13184: Keeping All Your Audiobook’s Voices Straight

Hey there, hero!

Had a great time on the VOBB (VO Booth Besties) with Jen, Jen and Aleesha:


…and I had the chance to answer some questions from the attending audience of VO talent.

One question that came up was “How do you keep all the voices you create for the characters in an audiobook straight? How do you avoid using the wrong voice for a character by mistake?”

Great questions, and one that has a number of different possible answers. Let’s explore exactly how to do that – especially as an actor (or writer).

How do you keep everyone straight? Is this a challenge for you? Let me know in the comments below.

SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts | YouTube Music | Spotify | Pandora | Amazon Music | iHeartRadio | TuneIn/Alexa | Podcast Index | Podcast Addict | Podchaser | Pocket Casts | Deezer | Listen Notes | Player FM | Overcast | Castro | Castbox | PodFriend | Goodpods

Want to be a better VO talent, actor or author? Here’s how I can help you…


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. About 10 years ago, I narrated a historic novel that was set during the Civil War. I was asked to provide voices for all the characters. The main character was a nurse. I am a female, so that was the easy part! I was to provide the voices for the men from the north, the soldiers of the south, and slaves of all ages! It was quite a wonderful challenge! I recorded samples of each character for references. At the time, I didn’t know of another way to do it. I sure enjoyed the project, even though it ate up several months off my life to record and edit.

  2. Hey David, I recently had a book with a number of important characters and read “into the book” to find out about the characters, thus creating a “voice”. For example, one character was a surfer so he had a “what’s up duuuude” type of voice. I also ask for a Character list and place each different “voice/character” into a separate audio file to refer to when needed. (Didn’t use Positron but might hafta try it!) Thanks David!

  3. If it’s to the point where I need to keep reference clips – I love AIRTABLE. It’s like a spreadsheet on steroids. (Actually NOT a spreadsheet but a super user friendly database – that looks like a spread sheet).
    Theres a small learning curve – but you can have a field for character name. (You can also have fields for any info about the character you want.) But best part is you can have an “attachment” field. So you can attach a short audio clip of the voice you used for quick reference.

    If you really wanna geek out… You can have one BASE (think spreadsheet file) for ALL of your voices in all of your books… then a field for each voice that says what book it is used in. And another field (or two) with character types, vocal qualities, etc… So that when you are creating a voice – say a disgruntled janitor – for a new book, you could look up what you did on past books for similar characters…

    There’s a free version – and is probably more than plenty powerful for most VO actors: https://airtable.com/invite/r/UwUHub72

  4. In an audition I had, there were 3 characters, and the dynamic of the story was such that I only had to make minor adjustments to differentiate them. The intensity of the audition scene did the rest.
    In a 5-book series I had to do, there were many, MANY more characters, and I kept them straight simply by putting samples into their own track, and keeping the track open in my DAW so I could refer back and refresh my memory.

  5. didn’t know about positron. thanks! will look it up. I usually use a google sheet with the basic acting stuff, relationships, goals, etc. and make sample voices for the characters.

  6. So many good suggestions in these comments! I’ve also found that the need to come up with unique voices for *every* character is not as massive a priority as we might at first think. Often, we can communicate who’s speaking to the listener with a small change in inflection, rate-of-speech, pitch, tone, and—most importantly, I think—timing.

    I’d also add that listening to a lot of audiobooks helps as much as voicing, when it comes to learning what works and what doesn’t. I’ll never forget the first audiobook (which shall remain nameless) I listened to where the narrator (who shall remain nameless) went WAY over the top with voices for the characters… and it ruined everything for me. It was a very popular book that everyone was reading and raving about. And now I’ll never not think of it and cringe.

    So, often, less is more!

    Also, David: great shirt!

  7. For me, I like to keep track of characters by creating a spreadsheet during my initial read thru listing each character, age, ethnicity, accent, an actor reference if one is made/requested or comes to mind, and a detailed description especially of those attributes that influence vocal traits, things said about them by other characters or clues in the narrative. Sometimes, I group characters by family, tribe or marriage. Occasionally, I will have a clip list in my session to maintain consistency particularly for novels with a big cast. Especially helpful in large family sagas with coming of age elements for multiple characters over time. It’s the same text analysis work learned during CMU theater training over 30 years ago and it’s always stuck with me. The clues are in the text.