Okay, I was thinking I wanted to lay this out for demonstration of how phrasing and inflection is key when it comes to podficcing. How you read a sentence is really important - how you stress and emphasize words and clauses can impact the meaning of a sentence and the mood of the exchange.
I said in my last post that I try to steer away from over characterization in dialogue, and I do. But you can’t escape the fact that you’re reading actual dialogue and it needs to have some base of inflection to help the listener distinguish it from the narrative. Sometimes how something is said is indicated in the text - for example the writer might say “she whispered” or “he shouted shouted.” You as the reader are going to have to make the call on whether you’re going to vocalize your delivery to match. Truthfully, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, it’s really depends on the situation. Generally, I’ll raise and lower my voice for whispers and shouts…but other vocalizations, particularly sighs and laughs, I don’t. This is mainly because I’m not confident in my ability to do so. It’s something I practice and hope to master convincingly at some point. Not that the writing always calls for it, and not that I’ll use it every time it is, but it’s nice tool to have in your arsenal as a reader.
But what about where no specific direction is given? How do you tell if someone is being sarcastic or sincere? Clever? Manipulative? Whiny? That’s when it’s really important to look for other cues in the scene - mood, lighting, previous dialogue, etc. I don’t want to sound condescending, because some of this is pretty obvious (especially since many podficcers are writers themselves, and everyone a silent reader). But there are times - especially in plot heavy scenes where the dialogue is meant to be moving the action along, or in really emotional scenes where things are progressing quickly - where you will find yourself not knowing with certainty just HOW the character is feeling.
This bit isn’t a really the most solid example of that - but it is sort of a bridge moment. The characters are transitioning from talking about outside matters of the day to a much more intimate things. Is it a sudden change in mood? Or does Aziraphale’s rebuttal soften to fondness, easing the way? Here is where I as a reader have to take some leaps. With this example you can see my trial and error as I experiment with different ways to deliver this sentence, and how each reading gives a different meaning and mood to the scene.
I know I’ve spoken mainly of dialogue at this point, but this is true in narrative as well. That being said, with narrative it can be less clear and you’re less likely to have explicate cues as you would within in context of a verbal exchange. One thing I think is particularly important to remember is not to bring too much of yourself to the narrative. As silent readers we bring a wealth of our own personality and life experience to a story, and it’s easy to not realize or forget that fact when you read a loud.
For that reason, it becomes important to keep narrative moments more towards neutral, without going so far as to be flat and uninteresting. I always try to avoid any extreme expression unless it is specifically called for - one of the best examples (that I am unfortunately a little clunky with my explanation of) is when the writer comes to a conclusion in the text (think of it as an “aha!” moment).
As a reader, you might have picked up on where the writer was going before the writer actually got there (possibly through intended foreshadowing, or characterization). You might read the narrative in your head with what I think of as a “duhhh” tone. However, another reader might not have picked up on the conclusion before the writer made it. For them, it’s more of an “oh, huh, yeah, I can see that” moment.
If a podficcer reads it the former way, and a listener was experiencing it in the latter way, that difference would be enough to pull the listener out of the moment. And could possibly alienate a listener from the work altogether. You don’t want that, and the author certainly doesn’t. So while I do use some inflection in narrative, I try to limit it to small variations on neutral.
Hopefully makes sense and didn’t get too far off course or down a wormhole…the tl;dr is that inflection is important in dialogue and narrative, but you need to tread carefully, remember the author’s intent, and remain a neutral relayer of the story.