Welcome to the Tempered Fables, my name is N.T. Cloever. Come, sit by the fire; Let me tell you a story.Tempered Fables
I love this word. Narrator.
The first image that comes to mind is the Hundred Acre Wood, with John Cleese’s warm voice narrating the introduction.
This could be the room of any small boy, but it just happens to belong to a boy named Christopher Robin. Like most small boys, Christopher Robin has toy animals to play with, and they all live together in a wonderful world of make-believe. But his best friend is a bear called Winnie the Pooh, or Pooh, for short. Now, Pooh had some very unusual adventures, and they all happened right here in the Hundred-Acre Wood.
It’s meant to be a children’s show. For kids. With a narrator like that, anyone can enjoy it! I love looking back at WInnie the Pooh cartoons sometimes. They’re just so wholesome.
But let’s get back to John Cleese’s role, ie. the voice behind the story.
Why is he there? If his voice didn’t exist, could we still the enjoy the show?
His interaction with the our favourite group of ragtag animals was my inspiration for narrating the Tempered Fables. It might not be in every episode, but I loved the way the voice would interact with the characters as their days pass by.
Hence, this article! What’s the role of the narrator in a story?
Welcome the listener
In each episode, I will always welcome my listener. No exceptions. Even if they are regular listeners, I will welcome them. If there is someone new jumping into any of my episodes, I will welcome them.
All my listeners will be my dear friends.
My first role as narrator is the escape artist: to take my listeners away. Give them passage into a different world, escaping reality, and pull them into a story through my voice.
Every syllable, every movement of my voice, every word that I use is part of my master escape plan. Like all plans, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s a story.
Guide the listener
We’re on our way into the world. Now, we need to navigate through it.
Don’t worry, I have the script! I’ll help you out. You only have to sit down, relax, and listen to the sound of my voice.
I am the guide. With nothing but the voice, the narrator informs the listener when it’s a good time, a bad time, when it’s becoming romantic or when it’s funny. It’s a huge responsibility to give a specific tone to a sentence. We’re in charge of building the scene, and the audience is there to live in it for the moment.
There are many ways to do this. Fast pace equals action. Slower pace equals intimacy. Brighter tone means happiness. Darker tone means intensity.
We also have to remember where we are: which chapter, which location, things like that. Also, who’s talking? Is it the baker from down the street, or the evil villain, or the mother talking to her child?
Remember that listeners don’t have access to the text, so it’s up to narrators to tell them just what/who they are listening to.
Entertain the audience
We have the world. We have the master plan. Now, we take them on a journey.
Will the journey be entertaining? That is what the audience is here for, the answer to that question.
The narrators are the answer. Inflections, tones, the sound of the voice: these are cues that regardless of the story, should be entertaining the listener no matter what
They’re not exactly written words, but they tell the other half of the story. The unwritten half. It’s this hidden, unwritten half in a book where we use our own individual imagination to write it out. As people, we have that power.
As narrators, we have to write it for them. So we act: a lighter voice with less bass implies youthfulness, a shaking voice implies fear, and a dark, villainous voice implies…well, villainy.
You can’t just narrate something like:
Innocent, the boy told the policeman that it wasn’t him that did it.
“I didn’t do it!” he said,
And not inject some innocence into that line. You have to. Narrators have to. Listeners want to hear the despair in the boy’s voice. They want to be in the shoes of a boy who has done nothing wrong. Some of them will relate, maybe all of them.
But to be given the chance to relate to a character in this story: that is escape. It’s gold right there.
Put a face to the story
This applies more to offline events, when narrators are doing a live reading or something similar. In a way you can picture it in a podcast or radio show too.
The narrator is in charge of the story. Listeners need to project their reactions and emotions to a face. Narrators bear that responsibility because they were responsible for allowing us to escape in the first place.
If the story goes south, the listener would be fine: they only play the role of observer. Any form of anger or negative emotion can be directed at the story itself, and the narrator for being the face of it. They are the conduits of an audience’s reaction.
It’s the same when the story goes really well. We can appreciate a narrator’s efforts for taking us through a great story.
Also, we react the best to comedy when we can see what’s happening. If we can’t see it, yet the narrator is genuinely laughing/smiling, we as listeners can feel that through the voice.
There is a face to the story, and that is the narrator. The narrator is the ‘book’ that houses this adventure, and doing a great job will make the audience want to keep you in their libraries.
Or them in yours. They would come to your next live reading then.