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How Researching Can Enrich Your Reads


By Stephanie Ciccarelli

December 21, 2010

Comments (3)

Woman smiling in the library with a bundle of books in her armsWhen you prepare to narrate for a voice over project, do you ever stop to think of the premise of the story and its plot?

While character development is important, it is something altogether different to fully identify with the structure of a piece and understanding its premise and plot in relation to character(s) in a story.

In today's VOX Daily, we're going to explore ways you can study a script to create a more engaging and motivated read.

Researching Does a Read Good!

As professional storytellers who give spoken word performances, voice talent are usually more concerned with painting pictures, creating characters and adding nuance to a read and overlook some of the basic fundamentals of literary construction such as premise and plot.

Although it may seem beyond the call of duty to research aspects of a story or script, it is part of the discipline, and to most audiobook narrators, researching is second nature. Research can serve as a tool for greater discernment in addition to simple fact gathering that buttresses a read.

An Introduction to Basic Premise Styles

A premise is a statement that is assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn. Some examples of premises are:

๏ Good triumphs over evil
๏ Love conquers death
๏ Pride comes before the fall
๏ Honesty is the best policy
๏ Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

While doing some of my own research online and via published works, I discovered that there are a number of traditional literary genres, including but not limited to:

Mythic: The triumph of God or gods; triumph of a hero because of an act of God.
Heroic: The hero is triumphant because of their own strength.
High Ironic: The hero triumphs because of a twist of fate.
Low Ironic: The hero fails because of a twist of fate.
Demonic: The hero is overcome by evil forces or uses evil to defeat evil forces.

The Importance of Finding the Takeaway

Identifying the premise or takeaway message of a project will help you to better deliver on what the author's intent was and give your read a richer, more informed interpretation. This exercise is important regardless of project type or length of copy.

By focusing in on the premise, you'll also find that it's easier to get to where you need to go in terms of direction where plot is concerned.

Aristotle's Four Basic Plots

In addition to having a premise all stories have a basic plot. A plot consists of the main events of a work that are devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.

A well devised plot is critical to telling a great story. Characters need a challenge or an obstacle to overcome and are often presented with this challenge at the beginning of the story.

These four basic plots include:

๏ Man against man
๏ Man against nature
๏ Man against himself
๏ Man against the supernatural or the sub-natural

When doing research on anything you read, consider what the plot is and if there are any sub-plots. If there are sub-plots, consider what their purpose is and if they strengthen or weaken the principal plot.

While there are other tools that you can use to more fully understand what you are reading and creating a vocal performance around, I thought we'd start with these two in efforts to spark interest in how identifying premise and plot can shape your reads and help your voice navigate a story and guide its characters.

Do You Research Before You Read?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,


©iStockphoto.com/David H. Lewis

Related Topics: Aristotle, genres, interpretation, literary, plot, premise, reading, SAG, voice talent


    This is true not only for narrations, but also commercials too. I check out the company's website and get a sense of the style and demographic they are targeting. Also, checking in with friends and networking contacts that may offer info about that region for pronunciations and cultural nuances. Yes, doing your homework does pay off!

    Posted by:

      ...even researching a character for animation can be educational and helpful in shaping your performance...

      Posted by:

        Mmmmm, Stephanie, I like this philosophical stuff! You bet I research. As one who slept through Eng Lit at school (there was no sign of my already-adored Dylan Thomas and H.G. Wells) I had to try and catch up later. Voice performance in later years sharpens the need. Even if the job is not an audiobook, a script might allude to literary ideas/genres: to achieve 'nuance' as you put it, we need to know! Whatever the topic (no shortage of those in this biz) everything we do is a story, so thanks for this prompting with fundamentals that we can mull over at Christmas. Hey, and what handy tags for (some of) the commercial scripts we receive... Low Ironic, Mythic, Demonic....... Couldn't put it better myself.

        Howard Ellison, Devon UK

        Posted by:

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