Voice-over tip: Are you talking to yourself?

D'oh!Have you ever had one of those slap-your-hand-to-your-head-and-say-“d’oh!” moments? You know the kind. It’s when all of the facts have been patiently staring you in the face while your brain stubbornly refuses to acknowledge them. Then suddenly “WHAM!” the connection is made and you find the palm of your hand applied firmly to your forehead. You hear words like “Duh!“, “D’oh!”, or “I’m such an idiot!” flying from your lips.

I had one of those just the other day…

During a recent voice acting lesson, my coach and I were working on a piece of commercial copy. Like a good student of voice-over, I had first created a backstory complete with who I am (age, profession, personality, etc.) where I was, the full details of who I was talking to, and the other necessary visual tidbits.

The first few reads went well, but my coach wanted more — something was missing that didn’t make the read as believable as was needed. “I can’t completely hear in your voice that you are really seeing the scene you are trying vocalize” came the direction. “In this scene you had overslept, you’re late for work, and you don’t have time to do your normal morning routine. Paint that picture for me.”

After a moment of thought I slapped my head and muttered the words “D’oh!” I regrouped and attacked the copy with renewed zest. Long story, short: I got it. 😀

Talking to yourself

Beginners to voice over acting are often taught to imagine that they are talking to someone else when they read a script: a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, or someone that the voice actor personally knows. And while most scripts should be approached in this manner, some scripts (or even just a part of a script) need to be viewed from a different angle. Instead of talking to another person, you are talking to yourself.

This isn’t a way-out-there concept because we all talk to ourselves from time to time. Sometimes the dialogue is completely internal — not a sound is uttered. At other times we might say our thoughts out loud even though there isn’t a soul within earshot.

Final thoughts

As you prepare scripts, keep an eye out for internalized dialogue. It doesn’t happen all that often and sometimes it might only last a few sentences within the script (then reverting back to a conversation between two people.) But there are times when such a performance is required to bring the scene to life.