When I review an audiobook or audio play, there are two primary components to consider:
- The story
- The storytelling
The first is about the author’s writing. I consider issues such as:
- the intricacy of the plot(s) and how the story manages to take me by surprise
- how well-developed the characters are
- how believable the situation is and the characters’ responses to it
- the style of writing, including the use of language, pace and rhythm
- the author’s ability to get me emotionally involved in the story
- how well-developed the character’s world is (for example, their circle of friends and lifestyle or, in a fantasy/sci-fi, how plausible that universe is within the context of the story).
An excellent story can be ruined by a bad narrator, just as a great narrator cannot usually save a bad story. It’s for this reason I consider the story and the storytelling separately. It would be unfair to judge both together when one may be fine and the other, not so good.
When reviewing the narrator, I considering the following aspects of their storytelling:
- how well the narrator’s voice suits the characters, including the gender balance of characters (for example a male narrator reading mostly female characters is usually not a great idea)
- diction, speed, pronouncing words correctly, and general clarity
- ability to provide characterisations, including different voices/tones, accents, and speech patterns
- use of pace and volume to enhance scenes
For enhanced book readings (eg using more than one narrator, music or sound effects), I also try to consider each element separately, while also looking at how they work together as a whole.
For full-cast audio/radio plays, there’s a few extra elements to consider, including:
- use of music and sound effects
- volume of the voices over the music and sound effects
- acting ability of the cast and their line delivery
- use of pace, volume and silence to enhance the action
- the Director’s vision (for example, setting a Shakespearean play in modern times can work sometimes and fail miserably in other attempts)
What do you look out for when listening to, or reviewing, an audiobook or audio play? My list of suggestions above is by no means comprehensive, so I’d love to hear about the elements you consider or find most enjoyable. Fill out the comments box below or send me a message with your ideas.