How to Write Interactive Fiction and Interactive Audio Stories – 040 – Voice Acting and eBooks

Voice Acting and eBooks

When you are writing an interactive audiobook for Voice, you will have to decide whether you want to have the artificial voice of the Voice assistant read the texts, or whether you want to have them recorded by a voice actor. Each has its pros and cons. We have only been using audio recordings so far, because the abilities of a Voice assistant do not quite reach the quality level of a professional audiobook narrator, and because a good story deserves good sound. But there are also reasons for using text-to-speech.

Text-to-speech

Amazon Alexa uses the Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML). It allows you to use different voices for your story and tailor it to your liking with options such as emphasis, speaking rate, and pauses. Additionally, you can use the Alexa Skills Kit Sound Library to insert sound effects and music into your story, or use your own effects if you have the possibility to create them. More information about Alexa’s sound library can be found on the corresponding web pages from Amazon:

Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML)

https://developer.amazon.com/en-US/docs/alexa/custom-skills/speech-synthesis-markup-language-ssml-reference.html

Alexa Skills Kit Sound Library

https://developer.amazon.com/en-US/docs/alexa/custom-skills/ask-soundlibrary.html

 

The benefit is quite obvious: you will not have to pay for a voice actor. The flipside is that this individual form of sound design will require some manual tweaking, and the quality is not on a par with that of actual audio recordings.

Audiobook Narrator

A professional audio book narrator can, by means of his voice, intonation, and emphasis, add great value to your audiobook. The story takes place in the player’s mind, so all events and emotions have to be conveyed via voice alone. A standard rate for audio recordings range from between $250-500 per hour. Voice actors can make the recordings in their own studio at home, therefore you will incur no further costs. A nice bonus effect: if you can gain the support of a prominent voice actor or YouTube influencer for your project, you will gain additional reach.

If you want to have your story be read by several speakers, or if you consider using sound effects and background music, your costs will obviously increase. Since this will depend on the scope of your story, we cannot provide you with approximate cost estimations for this. These additional costs can range from several hundreds to even thousands of dollars. The best approach would be to obtain a specific offer from a recording studio or a voice actor agency.

Voice Actor Script in TWIST

In TWIST you can directly export a voice actor script. So if you want to work with any voice actors, you should take care, right from the beginning, to write your story in a neatly structured way. Use paragraphs for longer passages of text, and always leave a blank line between text body and direct speech. This will help the speaker to immediately recognize direct speech as such.

 

Export feature for voice actor script

TWIST image: Export feature for voice actor script

 

As a kind of stage direction, you should always put the name of the character before direct speech as well as your directions regarding intonation, speaking rate, and so on. Use square brackets for these stage directions.

An interactive story has no linear sequence, thus the text segments in the voice actor script will never follow a completely logical order. Voice actors can only assume what the context of a specific text segment is and how to intonate and emphasize the isolated speech of a character and who is actually speaking. By giving the voice actor some assistance in this regard, you will automatically improve the sound quality of your story.

 

Example of Poor Text Formatting

Your mobile phone is buzzing. It’s your best friend, Leona. “Hello-oh! Say, are you sleeping? Why are you not answering? Did you know that your door bell was broken again and that I’m cooling my heels out here? We were supposed to go the mall!” Oh, crap. It’s not the first time you’ve been so totally out of it. Just a minute ago, your phone was still buried at the bottom of your schoolbag. Do you start by saying, “Sorry!” Or will you just say, “Be there in a moment!”

 

Example of Clear Text Formatting

[Narrator] Your mobile phone is buzzing. It’s your best friend, Leona.

 

[LEONA, annoyed] “Hello-oh! Say, are you sleeping? Why are you not answering? Did you know that your door bell was broken again and that I’m cooling my heels out here? We were supposed to go the mall!”

 

[Narrator] Oh, crap. It’s not the first time you’ve been so totally out of it. Just a minute ago, your phone was still buried at the bottom of your schoolbag.

 

Do you start by saying, [embarrassed, contrite] “Sorry!” Or will you just say, [cheerful, laughing] “Be there in a moment!”

eBooks

Maybe you also want to publish your audio story as an eBook gamebook. After having created your adventure in TWIST, you will of course be able to export it as an eBook. There are certain adjustments you will have to make to the text afterwards to make it work as a separate book but, during the eBook export, all stage directions put in square brackets will automatically be removed to help you along the way.

How exactly you can export an eBook from TWIST and what other features are available to you in preparation for an eBook export, we would like to explain in one of our coaching for writers sessions.

Summary

Audio, Voice Acting, and eBooks:

  • By using text-to-speech, you can have the Voice assistant read the story to the player. Despite the speech output constantly improving, it does not yet offer the quality of a professional voice actor.
  • Amazon Alexa offers several voices to choose from (only English language so far) as well as sound library to insert sound effects.
  • Instead of an audiobook narrator, you can also try to win the support of a prominent voice actor or a social media influencer to gain additional reach.
  • Tools like TWIST enable you to prepare your interactive story for a voice actor and to upload the recorded audios afterward. You can also export your story as an eBook.
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