Since last October and the Halloween Short Story contest, I’ve wanted to write a post like this but never really felt my blog had the right audience for it. So, now seems like the perfect time! Although I won’t be revealing all my secrets (ha!) I do want to share 3 tips that I use when creating a Booktrack and will continue to use in the future. (Not writing tips; just elements to think about when creating your audio track in the Booktrack Studio.) I hope they can be helpful to someone.
(I would like to note that I’m not being paid to write this or to promote Booktrack–this is something I want to share on my own! To my writing friends still unsure about Booktrack, you’ll want to read about my first experience with it below. It’s the age of the e-book, after all.)
- Consistency is Key
This sounds broad, but knowing what type of sound experience you want to deliver should be key and is really helpful later on. Before starting to edit sound effects into your story, figure out what you’re aiming for in regards to the reader’s audio experience. Do you want only an ambiance to accompany your story, wafting music and the buzz of a restaurant without too much emphasis on what the character is doing at his table waiting for his meal? Or do you want it to sound real, where little sounds are highlighted to give a closer tone to reality?
If you can figure out what you’re aiming to deliver, it makes all the work afterwards much easier and in the end you can then deliver a more consistent audio experience. I personally lean towards detail (which is funny because I AM NOT a detail-oriented person) but I like to make the reader feel like they could be standing right there, hearing the car door slam, hearing the footsteps crunch, hearing that character move like they’re real. Of course, we are all different with our own preferences; in the end, create what YOU want to hear–simply keep in mind that most of your readers will notice if you highlight the sound of a cup being set on the table but a little later leave out the sound of a plate being dropped in the sink.
- Music/Atmosphere Is Important
It’s all about sucking the reader in–you don’t want something to startle them out of their reading pace so much so that they’re completely taken out of the experience. This is applies to sound effects of course, but especially key for music, because music is an entire language all to itself. So take your time to listen. Use different key words in the library search bar to come up with different atmospheres and score genres. Try to listen to the entire length of music if your serious about it to make sure there’s no shift in emotion that doesn’t fit that part of the story.
Keep in mind that, depending on the speed your reader is reading, the music might last longer for them then your normal speed, so you want to be aware of what it all sounds like before you add it in–just in case. (This is the same for ambience music and long-lasting sound effect tracks, say, a busy city block. Find one of decent length that, in a slower reading pace, won’t loop so many times the reader actually notices!) I strongly believe music can make or break a story and it was music that was one of the things I fretted over most right before publishing my contest entry .
- Vocals to the Minimum
I learned this after creating my short horror story; don’t overdo screams, gasps, coughing and other noises that your characters make. I’ve learned that a reader’s idea of vomiting, screaming, heavy breathing ect. is always much more realistic sounding in their mind– in most instances, they will automatically insert it themselves, kinda like normal reading!
In my contest entry, I didn’t add any effects of the main character’s vocal noises, I only emphasized where Hugh Howey specifically noted the wails of the dying and a simple track of chaotic cries to keep the atmosphere realistic. That was what the main character was hearing and I wanted to make the reader the main character–without grossing them out or the audio sounding too unrealistic. In the end, I’m not saying, ‘You should never use any vocal sounds ever, ever, ever,” however I am saying think twice before using them too much.
When I first discovered Booktrack, the first thing I did was take two intense chapters from a very old fan-fic of mine and dramatize them. It was a near death scene followed by a hospital scene; scenes that I’d written over and over, trying capture in words how the characters felt in the most dramatic moments of their life. That night, I played with the sound of fire and rumbling thunder and then echoing footsteps in the hospital hall and the beep of the heart monitor. It was quite fun!
However, when I finished it and read it to myself–I got chills. My story suddenly turned from words and became something real–I could hear my childhood characters, my friends, moving and I could feel the rise and fall of tension with the music. Never have those two chapters felt more real then at that moment and it was stunning! To all the writers who are hesitant about Booktrack, I suggest you take a piece of your work and try it just like I did and see how you feel when you read it completed! I will count that experience as one of the best in my life as a writer.