Audiobook Week Discussion: What Makes a Good Narrator?

Today’s Audiobook Week topic is: What Makes a Good Narrator?
Who are your favorite narrators and why? What do you look for in a narrator? Have a preference between male or female narrators?

As has come up over and over again this week, narrators can make or break an audiobook. Talk about high pressure! I’ve been pretty lucky with the books I’ve listened to so far, and have found some narrators that I will follow to any genre. I’m in awe of audiobook narrators and all the work they put into creating the best audiobook possible.

These are a few things that I look for in a narrator:

I want the narrator to bring the story to life and give me an experience that I couldn’t have with the book. I want to be so hooked on the story that I’m inventing ways to keep listening.

Since I listen to a lot of YA books, I think it’s important to have a narrator that sounds age appropriate to the story. It’s distracting to me when the voice isn’t the right fit for the character.

I like when the narrators use distinct character voices in their reading, and to be consistent with those voices. I can’t imagine how hard this is to do, especially when there are characters of different genders, ages, accents, etc. When this is done well I can get fully immersed in the story and forget about the narration, as it were.

A good narrator will be very familiar with the book and do the appropriate research. Talk to the author about their intent for the story, characters, pronunciation, and other nuances.

Read with the appropriate emotional intensity without going overboard. It’s a fine line, and my favorite narrators are able to ramp up the intensity to match the tone of the story.

Connect with the material and make it believable. Nice to have: If there is singing in the book it’s great if the narrator can sing the lines as well. Commit to the character.

I don’t have a preference as to male or female narrator, as long as they are right for the story it doesn’t matter. Most of the audiobooks I listen to tend to have female narrators though by chance.

Some of my favorite narrators so far are:

Emma Galvin

Cynthia Holloway

Rebecca Soler

Luke Daniels

Heather Lind

Julia Whelan

What is most important to you in a narrator and who are your favorites?

Ornament

13 thoughts on “Audiobook Week Discussion: What Makes a Good Narrator?

  1. I’m totally ashamed to admit that I only started listening to audiobooks a few weeks ago. I’ve finished two so far and stopped listening to a third because I didn’t like the narrator at all. She sounded much too old to fit the character and I just didn’t like the way she read. I did like the story. I guess I’ll just have to read the book.
    I just finished listening to Lock and Key over the weekend and I really enjoyed Rebecca Soler. She was perfect and I can’t wait to listen to more from her.

  2. Someone just recommended me Luke Daniels (Missie from TheUnreadReader). 🙂

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    You said it all perfectly!!

  4. Age-appropriate narrators are SO important in YA audio!

  5. Kristin T. says:

    I don’t read/listen to a lot of YA books, so I am not familiar with the narrators you listed, but I agree that the narrator can make or break the listening experience of a book.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today!
    Kristin @ Always With a Book

  6. Elizabeth says:

    One thing I really love in a narrator is if they are able to pull off the right accent/dialect/tone I expect from a character. That is something I’m not very good about doing in my head (especially if a book isn’t actually written in dialect) so it actually improves a story for me when the narrator has a tinge of a NY accent or can pull off the sarcastic teen tone really well!

  7. VeganYANerds says:

    I totally understand the importance of a narrator, this post reminded me of how in primary school, some teachers were really good at reading aloud and others were boring!

  8. I love my YA audiobooks too and totally agree that age aprropriateness is essential. And I’m always pleasantly delighted by the “extras” – like singing when necessary.

  9. Kristilyn says:

    I agree that if it’s a book told by a young kid, I want the narrator to sound somewhat like a young kid. It’s just weird listening to a story told by a 16 year old girl, when the narrator is clearly NOT young.

  10. I am with you on the age criteria for the YA books, so many sound too old to fill the role. Thank you for sharing!

  11. […] Week generated a few worthy discussions: A Book and a Latte & my fave Lucy @ The Reading Date shared Narration preferences. I agree Cynthia Holloway is great. She does the Morganville Vampire […]

  12. fishgirl182 says:

    i am not a huge fan of different voices for characters. i mean, slight changes and inflections are ok, but i hate when a male narrator tries to do a “girl” voice and vice versa. pacing is also key, just the way the read it and draw me in. i haven’t heard of these narrators but i’ll have to check them out.

  13. jmchshannon says:

    You have definitely hit the nail on the head, especially with age-appropriate narrators for YA. I just listened to my first audio narrated by Julia Whelan. I loved her performance and definitely want to listen to more of her work!

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