I recently listened to actors reading excerpts from my book, The Engraver’s Secret, and was asked to select my favourite voices with a view to using them for the audiobook. I was asked to describe what I liked and didn’t like about their voices; and if I thought their accent, intonation, inflection or resonance should be tweaked.

As I listened to the voices, I realised how challenging I find it to describe sounds. For me, the senses of sight, smell, touch and taste are easy to describe, but sound and in particular, the human voice, is difficult.

Sounds are normally described in relation to their volume, pitch, intensity, speed and rhythm. When we hear a sound, we often try to label it using a familiar phrase or adjective to help enhance our understanding.

We have pre-conceived ideas about what a particular noise should sound like, and sounds often conjure strong memories which are highly personal. What sounds menacing to one person, may be mischievous to another. The yapping of a Pomeranian dog may sound cute and friendly to one person, yet bring on emotions of fear in another.

Likewise, a woman with a deep, gravelly tone may come across as irritable and stern, while another listener may feel she is tenacious and business-like. A higher pitched voice may suggest the person is uncertain, nervous or inexperienced, or perhaps they are simply young.

Sometimes, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to interpreting sound. It’s a matter of deciding the best fit for the situation and audience.

One of the best ways to develop my listening skills and expand the way I interpret sounds is to continue listening to audio books. It helps me improve my pronunciation and fluency, develop my critical thinking skills, boost my concentration, and sharpen my memory.

I’m heading off on a walk this afternoon and will switch on Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. Within minutes, I’ll be immersed in the Appalachian world of the protagonist, Damon Fields, who is engagingly narrated with a southern drawl by actor Charlie Thurston.

The audio book of The Engraver’s Secret – voiced by two actors – is available for pre-order now and will be released by HarperCollins Australia on 3 April 2024 on Audible, Rakuten Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Overdrive, Booktopia and other platforms.

 

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