Audiobook Week Discussion, Day 2: Sound Effects and Narrators

7 06 2011

From Devourer of Books, our host for Audiobook week, comes this topic for the day.

Tuesday: Sound Effects in Audiobooks
Love them? Hate them? Take them or leave them? How do you feel about sound effects in audiobooks?
Alternate suggestions: Single narrator vs. multiple narrators vs. full cast, audio dramatizations, etc.

Here is my simple answer: Do what is appropriate for the book.

I think there are a lot of things a Audiobook Producer must decide when putting together an audiobook. My suggestion, when deciding on things like sound effects, and multiple narrators. Will the use of these tools enhance the listening experience.

One of my pet peeves in television is what I call “idiot music.” “Idiot music” is the score playing in the background that let’s you know who is good, who is bad and when something suspenseful happens. I will often joke with a friend while watching a show, whenever ominous music begins to play, I will say, “Oh, I think something bad is about to happen.”

I do not like sound effects for sound effects sake. For example, the sounds of gunshots, of tires screeching and of sirens. I find them to be nothing more than a distraction. I know what a gunshot sounds like, you don’t need to remind me.

As far as mood music, unless it is pertinent to the plot, trust your narrator. A good narrator, appropriately cast, shouldn’t need help in setting the mood.


Now, the issues of multiple narrators. I do not mind when more than one narrator works on a project, each one taking a different POV. I do not like alternating dialogue between narrators. I have never actually heard it sound natural. To me, it sound like two actors reading lines in a studio. There are a lot of problems with using multiple narrators. A big one is when the POV’s intertwine, peripheral characters voices will change. For this reason, I go back to my initial rule, does the using of multiple narrators enhance the audiobook.

Some audiobooks which I have enjoyed multiple narrators:

Orson Scott Card’s Ender Games series, as well as many of his other novels makes excellent use of multiple narrators.


Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW series also has excellent narration, from multiple narrators, including a brilliant performance by Jessica Almasy.


Today’s Audiobook Week Posts:

Scroll up, and you can read today’s discussion post.

I will be posting my review of Paul McEuen’s Spiral, narrated by Rob Shapiro from Random House Audio.

Another interview special. I will post my interviews with both the Author, Madeleine Roux, and the narrator, Piper Goodeve, of the excellent audiobook Allison Hewitt is Trapped: A Zombie Novel. These are two of my favorite interviews.




6 responses

7 06 2011
Christine Amsden

I thought the multiple narrators worked okay in Ender’s Game, after I got used to it. I wasn’t as fond of the switching dialog back and forth, which I’m pretty sure happened in Ender’s Shadow (although it’s been a while so don’t quote me). It sounded choppy rather than natural, and just like you said — like someone reading lines.

I have run into sound effects, though I can’t remember where — like gun shots and dogs barking — drove me crazy. I’m not watching a movie or listening to a radio play, I just want someone to read me the book. A good narrator doesn’t need the sound effects. Heck, they won’t help a bad narrator, either. 🙂

7 06 2011
Jen - Devourer of Books

I think we pretty much have the exact same views on this, “do what is best for the book” is the perfect way to put it.

7 06 2011

I just finished Ender’s Game for my book club. I didn’t even think to pick it up in audio! I’ll have to do that if I decide to continue the series. I haven’t come across any audio books yet that have sound effects, but I would say that doing what is best for the book is the perfect approach.

7 06 2011

I agree, just read me the book in the best way possible. If I am noticing or being distracted by sound effects, I am going to remember that and not the story.

7 06 2011
Kristin T.

Still being a newbie to audio books, I haven’t really come across too many audios with sound effects. But I do agree with everyone else, whatever works to get the book produced in the best possible way.

My full answer can be found here.

8 06 2011

His dark materials had a full cast and it was one of the best audiobooks i’ve ever listened to, on the other hand graphic audio titles come of as cheesy b movies.

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