Voiceover Auditioning, From a Ballerina’s POV

I was thinking about this during a recent hangout while listening to other voice actors talk about their fears when it comes to auditioning, and I started thinking about my own feelings toward the audition process.

There are times where I do get pretty weirded out and have to talk myself up…but those are few and far between. Usually, it’s those auditions that I understand are bigger than anything I’ve tried before. And it’s not that I’m afraid to audition (yes, it is); it’s more that I’m awestruck by the project (the people behind it, really) and having to quiet the voice telling me to walk away because I’m playing in an area too advanced for little old me.

More often than not, though…I really don’t. It’s just an audition. I sit down with the script. I figure out the voice and the context. I give it a few shots (no more than five, because if I can’t get it in three, I really don’t have a handle on the project.). I walk away (sleep on it if I can get away with it), and come back later and decide if it’s sendable. If it is, I do. If not, I take one more stab at it. It works for me, and I have heard there are others do something similar.

Last night, listening to the others, I started wondering why I’ve pretty much always dealt with voiceover auditions this way. And then I realized it’s because of how auditions were handled in the various ballet programs I was in. When I was little, auditions were just that. You walked in with your group, you learned a few combinations and performed them a few times, and then you left. It was like a really short center class. The older I got, the more auditions became master classes. The choreographer for the project (or someone close to them) came in and taught an extended class where the center work turned into the audition combinations.

We all knew we were in an audition, but we were also in class, in our studio, just doing what we did daily. And those were some of the best classes because you got to see some aspect of dance through a new set of eyes and then someone told you what roles you would be working on in rehearsals for the next two or three months.

This practice of “class as audition” was something I lived with for a pretty decent chunk of my childhood and young adult years. And so I think that’s how my brain sees voiceover auditions. Yes, it’s an audition. I’m showing someone how I’m interpreting their copy and what I can do with it so they can figure out if I fit into their vision of what they’re creating. But at the same time, I’m experimenting and figuring out for myself what I can do when put on the spot. It’s their audition; it’s my play time. And as such, when I complete an audition (because I work remotely), I add it to my practice files for future review and inspiration.

Like I said, I know I’m not the only one who does this. But I think viewing the audition process as an opportunity for personal growth rather than getting tied up in anxiety over whether or not you’re going to be picked is probably a bit healthier and ultimately leads to better results.

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Storing Social Media Posts for Later

When I’m racing around online and want to keep something to read or re-read later, I often save it to Instapaper. But that’s historically been a less-than-enjoyable process when needing to grab a post/tweet. And saving anything off Instagram? Forget it…or resort to hoping you can save it to Pinterest. (I don’t know about anyone else, but the copy and post option works about half the time for me.)

But over the last few weeks, we’ve gained the ability to save posts for later within the app itself without leaving the app. Yes, we have to remember we saved something and go deal with it, but I’ve made it part of my habits and it’s proven a good way to grab something to read or use later (often landing in Instapaper once I decide it’s useful).

So…saving something for later on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram…by platform.

Facebook

You’ve seen people admitting their leaving a comment solely so they can find the post later. (Those commenting, “Following”, may want the notifications, but if not…pay attention.) In the upper right hand corner of every Facebook post are three little dots. When you click on those dots, a menu drops down, offering you several contextual choices, including “Save [media]”. When you select this option, Facebook stores the link/video/etc along with the source post to a folder in your sidebar labeled “Saved”. When you’re done, you can close the item in the Saved folder and it will remove itself from the folder.

No more “Following”. Got it. Cool.

Twitter

After years of being very frustrating on this point, Twitter has finally given us a bookmark feature…on the app. The website doesn’t connect at all with this feature, but I’m hopeful it will catch up. Using this feature has been a little counterintuitive for me. In the row of buttons under the tweet, click on the Share button. (On my phone, it looks like <. On yours, it may look like an inbox.) A menu appears with an option to share to Bookmarks, which you then access by going to Bookmarks in the app menu. When you’re done with the bookmark, you click on the Share button on the post and select the option to remove the bookmark.

