Voice Actor's Notebook

The intention behind the words

In a previous post about acting emotions, I gave a list of the most common emotions that any actor worth his or her proverbial salt should be able to produce at the drop of the proverbial hat. But being able to authentically act out emotions is only the tip of a very proverbial iceberg. Yes. There is much, much more. And one of those “mores” is being able to deliver, with believability, the intention behind the words.

Everyone has a desire or a need that is trying to be fulfilled when we speak. The need could be for attention, acknowledgment, acceptance, and many others. So in order to have this need fulfilled, we speak up. But the way we speak up depends directly on what we think is the best way to get this need fulfilled. We consciously, or unconsciously, decide how we will get our desired outcome and speak thusly. And this becomes the intention that drives us as we speak. (Note: I’ve always wanted to use thusly in a sentence! 😉 )

Anyway… time for another list!

List of intentions

Following is a list of the most common intentions that people have when we speak. For practice, I suggest that you first say “It is my intention to—” and then the word, making sure you add the right vocal nuance to fit the intention. Here we go:

  • beckon
  • beg
  • challenge
  • charm
  • command
  • criticize
  • dazzle
  • demand
  • embarrass
  • encourage
  • flatter
  • intimidate
  • manipulate
  • motivate
  • patronize
  • please
  • plead
  • seduce
  • tease
  • urge

The intention of the script

Now that you have an idea of the possibilities, it’s time to take a fresh look at the scripts you practice. Each script usually has one main underlying intention. It’s the reason why these words are being said in the first place. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to find out what this intention is and read with that intention firmly in mind.

The good news is, the more you practice the easier it becomes to not only read with the proper intention firmly in your voice, but also to discover the underlying intention in the scripts you read. It’s as easy as the proverbial pie.

If you haven’t already, you might want to check out the related post:
List of acting emotions for practice