way in.

    • Oh, I know that feeling well and it’s the hardest part of listening to explain! “Why did you cry?” “Because he died *sniff*” “It’s a book!” “But the voice in my ears is real!”

  4. So, so brilliant. I’ll help you pay for that rosebush. ;-)

  5. Would love to have the talent to write a love letter back in reply.
    Please know that you are THE PERSON that I find myself reading to even if you will never hear me read :)
    Warmest thanks!

    • Thank you so much, Anne. That comment will bring a smile to my face when I finally queue up the Jacqueline Carey that has been languishing in my “to listen to” stack and start it up.

  6. This is simply wonderful Kelli – thank you! It makes such a huge difference to know that what I do moves people. A great piece, made me smile and laugh! Now back into that studio of mine to try and make YOU do that :)

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Vanessa. I’m always in awe of the ability you narrators have to do just that, make me smile and laugh (and cry, and scowl, and talk back to the audiobook, and…)

  7. This is such a beautiful (and cleverly written, I might add) post that we narrators very much appreciate hearing — and over and over again is nice (so I’m bookmarking it).
    And we do “hear” you listening, you know. :)
    Thanks, Kelli!

  8. What a wonderful letter & an excellent way to kick off audiobook month!

  9. Robert Fass :

    I was wondering about that bit of cloth between Bowser’s teeth. Thank you for such a lovely missive and I second every comment that came before.

  10. Such tender and loving words! As narrators we are often sheltered from contact with the outside world, cloistered away in our own worlds with knights and maidens, lovers and demons. We speak from our hearts and always give of ourselves fully to create the symbiotic relationship between author, narrator and listener. We can only hope that somewhere someone is listening and sharing in the experience with us thereby completing that circle. Your Love Letter to the Narrator is a fulfillment of the dream we all strive for. Thank you so much Kelli for your beautiful letter.

    • I’m honored to have even one narrator read my expression of appreciation, Coleen, and I love that you took the time to give me insight into your creative process on the other side of the earphones. Thank you.

  11. kathe Mazur :

    If I had to sit and fantasize the absolute most perfect way that listeners could feel, this would be it. I couldn’t dream this letter up. Wow.
    The thing we narrators have the privilege of doing is such an intimate thing. Sometimes we do it great, and sometimes we miss the mark, but it is always such a personal intimate act of taking this thing that each writer has slaved over, and passing it through us to just one person. I’m just so grateful you’re out there.

    And I can always replace the rhododendron.

    • You’ve defined it perfectly, Käthe. For all that it’s a product meant for mass public consumption it can still be such an intimate experience for the listener. That’s why the love letter format seemed particularly apropos. I’m so glad you took a moment to stop by and comment.

  12. GREAT JOB!!! You are building industry cred and it is warranted, as you write very good reviews. –JEFF @ audiobookjukebox.com

    • Thank you, Jeff. I owe a debt of gratitude to the Audiobookjukebox site for allowing me to reach an even wider audience with my audiobook evangelism.

      • Kelli, we LOVE IT when audiobook lovers who happen also to be great reviewers get industry credibility! We try our best to get good audiobook blogger/reviewers recognized in an industry we’ve been involved with for roughly 10 years.

        In our view, the narrators are the stars of the audiobook listening experience. We’ve met quite a few back 5-6 years ago, long before the Jukebox, when Susan was a contributing editor for the MAJOR publication in the industry. At that time, I had no clue who any of them were as I was a management consultant in an entirely different field. I just saw quickly that they were incredibly talented; and I’d done single-voice radio DJ host, production, and engineering work on our regional 100,000 watt NPR affiliate for 10 years, as had Susan … and it was not either of our day jobs. The voice talent of the audiobook narrators blew us away. That’s what brought me on board and ultimately led to my involvement a year ago with the Jukebox.

        Now, through FB and Twitter, we know MANY folks in the industry. That helps us expose the talents of skilled reviewers to a pretty large industry-specific audience. You’ve reached the wider audience now. As I said before … GREAT JOB!!!

        We are all trying to grow this industry, and it is changing quickly. I’m so happy the narrators understand and appreciate our role as bloggers. Many of the folks who have commented to you in this string are major voice talents. You gave them the feedback they always desire; from an end user perspective. Feel very good about your love letter.
        –JEFF (and Susan … we are Audiobook Jukebox)

  13. Wonderful article! Love the twinkle in the eye humor and the honest passion you express. I’m with you. Oh, I’m with you.

  14. Wow, how lovely. Amazing that I felt so loved, even when being told you were spending time with someone else.

    It’s amazing how fully you capture the experience we have while in the studio, the simple pleasure of being able to read to one individual while simultaneously reaching many more. Thanks for the reminder of how blessed we are to be part of this business. Thanks so much for listening.

    Best,

    Scott Brick

    • I appreciate your taking a moment to comment, Scott. We listeners are the ones who are truly blessed to have such a large group of industry professionals who are passionate about what they do. It shows in the end result. Besides, I have plenty of audiobook love to go around. *grin*

  15. Denice Stradling :

    Wow! This made me laugh out loud with joy and delight and say ‘Yes! THIS is why I do this!’
    Thank you, thank you!! xxoo

  16. What a wonderful letter and yeah I laughed out loud, maybe even snorted-thank you, though I thought I was busted by HR when you mentioned office romance.

  17. Yes. This! :)

    • Thanks, Kaetrin. I’d never presume to speak for the entire listener community but knowing my experience parallels someone else’s is always a nice feeling.

  18. Thanks a lot! Now my wife’s gonna push me into doing more Business titles!!!

  19. This letter is the exact feeling I have for audio books. When people ask me what my favorite characters are in books I tend to mention that actually it is the readers that are my favorites. I feel at times that I actually have a crush on the narrator. I will freely admit that my crush on Irving “Izzy” Zanella is all due in part to the narrators reading the Troubleshooters Series. LOVE LOVE LOVE !!!

    Thank you audiobook narrators for giving me (and all the other audio fans) this great gift!

    • I’m with you, Elizabeth. Brockmann has several characters who came to such vibrant life with the narration that I felt like I knew them or wanted to know them even better. ;)

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