We’ve all got that performance that stands out in our heads. That touching moment when the music swells and a character breaks into their own heartfelt solo performance. Voice acting monologues continue that tradition of emotional engagement and get us to care more deeply about what we’re watching or listening to.
Monologues by themselves are not a good or bad thing; in fact, the word has both positive and negative connotations. It could mean someone talking incessantly, keeping the conversation on for too long and not focusing on their interlocutor. It could mean a brilliant solo performance that enraptures and captivates.
A good monologue is a lot more like the second than the first. It’s not a conversation that should be allowed to go on for too long. Capturing the perfect balance between too much and too little is on the scriptwriter’s hands, though. They need to fine-tune every aspect until they create the desired effect. Then it’s up to the performer to bring it to life and imbue it with gravitas and a personal touch. Good voice over monologues mix these aspects into a cohesive whole that sticks that creates an indelible memory.
Let’s define the terms that we’re going to be using in the article and talk about some outstanding examples!
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
This post was updated in April 2021
What is voice acting?
I’ll keep this brief because we have detailed files on the subject, which I’ll link to below. Voice acting is the art of performing voices, which can represent a character or communicate an idea, to an audience. The range of works that can include voice acting is very varied, and can include many mediums; voice acting can be used in dubbing, films, music, animation, TV, commercials, radio, podcasts, etc.
Voice acting may be considered a subset of the process of recording a voiceover – a production technique for laying down the track.
Voiceovers are very prevalent in our culture. They’ve permeated most aspects of our everyday lives, but we rarely notice it due to constantly being on the receiving end of a barrage of information. Radio ads, public announcements, YouTube commercials, cartoons, animated features – it’s all there!
Voice acting monologues: what are they?
Monologues go as far back as Greek theatre. They’re used as literary and dramatic devices where characters express their thoughts aloud to the audience or other characters.
Monologues are very common throughout all media. They also have shared DNA with other literary devices, such as soliloquies, apostrophes, and asides. I’ll enumerate some distinctions about these below.
- Apostrophes address an object, idea, or imaginary character;
- Asides are shorter and are not heard by other characters, even when they should be able to. Think of them as a sort of dramatic parenthesis, or a semi-fourth wall break.
It took some time for theater to evolve into the dialogue-laden plays we see today. At first, only one actor was on stage, along with the chorus. Therefore, the monologue didn’t evolve as a dramatic device; it was dialogue that flowed from the monologue as more and more actors were incorporated. Romans, which were known for taking Greek conventions up to eleven, featured monologues even more extensively in their plays.
Monologues can also be identified by whether the character is talking to himself (interior), or to another character (dramatic). Active monologues occur whenever a character is advancing their story with their speech; narrative ones happen when they’re recounting the story in the past tense.
Actors and actresses sometimes have to perform monologues during auditions. This may be a way for producers to see whether they’ve been able to get into character correctly and if they’ve got the reading down pat. Any type of acting has some intangible qualities that simply must be there in the performance. While tweaks can and do occur, actors are expected to show up prepared, with the ability to get in character as requested.
The power of voice acting monologues
Monologues are usually make-or-break moments for characters. It’s where they get to express their emotional state in a direct, unvarnished way. They may shed light into their origins, reveal how the events of the plot have left a psychological toll, pontificate about their philosophy, reveal their master plan, among many more.
Usually, we’re all waiting for it; that scene-stealing bit where the hero or villain gets to make a stand; that moment when they finally tell the big bad what’s what, or they confess their love for another character after seasons of will they/won’t they; that moment of doubt, the fall before their inevitable rise up into redemption, becoming better than their previous selves. A monologue can set the table for the character’s ultimate becoming into their hero persona.
So, if all of these examples brought ideas and memories into your head, good! It’s just further proof of the power of voice acting monologues! As they often come at pivotal points in a story, they’re meant to enhance and elevate the emotional content of what’s being conveyed by the character. They can be a moment for audiences to fully connect with either positive or negative emotion, and they bare everything for all to see. If they’re executed masterfully, they’ll leave a lasting impact; done badly, they’ll just bog down the whole thing.
