When I began the podcast, it was my intention to simply and faithfully transfer every written word into audio without making any changes. The work was excellent as written, I certainly didn’t have any of the skills to improve on it (nor the chutzpah to think I should), and I felt that to alter any author’s words without their permission was sacrilege. I hold my nose at abridged versions of audio books.
As soon as I integrated other people’s voices into the podcast I realized this was more than a bit naive I was immediately hit with lines that were delivered in a manner very different from how I had read them, and yet I could not say that they were wrong. In fact I was often pleasantly surprised to find an interpretation of a line or character that played much better than I had done it. It dawned on me that simply by reading this in my voice, using my inflection and my emphasis, I was very likely subtly altering what the author had intended when he was writing it. Much as no plan survives contact with the enemy, no artistic intent survives contact with the audience.
(This also allowed me to not beat myself up too much when I let technical slips pass through that didn’t alter the meaning, as mentioned a few notes previously)
I did, however, still try to keep as literal of a reading as I could. After the cast had reached a certain size I got a note from a listener pointing out that with so many unique voices, I no longer needed to interject “said Harry/Dumbledore/whoever” constantly. It’s a requirement for the written word, and any skilled reader barely even registers them as s/he reads, but they were distracting in audio and entirely unnecessary. I felt kinda foolish for not having come to this conclusion on my own, I guess the transition to other people was so gradual I didn’t notice I was still doing it. I started dropping them soon after.
Now a new problem crops up – often the speaker-attribution isn’t simply the word “said”. Sometimes it’s more descriptive. Do I still drop it when the word is “shouted”? Obviously physical actions should be kept in – things like narrowing of eyes. But what about when the voice is described as “carrying an edge”? Even if we were professional actors (and we aren’t), the sound of a tight, angry voice is not the same as hearing the words “carrying an edge.” What to do when the voice-description doesn’t match the line as delivered (say, the voice is described as wavering and wild, but the line is delivered without enough waver to be noticeable? Like I said, we’re not professionals here, just amateurs doing our best). Should I leave in the description and cause dissonance in the audience, or do I drop it and lose some of the tone and some of the author’s intent?
The problem with learning as you go, rather than being taught by someone, is you don’t have answers for this sort of thing. I try to strike a balance, hope the author isn’t maltreated and the audience isn’t irritated, ask my ancestors for forgiveness, and forge on.
(edit: holy crap, Eliezer reads these notes!)