Recording an audio book – the magic of attunement

If you’re recording your own audio book, radio writing tips can really help. Writing for the ear is different to writing for print and ebooks. Help your narrator or voiceover artist to get a far better result by using voice-first writing techniques.

If you’re going to the expense of recording an audio book, you’ll want to make your script as audio-friendly as possible. Your narrator will thank you, and it’ll also boost the quality and sales.

Many authors getting into audiobooks haven’t yet discovered the techniques of voice-first writing. But they can make an amazing difference to the impact of the book!

Audio attunement

To begin with, it’s important to get your head round what’s different about audio writing. A key difference is attunement – the art of getting listeners to tune in. This means pulling your listener’s focus, so that all their attention is on your book.

Until your listeners are attuned, they may still be in drift mode, and not fully engaged with the audio experience.

Have you ever been to a meditation class? Then you’ll be familiar with attunement. It’s the short time it takes for everyone to settle down and pull focus in the room

Attunement takes time. Imagine an auto-focus camera pointing to a new subject in the foreground. It needs to whirr and zoom a few times before its attention is in the right place.

The magic of “once upon a time”

The phrase “once upon a time” is all about attunement.

It doesn’t mean all that much, really. It just signals “here’s a story – listen up!”. The really important information comes next.

Once upon a time there was a monster living up a mountain.

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to visit her grandmother.

Once upon a time there were three pigs.

You’ll find similar attunement words in radio news writing:

Staying with international news…

In other news…

Moving on now to…

Why audio writing is different

Why do audio listeners need those few seconds of attunement? Don’t they just engage with the writing right way? What’s wrong with recording an audio book straight from the print or ebook version?

Firstly, listeners are often multi-tasking – driving the car, commuting, cooking, doing housework. Their focus is split. The writing needs to work harder to get their attention.

Secondly, the listener needs to tune into the narrator’s voice – their pitch and tone, their accent.

Thirdly, they need to tune into the topic. What’s the genre? The world we’re in? What time period? Who’s the character?

Audio attunement – time to engage

A new episode of audio is like a blank canvas. Listeners have to get orientated and use the available signposts to settle in. So the listener’s ears and brain have a lot of work to do to get “cogged” with the narration.

If they don’t attune early on, it’s like riding a bicycle with a slipped chain. You slither along, not fully secure in the story.

Once your ears and brain are fully tuned in, you’re properly engaged (like those cog wheels), the story gains traction, and you can motor along and relax into enjoying it.

So in your audio book, or when writing for the ear, it’s a good idea to make space for attunement. Listeners will thank you!

Even a small word such as the storyteller’s “so” or “now” helps to create a mental transition and helps the narrator and listener to pull focus.

Want to know more about writing for the ear? Get pro radio writing advice from Writing for Audiobooks!

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