Photo credit to Ron Lach

Ever wonder what narrators do to avoid making mistakes while recording audiobooks? One of the answers is that they have scripts!

If you’re just starting to learn about the audiobook recording process, or already have some experience in the process, this suggested step may come as a surprise to you; but this step isn’t too widely talked about outside of the industry. This is part two of a series on audiobook scripting. In the previous post, I went over why you should make a script for audiobooks and how to do quality assurance for it. In this part, I’ll address how you can format the script and some special considerations for it.


There are tons of ways to format your script, and unfortunately there is no set standard because every book and narrator are different. You can borrow a lot of principles of formatting from genres such as screenwriting that you see for film, but understand that it is not a straight cross-over. There are a couple of reasons why:

Different way to annotate: Some narrators may want their characters’ changes noted by color, some by underlining, some by bolding. (Though I would avoid italics as they are generally used in the text itself to indicate interior thoughts.)

Dialogue tags: This is probably the number one reason why you can’t convert a book straight into an audiobook script using basic screenwriting formatting. Unlike a traditional script, where the speaker is naturally indicated by the formatting, audiobook narrators have to read dialogue tags to match the book itself.

  • For example, the narrator would have to read this full sentence, “‘He said, “I hate eggs. They smell disgusting to me.”‘” And the narrator would most likely have used two voices for that, the narrator and the voice of the character, we’ll call him Walter for this example.
  • In a typical script, the sentence would have read, “Walter: I hate eggs. They smell disgusting to me.”

On a related note, the point of view of the book can drastically change the formatting of a script. Depending if it is first, second, third person, or even with narrative frames like the unreliable narrator, it can drastically change the look of your script, how dialogue tags are handled, and how you would want to annotate it.

Depending on the scenes in the book you may see that you end up unintentionally revealing surprises earlier than you would in the book in its traditional format.

As an example, in Lord of the Rings, narrated by Andy Serkis, when the characters Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn come across who they think is Saruman. If the listener is paying attention, they realize it is Gandalf (spoiler alert: who everyone thought was dead) due to Serkis’ acting. This revelation happens several lines before it is actually revealed in the book.

Special Considerations

Depending on what the book is about, and what elements there are to telling the story, there may be some other odd things to format in the script:

  • Texting/email bubbles
  • Lots of internal dialogue, hearing voices, or telepathic conversations.
  • Sound effects and songs (which you may not get the rights to).
  • Signs, pictures or visuals

I know that may be a lot to take in and keep in mind when making an audiobook script, but just remember, take it one chapter at a time. Not all of these special cases or logistics may apply to you and your audiobook. You’re also not in this alone. Have a conversation with the author and narrator, see what they think and what preferences they may have. It may save you a lot of work in the end!

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