Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tips on reading aloud - Part Un

Okay. So like I always say, take what I write with a grain of salt. Take most things you read on the internet with a grain of salt. But I did really want to write about this, so I thought I would devote a few posts to the subject.

This first one will be quite actory talking about motivations and stuff. The next will be more technical, how to read what is on the page, speed, enunciation etc. And the last will be on presentation, how to present yourself to a room full of people. So now that you know, you can skip this post and go to your favourite one later on, or read ahead. You've been warned! Dum dum dum!!


When reading aloud you seriously do not want to bore your audience. This is tricky because being told a story is sort of connected with bed time and stuff and so often listeners will close their eyes and things. You may not be boring them, but tough to know otherwise. None the less, you must simply do all you think that you can do to entertain them. Remember it is about them, not you, when you are reading aloud. Otherwise why are you doing it?

So you must. . . act.

Scary I know. You don't need to get up and dance around, though I bet they would enjoy that, but you do need to deliver your text with panache, and dare I say it, feeling.

Now don't be frightened off by the idea of creating emotions in what you are reading. You yourself do not need to get emotional. In fact I have always considered acting a very logical exercise. Audiences watch an actor on stage and think that because they are seeing emotions brought vividly to life, that it must be an emotionally overwhelming process. Well it is. Of course it is.

But it also isn't. Otherwise how could we do it over and over, night after night (also you must know I do not come from the method school of acting, so what I am sharing with you are my opinions only, please do not consider anything I say as an absolute - or I'll get in trouble).

Why is it logical? Well there are reasons behind emotions, motivations, even if the reason is that the motivation is unreasonable. Often times people react as we would expect them to. They cry when they are sad and laugh when they are happy. But . . . more often than not, you'll find that people may laugh when they are sad and cry when they are happy. And this to me, though seeming not, is still rather logical. Not the actual emotional responses, but the analysis of emotional responses. I can understand logically why someone would cry when they are very happy. It could be that they never thought that anything so wonderful could happen to them, maybe they think they are unworthy of good things.

Another example: If someone just snaps out of the blue, chances are they aren't just snapping out of the blue, but rather have a wee bit of pent up anger just waiting to explode.

Now then, if you are the author of the book you are reading (and I am kind of writing this for those of you who are). You are lucky. You wrote the book. So you understand the logic behind the motivations of the characters. You know that your main character is frightened of snails but can't tell his mother because she is an expert french chef. Go with it my friend. Seriously don't be scared. Yell when a character is angry because everyone always makes fun of them, laugh when they finally win a contest. I'd say avoid crying because crying usually comes across as self indulgent, but you can lower your voice, make it softer, when the character is sad that no one likes him.

Read the lines logically. How would YOU feel if that was you speaking? The "magic if" is what Stanislavsky called it. If I was this character, how would I feel?

Above all do not, I repeat do not, just use this advice for the dialogue in your book. If the MS is in the first person, well then it is super easy. Read the descriptive text as if you are the one telling the story, the very first time anyone has told this story. