One of the primary responsibilities of a voice actor is that of a storyteller, as you have an opportunity to not only just tell the story, but also to be directly involved in how that story is told.
Although being a storyteller can be fun, you, as the voice actor, have been entrusted with a great responsibility; you have the power to shape exactly how someone experiences a message. You need to carefully exercise that power without imposing your own views. You’re also responsible for how well the author or copywriter’s intent is being delivered.
Remember that because you get to read the story before the listener hears it, you decide how to bring it to life. This means that you need to go through the process of interpreting what exactly your role is, which is lifted from the script you are given to perform from.
When figuring out how to read a script, you need to analyze that piece of copy. Think of yourself as a detective, sorting out the most important pieces of the puzzle, such as the who, what, when, why, and how of a script.
Consider asking yourself these questions:
Who are you playing?
When reading the script, look to see who you are in the script and what role you play. Are you a narrator who is supposed to be all-knowing? Are you a character in need of a back story? When trying to figure out who you are in the script, you also need to read between the lines to gain a better appreciation for who your character is, why your character is relevant, and how your character relates to other characters in the script.
What do you want to communicate?
You also need to answer the “what” question, regarding the plot, including what is going on, what needs to be communicated, and what the theme or the sub-theme of the script is. Answering this question gives you a firm place to stand and sets the expectations. When you’re reading from a place of confidence and have laid a firm foundation, your read can be more believable simply because there are no unknowns or ambiguities.
When does the story happen?
Figure out when the story takes place, including the time period. What is the time-frame for the story unfolding? Does it cover an hour, or cover many years before reaching a conclusion? Answering the “when” can help you establish a timeline and gain the historical context that will form your character.
Where does the story take place?
One of our favorite questions to ask is “where?” The “where” allows you to create a physical environment for yourself, or for a stage to set your players on in the theater of the mind. Having an idea of your physical location, based upon a place that could be either fictitious or real, can help you to visualize your surroundings and understand the world that the characters live in. An understanding of this particular element can help you to suspend your audience’s disbelief as you paint word pictures and soundscapes.
Answering the “why” question helps you better understand the story’s context, which tells you what’s going on, how does it affect the characters, and why it matters.
“How” is a problem-solving question. When you ask “how,” you instinctively need to find a solution. How does this factor into the story? How should you interpret this phrase? How can you best deliver your lines? Studying the script reveals the answers to these different questions. A good author or text will provide you with many clues.
When answering these questions, you’re looking for clues that can help determine who your character is, why you’re saying what you’re saying, and who you are speaking to. Doing so is important because you need everything you can get your fingers on to help you create a believable and effective read.
You can dissect from all kinds of angles when you know what to look for. The more you know about the script, the better you can interpret your script. A good understanding results in a richer performance and, thus, the best experience possible for your audience.
About The Authors
Stephanie Ciccarelli and David Ciccarelli are the founders of Voices.com, the largest global web hub for voice actors. Over the past nine years, Stephanie, David, and their team have grown Voices.com from the ground up to become the leader in the industry. This article was originally published in Voice Acting For Dummies and has been republished with permission from John Wiley and Sons, Inc.