by Robert Morgan Fisher
In addition to writing and teaching, I have a lot of experience as a professional voice actor. And for a few years now, I’ve been recording many of my short stories. It’s made me a better writer—reading one’s work aloud is always useful. These days, there are many opportunities for writers to submit audio versions of their work—and even add production elements.
You don’t have to be a voice actor or engineer to do this. Here’s a case study of a recent short story I conceptualized, wrote, polished and then recorded. It’s called “I, Clown.”
The inspiration this short story came from a book I stumbled across in a rare book store: Clown Act Omnibus: A Guide to Clowning. It was a first-edition of a book that’s never gone out of print. It was first published in 1960 by a Christian organization and it’s quite a relic. I wanted to write a story about a clown for my collection, Cabaret Nation, which is a compendium of stories about the holiness of peripheral showbiz performers. Clown Act Omnibus was chock-full of solid craft info and hopelessly hokey illustrations and hundreds of actual clown “bits” or “skits,” concisely described and listed right down to the props and beats. Clown Act Omnibus unlocked the story and character for me. It was perfect. I soon had a solid story that surprised me in a good way. I revised and (for now) locked it.
Its length (about 10 pages) made it a perfect candidate to submit to this year’s Miller Audio Prize for Audio Fiction. I was a 2015 runner-up in that contest for my story “Vox Rex” (another story that wound up in Cabaret Nation) and was therefore eligible to enter again. Once you win a category, that’s it, you’re in some kind of Hall of Fame and unable to enter again. I really want to win—it’s the most prestigious Audio Fiction Prize on the planet outside of the Grammys. You can read more about that and hear my story, “Vox Rex,” HERE. Fair warning—it is about a voice actor.
I first recorded and edited a straight audio version using the Audacity program (which is easily downloaded). I then edited out all the inhales, mistakes, et cetera. Finally, I downloaded some free usage music and SFX—nothing too ambitious, just enough to add some atmosphere.
The final mixed-down story timed in at just under 15 minutes—which is the maximum allowable for the Miller Audio Contest rules. I paid my entry fee and voila! I’m a current contender. I also recorded and submitted several other stories, including one I had an actress friend of mine voice since it was a first-person lesbian narration (Hey, I’m a good actor—but not that good).
That short story is called “Sign Spinner: The Movie.” And it underscores an important point: Your short story… is a movie. Many famous films started out as short stories: Brokeback Mountain, Stand By Me, In The Bedroom, et cetera, et cetera.
We short story writers all, in the back of our minds, fantasize about some producer, director or actor falling in love with our work and turning it into film. And learning how to adapt your story into the audio realm is a good first step toward realizing that noble dream.
I’ve been teaching an online course in Audio Fiction, utilizing all of the techniques I mentioned above (as well as what I learned working in the field for several years as a professional voice actor) for Antioch University’s online inspiration2publication for a few years now. It’s called Be Heard! Recording and Uploading Your Writing.
Robert Morgan Fisher’s two-week online in2pub Course, Be Heard! Recording and Uploading Your Writing, begins April 15. Register here. You can read more about Robert and hear some of his produced audio fiction at his website link below:
Robert Morgan Fisher recently won the 2018 Chester Himes Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the 2019 John Steinbeck Award. His story, “Vox Rex” was Runner-up in 2015 for the coveted Miller Audio Prize in Fiction. His fiction and essays have appeared in Pleiades, Teach. Write., The Wild Word, The Arkansas Review, Red Wheelbarrow, The Missouri Review Soundbooth Podcast, Dime Show Review, 0-Dark-Thirty, The Huffington Post, Psychopomp, The Seattle Review, The Spry Literary Journal, 34th Parallel, The Journal of Microliterature, Spindrift, The Rumpus, Bluerailroad and many other publications. He has a story in the 2016 Skyhorse Books definitive anthology on speculative war fiction, Deserts of Fire and in the 2018 Winterwolf Press Howl of the Wild Anthology. He’s written for TV, radio and film. Robert holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles and is currently on the teaching faculty of Antioch University Santa Barbara. Since 2016, Robert has led an acclaimed twice-weekly writing workshop for veterans with PTSD in conjunction with UCLA. He often writes companion songs to his short stories. Both his music and fiction have won many awards. Robert also voices audiobooks. (www.robertmorganfisher.com)