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Narration and voice over scriptwriting 101

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So, you want to write a script for a voice actor? I am here to help.

As someone who reads through scripts often, even writing them myself, I have begun picking up key takeaways as to what makes a good and bad script.

The first common mistake I see is not adapting the script to fit the spoken word. Many times, marketers will reuse existing content to reach a new audience. For example, a company utilizes a blog post for a podcast. While this is a great tactic for content marketing, it might drive your voice over artist a little crazy if the script isn’t adapted properly or at all.

When adapting existing content to fit a narration or voice over script or writing a new one from scratch, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Will this be narration or a voice over? For example, will it be for a podcast or in some storytelling format? If yes, then the answer will likely be narration. Will it be used to explain, sell, or announce something? Then the answer will likely be voice over. Answering this first question will help inform the tone in which you write or adapt the script.

Narration scripts have a story to tell, a beginning, a middle, and an end. The voice actor's tone is your discretion; however, how the story is written greatly informs the actor when to pause, emphasize, and wrap up a point. Read your existing content out loud and notice where the chunks of your story are. A narration script chunked by chapter, or even ‘beginning, middle, end,’ is very useful for a few reasons. When recording, the voice actor might chunk together each section in an audio file or focus on one chunk at a time. It also informs the artist what the main point or plot of the story is, helping them when performing and giving the story a more authentic performance.

If the story involves characters or even industry terms, it's useful to note the pronunciation or link to a video showcasing the correct pronunciation for the voice actor. With fictional characters or descriptions of places, try to include a visual or character description. As a narrator, ensuring your vision comes to life is my job. The more explicit the details, the better.

The next tip is applicable to both voice over and narration scripts: the use of extra punctuation. For example, the Grammarly attachment on your browser might tell you that a comma in the middle of your sentence is not grammatically correct; however, read the sentence aloud and see where pauses need to happen to allow for emphasis and add them in. This goes for other forms of punctuation as well, ellipses, exclamation points, colons, etc. What happens when punctuation alone isn’t enough? Make use of the italics, bold, and underline functions. For further explanation, you can also utilize (notes) to inform the voice actor how the sentence should be read. For example: “(nervously) I…I wasn’t sure if you’d make it.[sigh]” Read it again, and see if it makes sense.

As a side note, for any narrators who might read this, a way I like to prep my narration script is to ensure I read it once to understand the story, then a second time to highlight character dialogue. This is a trick that helps me remind myself at the moment what voice I need to do or what tone I should narrate with.

Now, for voice over scripts. As mentioned in this post, voice overs are typically shorter, keep one tone of voice consistent throughout the read, are used for explanations, commercials, announcements, etc., and most likely will be synced with a visual. If your script sounds more like this, the tips above still apply, though there are a few extra ideas for how to make your script great.

First, be realistic about the number of words and the time requirements. If you give me 300 words and you’re looking for a 27-second read, think again. Second, if you have any visuals already (even if they are not done yet), share them with the voice actor. Third, I will keep saying this until it’s ingrained in your mind, read your script aloud. What words next to each other sound messy or make you stumble? Chances are, if you stumble on them, the voice actor might too. For the sake of time and a clean performance, adjust the words. A few times, I worked with people who told me to adjust words as necessary to ensure it sounds natural. There have also been times I changed a word without realizing it, and the producer came back to me saying, “Oh yeah, actually, that sounded much better than the original.” So, if you don’t have the right words now, don’t be afraid to give your voice over artist some freedom.

What’s the takeaway? Hire a scriptwriter if you can. If that’s not an option, read the script aloud to yourself, your cat, your friend, your plant. Find where you want pauses, emphasis, and emotion. Cut out unnecessary words, or search for synonyms that help the script flow better. Include any notes you feel will help get the performance you are looking for. Send over any visuals and any pronunciation. Is your script written in British English, but your voice actor is American? Adjust the terms accordingly or allow the actor to make adjustments to allow for a more natural-sounding recording. And most of all, trust the person you hired to tell your story.



That’s all for now. Chat soon.


Xoxo,

Caitie from Studio Wednesday

Want to bring your story to life?

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Want to bring your story to life?

Let's collaborate!

Questions or demo requests?

Lets chat!

E-MAIL info@studio-wednesday.com

Want to bring your story to life?

Let's collaborate!

Questions or demo requests?

Lets chat!

E-MAIL info@studio-wednesday.com

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