An Experiment in Immersive Storytelling
Behind the Scenes:
A Wonderful Voice Actress
Momentum is a funny thing, especially when it comes to creative pursuits.
Once you start a creative project and consciously make the decision every day to move it forward, before long, it takes on a life of its own. Once a creative project has movement—has momentum, it's hard to stop, even if you try. Of course, you can just stop doing the project, but that's not what I mean. I mean, it gets into your head, deep in the recesses of your subconscious, and doesn't want to let you go until you're finished.
For my creative projects, it's not enough that something gets "done," but it has to be complete in a way that I find satisfying, a way that I can step back, look at it, and say to myself, "I'm happy with that because I did the best job I could do."
At the time of writing this, it's now August of 2022, and I have much more experience in many things than when I created Absolution. I've written short stories, a novella, and my first novel; I've taken those shorter works and turned some of them into audiobooks. I found, auditioned, directed voice actors, and even did the audio mastering on Night of the Living Cake Monsters, as well as the short story "Inching Along After the Apocalypse," which you can read for free here or get the fantastic audio version as a gift for joining my weekly newsletter Into Horror History.
I've gotten a lot done, and I still do, every single day.
I have momentum in this thing called writing.
When I was working on Absolution, after a while, the project took on a life of its own and demanded more and more from me. One of those demands was an authentically accented female voice to play the part of Delilah in a few places. Sure, I could have changed the story, altered the script, and cut out any speaking part for Delilah—but that would have removed some of the immersion and gone against the very essence of what I was trying to accomplish.
Unless you follow some of my flash fiction, specifically the horror-related videos I occasionally make, you likely have no idea how I sound, but I can tell you right now that I don't sound like a twenty-something woman from Slovenia, and without a hell of a lot of professional training, I have absolutely zero chance of ever pulling off that kind of voice. My spouse, Tae, sometimes lends her voice talents to my short-form videos, but she doesn't do accents. My friend Katja, who speaks Slovenian, had no experience with voice acting.
So, that left me with one choice: find someone. But, where do you turn for that kind of thing? It's a pretty specific set of criteria. I needed a voice actress who took direction well, could convey intense emotion in a few lines, could record with a reasonably authentic Slovenian accent, and would do it for little pay and REALLY DAMNED FAST!
I was juggling a lot trying to pull this whole thing off, and finding a voice for Delilah was something in the back of my head that I knew I needed to do, but time flies by when you're working on a creative project. It's that momentum, the whole thing carries you along with it, and if you aren't paying attention to your surroundings, you'll get swept away and lose track of all kinds of things.
Some websites exist that allow the creation of job postings looking for voice actors and searching for voice talent. I tried those back in 2017, and my job postings got no interest, and I couldn't find anyone who could do a Slovenian accent. No matter how much Googling I did or who I talked to, I couldn't find anyone who fit the criteria.
What do you do when the Internet fails you?
You try a different part.
There's a subreddit for almost anything, and I found a few for voice actors seeking work. To my surprise, I posted on one of those subreddits and received a reply almost immediately from a woman named Nikolina Pavleković. We exchanged a few emails on what I was trying to accomplish and the idea behind Absolution, and then she sent some recordings beyond what I had imagined and did so overnight.
Momentum, my own determination, and a wonderful voice actress. Thanks, Nikolina. Without you, the voice of Delilah would have been very different, or wouldn't have existed at all. The recordings Nikolina did were just Delilah's part, so I had to quickly figure out how to voice the role of Gregor, record my own voice, and put it all together. Oh, and effects like a door being banged on, a crash, and a death. It was a lot to take on for a first audio project and required quickly picking up quite a few skills. The whole thing seemed like a ton of work.
With no time and no skills, what is a person to do?
It took a few days and a lot of attempts, but I figured it out. I had the momentum of all this hard work moving me along, my own past self's work pushing me forward. The skills I picked up in that frantic time are still with me, and I've honed them, even more today, to the point where I'm comfortable stepping up to a microphone and recording anything.
I'm sure there's a lesson or moral of the story here somewhere.