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Three Ways to Start Creating Better Character Voices

When you hear a character's voice in a cartoon, an audiobook, or even a commercial, you know right away whether you believe that character could actually exist or not based on the performance. But what specifically do you look for from a directing perspective or from an acting perspective to know that the next character you try bringing to life doesn't end up the next viral dumpster fire? Here are some things to keep in mind.

The Audience

The question "if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" is meant to be rhetorical, but the answer ends up being yes because sound is measured in waves, not in ears. Messages on the other hand require a recipient to have a purpose. This blog post is a message. It does nobody any good if it doesn't reach the intended audience. So what can you do to ensure your message is accepted in a positive way for a character you plan to voice? Keep the audience in mind so you can find the meaning in the message. Saying "I love you" for example can have a myriad of interpretations based on who you're talking to and their relationship to you. Hopefully your spouse, your parents, your friends, your coworkers, and somebody you just met don't interpret that phrase the same way. How do you accomplish that? Through a combination of vocal cues, body language (if they can see you), and subtextual clues provided by your history with the person. If you want to be believable in a role, you need to accurately convey to someone whether or not they belong in your audience.

The Role

Have you ever been confronted by the idea that nobody will ever know the real you? The first time I was exposed to the idea, it really struck home. As somebody who lives a lot in my own head, it's hard for me to feel like other people understand who I am because it's hard for me to open up about things and I often have difficulty finding the words to express myself accurately. So what does this existential crisis have to do with being a better actor? When you realize your relationship to somebody plays a key role in how they react to your message, you start to lean into the dynamics of that relationship to help guide you on what you think the best course of action will be to be properly understood. I'll give an example. If you're trying to get your son or daughter to brush their teeth or eat their vegetables, you're probably going to act more like an authority figure than you would if you were having a night out with your friends (that is unless you like the power dynamic and don't get too much push back). Really all I'm trying to get at is you're going to be cracking less fart jokes and insisting that choking down that broccoli or brushing for two minutes is good for them. By understanding who you are in relation to the audience can give you a clear picture about the tone to use or the way you should be intentionally formulating your delivery.

The Venue

Do you ever find yourself getting caught out by being in one place one minute and the next you're somewhere completely different with no recollection of the journey between the two? We generally associate that sensation as being undesirable due to the possibility of something bad happening either between the two locations or after you arrive at the latter. While it can be a legitimate cause for concern in certain circumstances, one of the primary reasons this happens has to do with the repetitive nature of the visual stimulation while traveling, especially on something like a road or a body of water. Your brain decides it's not worth remembering because there's nothing new being introduced. What places have you been that you can't get out of your head? Is it because you've been there so often the details have been drilled into your head or was it a genuinely unique experience that you can't help but cherish and hold on to every possible detail you can recall? When we are telling a story, we need to remember to be appropriate with the connection between how we tell it and where it's being told. If you yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater for no reason, there's a good chance you won't be watching another movie in that theater for at least a few decades if ever. By being conscious of our decisions to create a message that's sensitive to the location we happen to be in or pretend to be in, it adds that extra layer of authenticity to help the audience willingly suspend their disbelief if necessary.If you want to learn more about how I can make you a better storyteller or bring one of your stories to life for you, schedule a call today. Thanks for reading, and until next time I'll be seeing you between the lines.