Prose Vocalization

Success in Prose can be linked to a multitude of factors. There is the story itself, the cutting, physicality of characters, interpretation skills, and so on. However, the main component of Prose is vocalization. Voice is the agent of delivery for the piece. It is the most potent aspect to creating character as well. Therefore, knowing how to use voice while performing a Prose is crucial.

Nature of Prose

The Prose pieces that tend to achieve accolades are ones that leave a majority of speech to one character--a narrator of sorts. This character does interact with other characters on occasion, but most of the piece is devoted to listening to this one character. The rational behind this is as related to the source material as the nature of the event. Rules for Prose state that source material is to come from a work of prose and can be either:

Fiction (novels, short stories)

Non-fiction (articles, journals, essays, biographies)

The trend is, and has been, to use fictitious stories. Regardless, all of these sources have one common thread: a majority are written in a narrative style using either first person, third person, or even an omnipresent voice. Internal dialogue typically dominates. Anyway, this means that many Prose selections will have less actual dialogue due to internal narration.

Also, because Prose relies more on voice and less on physicality, due to it being a “reading” dramatization, having whippy pops between characters is odd. The binder alone makes for awkward pops (character pops exist, but not like Humorous/Dramatic Interpretation where the full body is used extensively to create character). Prose has a unique style that should not be confused with HI or DI. And adding too many pops further edges Prose from what the event is at heart--a dramatized “reading.” Between Prose’s nature and source material it is not unfair to say that minimal character-to-character dialogue is best for the event.

Characterization and Interpretation

Being able to properly interpret the source material is central to any event’s success. However, the use of voice to define a character is magnified by the truths that in Prose voice rules and physicality is second. Therefore, know the narrator and all secondary characters. Refer to the cutting and source material for answers. Always. First, define who this voice belongs to. What is their age, socioeconomic status, hometown, job, personality traits and quirks, time period in which they live, current residency, emotional well-being, etc.? Then ask how these traits might influence how they sound. Try to think of real-life examples of voices to mimic perhaps? Often though, using one’s own voice with minimal changes works.

Second, after the over-all voice is found determine vocals for particular sections of the cutting. Essentially, plan how the plot can be vocally interpreted. Ask: what is my character’s overall desire/want? Break-down the script into manageable sections that have their own minor builds, idea, or moments (called a beat) and think of what a character wants in that section and a tactic (an action verb) to describe how they are going to get it. Beg, bargain, tease, seduce, humor, use confidence to hide something, etc. The stronger the verb the better. Relate this concept to personal experience and a vocalization is easily obtained. Also, ask how character relations (how a character views another, and how others view them) might influence vocalization/characterization/interpretation.

Further, look towards variation. Monotone is a killer of good Prose. Use voice to the fullest. Play with tone, pitch, pace/rhythm, and dynamics. Tone is the personality of a sound; does a character sound annoyed, blissful, terrified? Find the emotion and vocalize it. Pitch is the highness or lowness, and everything in between, of a sound. Is a character squeaky or a bass? Pitch can be used effectively to convey emotion or to perhaps develop a character’s voice (example: a timid woman with a slightly mousy pitched voice). Pace and rhythm are fantastic for adding variation. Speaking fast or slow both signal different moods. Fast speech is usually associated with mania; slow speech with a lethargic atmosphere--or an attempt to call down. Although, reversal into the unusual can be creative when appropriate. Dynamics are the level of sound--loud or soft. Not all emotions are bound by one level. Anger differs dramatically from loud yelling to tense, soft words. Create builds by starting at one level and traveling to the next while adding other variables as well. Experiment with all the variables. Mix and re-mix combinations. With endless matches a Prose should never be boring. Just be certain that any vocalization/characterization is compliant with and enhances the interpretation derived from the source material.

Narrator Voice and Silence

Storytelling is an art. The Oral Tradition has been around since people first began to speak. People needed entertainment, and a method to maintain historical accounts, and this was accomplished through vocal tales. In any medium where voice is crucial (for instance radio) the tone of voice is pivotal. People want to listen to a pleasing voice. Therefore, when creating a character do attempt to create one where an interesting voice is used. Lull the audience into following every word. Not that vocals must always be soothing, but avoid any scratchy, annoying vocalizations if unnecessary for characterization.

Also, it must be stated that silence is a potent tool. With so much emphasis on solid vocalization it seems strange to promote silence. Yet, it is because of the use of vocals that silence, when used effectively, can be shocking. At an appropriate time in a build place an extended pause if the piece allows. A few seconds of nothing but a great facial can make for a memorable moment.

Creating a great voice for a character is essential to a good Prose. Not only is one needed for the narrator but for all the secondary characters as well. Once a voice is found, developing it through interpretation of the script’s plot points will bring life to a cutting. Be certain to maintain wonderful diction and to project so not even those in the back are lost. This level of polish and development is sure to create a competitive Prose piece.