Prepping for a Reading

Have you ever read your writing aloud in public? I haven’t and am about to.

My short story “When a Friendship Fails” has been nominated for the Capital Crime Writer’s Audrey Jessup. As part of the nomination, the 5 nominated authors are asked to read part of the story aloud. The event is taking place in a pub in down town Ottawa.

The complete story takes 20 minutes to read, and I’ve been given 7 minutes.

I’ve been using Audacity to practice, and to deliver a strong emotional impact, I need to choose if I should read:

  • from the beginning
  • middle
  • or the last three scenes

Audacity makes me listen and practice. After I decide which section to read, I can work on the timing.

Here’s my question.

When reading a scene on a page, the reader can see paragraph breaks and knows a new character is speaking. But when listening to a story, the listening doesn’t have the advantage of seeing the paragraph breaks. I’m not an actor who can change the sound of my voice for each character (although I’m trying),  so when reading from a finished work, is it okay to add a few he said/she said tags to make it clear who is speaking?

What comes next and is the most nerve-wracking of all: I have to read aloud in front of people.

Yikes.

Thanks for reading . . .

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12 thoughts on “Prepping for a Reading

  1. My human has been on stage alot so she has no problem using voice inflictions to do our speaking parts. However, we think it would be OK to say he said , or he replied or replies. . I, ugh, I mean WE, wrote our books in present text and it was hard to remember to stay in present text when writing. . Maybe even using the character’s name so if there are more than 2 people in the scene the audience will know which man is replying. Such as Then Bill replied or Sally then said. Having to read only a part and having it make sense would be the difficult part. Does the audience get a brief synopsis before you read? I would think you want to give them some ” meat of the story” but if they don’t know the characters they might not understand what is going on. Good luck to you.

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      1. I know when people tell me stories and they use he and she alot I start to get confused as to which he or she they are talking about. Let us all know how it goes

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  2. Professional audio book readers (actors) seem to just change their pitch and rhythm slightly between characters for an effective result. The difference can be subtle and remain effective for the listener. Any of Edward Herrmann’s recordings would provide an excellent example.

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  3. I think adding a few “he said” “she said”s to the piece is perfectly fine when you’re reading out loud. Probably the easiest thing to do is just read it to someone and ask them to tell you if they’re confused at any point.

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  4. That’s really cool that you’ve been nominated for that award! Congratulations!

    I’ve done a number of readings, lasting about 30 minutes each. (For that long, a water bottle is essential!) Here are my 2 bits about your questions:

    For choosing what part, I’d choose the part that’s going to make listeners want to read the whole story — which is probably near the beginning.

    About reading dialogue: I, too, think it’s helpful to clarify who is saying what. I’ve listened to audiobooks in which the reader doesn’t change his voice, and without specific information to make it clear who’s talking, I’ve been absolutely lost and have given up listening.That is unlikely to occur in your 7 minutes, of course, but there’s still no sense in losing people.

    If you like to read dog stories, check out my new blog, http://maijaharrington.com, where I’m posting chapters from my book-in-progress, “Funny Tails: Adventures and Misadventures in Living with Pugs.” It’s a humorous look at my life with our 3 pugs as well as a series of foster pugs from Pug Rescue of North Carolina. Readers tell me it’s pretty funny.
    In any case, I’m glad I found your blog!

    Best wishes on your reading!
    Maija (pronounced My-uh)

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    1. Maija, Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’m practicing my characters voices. There are only two who speak in the seven minutes and both are women. I’m trying to make one sound softer, more whispery, and the other harsher and a little aggressive to match her personality. I think you’re right about reading from the beginning. I’ve got my reading within seconds of 7 minutes, so I’m pretty happy with that.

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  5. Tina how exciting! Congrats on being selected and hope the reading goes well. Sounds like you are doing a great deal of preparation so you will do fine I’m sure.

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