Personal Essay: Ian Stuart
Reading for Pseudopod has always been fun—right from the word go—but it’s always been a challenge as well. Most Pseudopod stories are in the 4,500-6,000 word range, and that works out to around forty to fifty minutes of audio, so the first challenge is to keep the flow going, making sure that there’s plenty of variety in pace and tone, and yet giving each character in the story an individual voice.
You can do this—with luck—if you’re familiar with the script. I read it through to myself three or four times before I even start thinking about recording. I start making decisions about the main characters and what their voices sound like; I start marking up the script for pauses, difficult pronunciations, changes in pace. I seem to get a lot of stories which need regional accents—broad Yorkshire, Geordie—even northern Irish—so I have to work my way back into whatever is required.
Once I’ve made the decisions, I divide the script into (roughly) five minute chunks, and I start rehearsing. This takes about a day. The following day I start recording. This is the tough bit. I’m a lot better reader than I am a sound engineer, so I try to make sure there are as few fluffs as possible. Once I’ve recorded the eight or so chunks, I paste them together and listen to the result. I don’t like it. I never like the first run. So I do it all again and this time it’s . . . coming along . . . and by the third take I’m starting to like what I hear. The final piece is usually a conflation of takes two, three, and four. The whole process, from beginning to finished product, takes about a week.
My favourite stories are the classics mainly: “The Signal-Man” by Charles Dickens is wonderfully atmospheric, as is “The Dead Sexton” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Have I ever frightened myself? Once. I listened to “The Worm that Gnaws” by Orrin Grey last year—had almost forgotten what it was about. I scared myself rigid—was that really me?
Ian Stuart is a writer/performer living in York. He has done work for the BBC and Manx Radio, as well as audiobooks, historical guides and promotional videos. He is also a storyteller/guide for The Ghost Trail of York, taking tourists round the city and telling them some of its darker secrets. You can read more about his poetry and his dog, Digby, on his blog,The Top Banana. If you wish to contact Ian about voiceover work of any kind, you can get in touch with him on Twitter @yorkwriter99. For a sample, check this list for everything he's narrated for Escape Artists.