Instagram

This one is also somewhat recent, but each post on Instagram has buttons under the picture. One of them looks like a little banner. Click on it, and you can either be done or you can add the picture to a collection (because you can curate private collections on Instagram). To access these images, go to your profile and click on the little banner below your bio. Every image you’ve saved will be sitting there in the grid format Instagram is famous for. To unsave the image, you can just click on the little banner again. What’s really nice about saving posts on Instagram is that you can access them from the website (when it’s working), unlike Twitter.

There you go. Saving posts on three major social networks. Feel free to come back to this post eight months from now and point and laugh. (I do that sometimes to my older posts that are now nothing but an archive of deprecated tech.)

Potted Soil – Finding the Right Planning Method

Last summer, while I was playing around with the idea of elemental mages, this one air mage kept showing up in my daily practice. It made sense to try to find her story. But when an idea presented itself, it brought with it earth mage Minerva Watts. I became so fascinated with her and her story that I determined to grow it into something.

When I wrote the original short story, I challenged myself to write it in Third Person Present, a POV I’ve never written before and tend to run right over when I read. (It can literally take me 90% of a story to notice this particular POV when I read it.) It was definitely a challenge, but I survived…until I decided to expand it into a longer story. At the time, I was working a lot with the Scene-Sequel structure, trying to get a feel for it and what it could do. But it wasn’t working for this story.

In very short order, I also blew through an attempt to blend the seven-point structure and Scene-Sequel, and a brief flirtation with the Pixar storytelling method.

Part of the problem was that I had two strands going – the town’s story and Minerva’s story. A simpler structure was necessary to keep things going, and it turned out using the seven-point structure alone was exactly what the story needed. So I laid out both threads, trying to figure out where and how the stories intersected, and I kept Pixar’s core message approach to help guide Minerva’s side of the story. After more struggling (because this really was a learning experience for me), I finally came up with something I liked.

You are welcome to check out “Potted Soil” over on wattpad, along with the original short story “Healing the Garden”. (There is also a narration available for “Potted Soil”.) I included it for those who might be interested in seeing where I started after seeing where I ended up, although if you’ve been thinking about expanding your own work you might find some inspiration…even if that inspiration is how not to do it.

Why We Start With History

It’s been my experience as a teacher, trainer, and student that learners (especially as they get older) hate the first few days of any class because they have to sit through the history lesson that invariably starts off any type of class, training, or orientation.

But the problem is: Virtually no industry or topic exists in a vacuum. It doesn’t come into being the moment the learner decides they want to get into the industry or learn about the topic. (And we’ll be kind enough to not get into what that mindset says about the learner.) Things happen. Inventions happen that change the industry/topic. Conventions adapt to a changing time or shifts on cultural perspectives. People impact the industry/topic in significant ways.

These changes help shape the industry/topic into what it is when the learner steps into the stream. And it can be useful to learn about them because it can often show where the industry/topic has been, what’s important to it, and what struggles it has been through, creating a starting point for conversations on current issues, struggles, and developments in the industry/topic that have less chance of repeating history or reinventing already failed wheels.

It’s a rooting in the industry/topic, and committing to learning it at even a surface level shows the learner’s level of commitment to the industry/topic itself.

This is especially important for autodidacts (self-directed learners), who must find these historical resources on their own, and again says volumes about the learner who actually takes their own time to learn about the industry/topic they are getting involved with. Even if they don’t root themself until they’ve been working on their skill development for a while. Taking the time, making the effort, can help the learner avoid putting their foot into something the industry/topic consider taboo or just downright unwanted.

And then the class moves on to the basics. Even if it’s just a review or the teacher checking for where the class is in general, the learners get antsy all over again.

Light Novel vs. Visual Novel

When you get it into your head to explore the different types of media out there, it can be a very…educational…experience. Not only are you learning and juggling new voiceover jargon, you are also learning that the world is bigger than just audiobooks, games, and animation. I ran into this early in my voiceover work, and somehow keep running into it now. So, I thought it might not be the worst idea to start documenting what I’m learning, and maybe even help others out or find people who work with these media who can add to what I’ve learned.

Let’s start with the first terms I ran into years ago that left me saying, “What is that?”: the light novel and the visual novel.

Like some of its fellow unfamiliar terms, a light novel is a Japanese invention. Sort of. Light novels are fast-paced, pulpy novellas, usually aimed at teen and children readers. It’s not unusual for a teen light novel to become popular enough to be adapted into an anime.

Really…not terribly different from wandering the middle grade and YA shelves in any bookstore or library…or Netflix. Heh.

The visual novel also has its origins in Japan. It’s often described as an interactive game genre featuring static images and occasionally incorporating audio, and is most often associated with dating sims and hentai (porn). While the genre is expanding to cover more types of stories, it’s slow going. You would get farther pursuing interactive fiction.

There is also a subgenre, kinetic novels, which are visual novels that lack interactivity. Sometimes, you’ll find these referred to as dynamic novels, although that term sometimes to refer to stories that have some sort of animated display element triggered as the reader moves through the story.

So, that’s round one. I may come back and update this as I explore them more.

The Power of Transferable Skills

One of the scariest moments we can face in life is changing what we do. Maybe it’s just thinking about taking up a hobby outside our comfort zone. Maybe it’s exploring new career directions. But so many people get to this point, panic, and run away. Not because they can’t do it, but because they’re afraid of starting over, of being the new face in the room, complete with the lack of knowledge that comes with beginning a new path.

But the funny thing is, if you’ve had any sort of life experience, the chances are good you aren’t starting from scratch. The skills and knowledge you learned and mastered in earlier periods of your life don’t magically disappear when you start on a new path. You an completely change paths, and those skills remain useful. In fact, working with those skills in a new setting can help you develop a deeper, more masterful understanding of the skills. This is actually a critical part of education. Touching on a skill in a variety of settings, even subconsciously, helps strengthen it. Allowing a skill to percolate in our head, can often embed it in our head to come out at the most unexpected moment later on.

This is part of why having a meandering background isn’t as disastrous as some would have you believe. Skills that came from stops along a disjointed path can blend in the most unexpectedly helpful ways later on, without us even realizing it. Skills you were forced to practice, that you were absolutely positive would never show up again, can become the one skill you need to make a new path easier to move forward on.

This is why it’s important to go out and try things, and to actually do them yourself or stand as close to them as you can while they’re happening. That exposure is a key step in your learning, and can actually serve you well as you pursue your various interests.

Hidden Trail: Writing What You Know

My habit of using wattpad contests to avoid actually working on my own projects continued last month when their science fiction channel hosted a challenge celebrating one of my favorite things: Clark’s Third Law. If you’re unfamiliar: Any sufficiently advanced technology appears as magic to more primitive societies.

Given my fascination with intersections of science and magic, you would think this would have been a simple challenge for me.

You would be wrong. Heh.

I actually managed to lose a lot of sleep over this, mainly because every idea I kept trying ultimately ended up being magic-based technology, which is not the same as technology appearing as magic. We won’t get into exactly how many times I had to sit myself down and lecture myself over the difference, but it was a fair few.

My first thought concerned the pile of notes I have on all the ways I could play with runes in New Glory. While runes are typically seen as tools of magic or divination, I was sure I could make them programmable. I’m sure you can see where the flaw in my thinking happened. I was convinced that a series of magic-powered rune stones lined up and “executed” like the block-based coding programs used to introduce children to coding would definitely work.

Remember, magic-based technology is not actually the same as technology being perceived as magic. No matter how many times you rearrange those magic-powered runes. And I tried many configurations and executions. *sigh*

I finally realized trying to make a traditionally magical object into a bit of science-based technology was not going to happen, and so I started playing with other ideas when I remembered an Internet of Things class I took a couple of years ago. The main class project we were working on involved objects with NFC tags, dongles that provide a locator beacon that reacts to something that comes near enough. (In the case of the class, the “something” was an app-enabled phone.)

I had been reading about the ways different destinations were using NFC technology to create more interactive experiences for visitors, so I didn’t think anything of it when we started working with them in class. Some of my classmates didn’t have that background, and were just fascinated at what could be accomplished with these dongles.

And I suddenly knew how to create a bit of “magical” technology in New Glory.

I’m not done exploring this possibility, but if you’d like to see how I handled its maiden voyage, please feel free to read “Hidden Trail” over on wattpad.