There will come a time in the voice-over world for you to pull out a character voice. If you have a place to pull that character from, you’ll be able to transition to that voice with ease and make your client happy. Whether you’re making your voice sound older or younger, speaking with an accent, or creating a unique sounding voice, you can start to file these characters away and build your voice-over character library.
Your voice-over character library not only pertains to animation work, but commercial and narration work as well. When you have a list of characters to choose from, you are better prepared with an arsenal of voices for any needed situation. Whether you’re recording an audiobook,
video game, commercial, e-learning video, or a narration piece, you’ll have a list of characters right in your back pocket to pull from and you’ll be ready when the opportunity presents itself.
So, how do you create a voice-over character library?
First, you’ll need a place where you can keep track of your characters. Whether it’s in a document, a spreadsheet, a folder in your e-mail, or the notepad on your phone, find a place to store your list of characters.
Once you’ve decided on a method for keeping your characters organized, you’re ready to start building your character list. There are many ways to create character voices, even if you’ve never done so before.
Here are some various ingredients that you can play with when cooking up your character voices! Using this list, you can create a multitude of characters.
- Timing: How fast or slow does your character talk?
- Pitch or Intonation:The rise and fall of your voice when speaking.
- Inflection: The stressing of certain words or the pattern of pitch variation.
- Imitation: Characterizing your voice so that it sounds like a specific type of person. This could be a celebrity, someone you know, or just someone you hear when you’re walking down the street.
- Texture: Does your character have a smooth, sultry voice or is it more gravely? You can also add more to your character with textures like breathy, nasal, guttural, hoarse, etc.
- Volume and Tone: Does your character speak softly or loudly? Do they carry a sharp tone, friendly tone, or bored tone? Play around with what volume and tone works best for the character you’re trying to represent.
- Enunciation: How, precisely, does your character pronounce each word? Do they slur over certain sounds or are they very accurate with their speaking?
- Attitude: What is the character’s attitude like? Are they usually a happy person? Excitable? Stressed? Irritable?
- Accents: Whether it’s Southern drawl or a Jersey guy, accents are fun to play with. If you don’t have accents in your wheelhouse already, try characterization or imitations of people with accents.
Create names for your characters and write down the traits that are unique to them. Naming them will help you remember who they are so you can go back to them easily. You can use descriptive names like “Valley Girl” or you can give your characters specific names. If you have multiple Southern accents for example, like a deep south, a country hillbilly, and a Southern Belle, you can name them Dixie, Mary Sue, and Caroline, for example. Doing this helps you decipher between similar characters.
Lastly, have fun, practice, and OWN IT! Have fun playing with your character voices. You can even have them talk to each other so you can switch back and forth between characters quickly. Dig deep and own those character voices. These are voices that you created and that are unique to you. You may think you’re overacting, but with character voices, it’s okay to go over the top a little bit.
Having a list of character voices in your wheelhouse makes it easy to pull out something unique and strong at just the right moment. Whether it’s part of the voice-over work you’re doing, a request from the client, or you just want to liven up a piece with a unique spin, having a voice-over character library in your back pocket is always a great tool for any voice-over artist to have.
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About the Author
With eight years of experience in the industry, Bridget Renshaw’s voice can be heard in commercials, animations, voice dubbing, corporate videos, eLearning, and video games. She has voiced numerous commercials including Samsung, Audible, Transitions Lenses, Scholastic, Simple Skincare, Classic Mazda, and more.