As I like to focus on positives, I’m going to share some awesome moments with you to provide you with inspiration. If you’re preparing an animated series or any other dramatic or literary piece of art where a monologue could blow people away, get your notepads ready!
Mark Hamill: The Killing Joke
Mark Hamill as the Joker almost needs no introduction. At this point in history, the man’s more Joker than Luke Skywalker anyway. He’s played the character through countless iteration of the Batman Animated Series, for one. So iconic was his role as the character that many believe his to be the definitive version of the villainous, murderous clown. From the series to its endless offshoots and spinoffs, up until the Arkham series games, he’s been a mainstay.
And with good reason! His twisted, raspy cackle can serve as both the punchline to a sinister joke, or the manic counterpoint to a twisted act of evil. There was no doubt in DC’s minds that whenever they brought perhaps the most iconic Joker story to life, Killing Joke, Hamill would do the honors. And don’t get me wrong: Romero, Nicholson, Ledger, and Phoenix are absolute legends. I just stand firmly with DC when I say that there has never been another actor to portray the Clown Prince of Crime so vividly in the realm of animation.
Now, be advised: the following clip contains some strong language and imagery. This is not your Daddy’s Joker; the Killing Joke is a pitch-black tragedy written by Alan Moore. It’s been an endless well of inspiration for cinematic versions of the Joker as well; everybody’s taken something from this brooding pseudo-origin story. You can also take it as a summation of the Joker’s ethos: the pleasure of insanity over the pain of sanity.
One Bad Day
If one’s not good enough for you, I’ve got a twofer! Did you really think I was going to leave this one out? As revealing as TKJ is into the Joker’s internal world, there really is one place for understanding the character. The “One Bad Day” monologue stands as one of the best moments in comic book history, now brought to life through the mights of Hamill and voice acting monologues. The fact that his most intimate moment comes as he’s trying to kill Batman with several traps only makes it better.
Bojack Horseman: Free Churro
Now, if you haven’t watched this postmodern masterpiece, I urge you to open Netflix and get in on the action. The Free Churro monologue is a very clever meta-joke directed at the show and TV as a visual medium. These things are even referenced by the character of Bojack himself. And, as you know, we’ve gotten masterful at deconstructing and criticizing our own art from within.
So, the writers ran with the opportunity to comment on the show from within itself. They also gave the audience a chance to participate in interpreting Bojack’s feelings as he ran the gamut of emotional states.
This is part of the “writerly”, our audience-centered text of Bojack’s writing. This means that the audience’s interpretation becomes a part of the story, as no answers are easily offered. In the end, it’s the audience’s digestion of the material and its emotional depth that will leave everyone with their own answer. This plays into how Bojack himself is struggling to interpret his mother’s passing in different ways.
It works as a revealing psychological portrait, an ironic commentary on Bojack’s narcissistic personality, the invisibility of his pain, and the show itself. Now, that’s writing, and that’s voice acting, ladies and gentlemen.
Honorable mention: War never changes
Now, this is one for video game buffs. The medium is rife with voice acting monologues, some good, some bad. But few are as iconic as the “war never changes” opening monologue to the Fallout series.
This short collection of the intros to all main four Fallout games also exemplifies how far the series has come in the realm of production value.
Summing up my thoughts about voice acting monologues
Like anything, voice acting monologues are to be used sparingly and carefully. You don’t want to overdo, nor undersell your big dramatic moment. Hopefully, some of these monologues have served as guidance to inspire you towards writing and producing material that will win your audience’s heart.
Of course, rules are made to be broken, and writers are always finding ways to break new ground with monologues. Trust yourself, your script, and your voice talent, and make history!
And, of course, if you’re looking for tippy-top voice talent, Bunny Studio’s the place. Submit a project today!