Johnny Heller is a narrator of audio books and as all narrators, considers himself an actor. With over 500 narrations, Johnny has narrated in almost all genres.
Johnny started his narrating career in the 90’s and holds to his name these (as well as many other narrations):
Audio book narration IS acting. People will often ask me -“are you still acting?” Of course I am! I don’t know that there is a more organic acting form than the audiobook narration. You have a script – the book; an audience; and you.
The major difference between stage and screen and the audio art is that the narrator plays all the roles. I am not – when narrating reacting to cues or the immediate response from an audience or playing camera angles or scenes as plotted by a director. The narrator is a story-teller. The narrator must be immersed in the truth of the author and faithful moment to moment to the text. It is essential that I share the author’s truth.In a theater piece, the actor plays a single character and he immerses himself in the life of that one character. In narration, the actor (still acting!) plays the narrator and all of the characters – giving each one life as dictated by the authors’ truth which we get from the text. Each character has his/her own traits and the narrator must be adept making choices that propel the story forward. A flawed or faulty choice will halt the narrative flow because it disconnects the actor and therefore the audience from the authors truth.It’s a very risky thing to narrate a book and one must make choices and one must be an actor with a gift for storytelling.
As I read, I make a list of characters and next to the character I note whatever I need to write to tell me who that character is. Is she mean, sweet…if I was casting it for a film, who would I pick. Is this guy a Clint Eastwood type or a Jon Cryer type? I make notes that may not make sense to somebody else but tell me what I need to know to help me make appropriate choices.
I have a few “tricks” although I’m not sure I’d call them that. I always have some tissues with me. Not just for tears! but you never really know what’s gonna come out of your body at any given moment until you are in a booth hoping for quiet!I recommend remaining hydrated.A slice of apple can keep your mouth moist (without being slushy) and settle those stomach noises.When you find your mind wandering during your recording to things like: “hmmmm, I wonder what we’re gonna have for dinner” or “I really gotta do the laundry today…” YOU NEED A BREAK! I frequently step out of the booth and just take a few moments and not think about the project. Just to clear my head. If you find yourself wandering, you are not in touch with the text and you are not telling the story anymore.And any mistake is fixable! Nothing is etched in stone — if you yawned, belched, yodeled – whatever, you can fix it, don’t worry. But note it because you really must fix it!