Thursday, February 22, 2007

There's always something to add!

Hey all! As ever, thanks for all your comments and stuff. I'm glad people enjoyed my little lecture series (watch out Al Gore . . . I never ever ever thought that would be something I would have said even in jest, dude.)

And just when you think it is safe to go back into the water . . .

Orion asked an interesting question and I was hoping, after of course I wax philosophical on the issue, whether people would add their own two cents. She asked what part of my book I read. Or read. Hmm . . .that was meant to highlight two different tenses there, wow isn't the English language amazing? Nevertheless one is meant to be present, the other past. You decide which is which.

Anyway . . .

I actually did a fair bit of research online before reading anything, and having now also gone twice to see Guy Gavriel Kay read and talk about what to choose to read, I have come to this conclusion:

Read something that doesn't take a lot of set up. That is, you aren't sitting there for twenty minutes explaining everything that led up until the bit you are sharing.

And next, read the funny bit.

This I can understand because no matter how beautiful and emotionally poignant your book can be, an audience member will find it hard enough to get interested in an excerpted section of your story, as well as having to get used to being read to, without having to emotionally invest herself in the character. It's a lot of work for fifteen/twenty minutes. I think also it is unlikely there are any books that don't have lighter moments to be found. And personally, everyone loves a good laugh.

I remember going to the JK Rowling, Stephen King and John Irving reading in NY. Now the former two had major groupies present, and while Mr. Irving was known to the crowd he did not get the loudest applause when introduced. But he read very well. And he was so funny. A lot had to do with the piece he chose to read, a lot with the delivery, but it was hilarious and brilliant and at the end of his reading he got the loudest applause out of all three the whole night.

Anyway, taking this in mind I found myself choosing to read two consecutive chapters early on. But not from right at the beginning because the mention of pirates doesn't happen until several chapters in, and I wanted the kids to know this was a book about pirates.

The first chapter I read was about some of my bad guys. It's a funny passage and also really gives a sense as to the mood of the book, that my story is just as much about the weird characters as the plot itself. And bad guys are awesome.

The next chapter I read went back to our protagonist and was very expository. It's basically one character telling the story of the Wigpowder treasure to another character. I read this because it ended with a cliffhanger (always leave 'em wanting more!), and it also gave a general sense of what the story was to be about, in essence, a treasure hunt.

I really feel like I chose the best two chapters because I got to both give a sense of tone as well as plot. And I did have them laughing aloud at parts, so I guess it was also funny.

I had to do a bit more setup than I wanted, especially because the end of the expository chapter finishes with a sort of "dum dum dum" line that you can only really appreciate if you know one minor fact from earlier on. And it is really hard to drop in a minor fact when you are summing up the general "what's happened so far" part of the book. It is even harder to drop in a minor fact that you don't want the audience to focus on, but I think I did it okay.

So that is what I chose to read (and that was whatever tense that was).

Now then, time for the rest of you to chime in, what bits do you read when you do? And what do you think as an audience member makes the perfect reading?

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Un

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Deux

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Trois


f.v said...

Stuart McLean on the Vinyl Cafe. But those stories are written specially to be read aloud. What he sacrifices in metaphors he makes up for in honesty, I think.

J M McDermott said...

the worst reading i went to was w.s. merwin. the thing that made it awful was the packed room of psychophants. His numerous fans, during the question and answer phase, didn't actually ask questions. they merely took turns lavishing praise upon w.s. merwin. he had this sick look on his face like "i flew in from hawaii in the winter for this?"

it wasn't his fault that his fans were not presenting themselves well, but i left feeling woogedy about readings.

the best reading i went to was for a dutch author named cees nooteboom who had this grandfatherly delivery that really worked, as well as excellent prose. added on to this, the reading was my first experience with the author at all. i went in with no preconcieved notions.

i think of it like a salesman: the audience is really the ones that will make a reading work or not, no matter how hard we try. just like sales presentations, there's only so much you can do before they take over or not. sales presentations are something - alas - which i have more experience doing than i ever actually wanted.

i think i'll just lip-synch to the audio book, when they eventually make one.

Marilyn said...

Hi Adrienne

Your mention of picking a section that doesn't need a great deal of set-up reminds me of a slightly different lesson I learned in what not to do when I attended a reading recently.

There were multiple authors reading that night, so naturally there was a time limit for each. Everyone stuck to it, except the last gentleman. Before he started reading he decided to tell us all about himself. All about himself. No one stopped him, because he was good friends with the organizer who had been timing everyone else. As the organizer laughed and laughed at the author's life story, the rest of the audience became bored and frustrated. When he finally got around to reading, the excerpt was actually pretty good but for a lot of the audience it was simply too late to be won over.

So while a quick note about where this story came from or who you are may be fine, I recommend remembering that folks are there for the story you wrote, not the story of you.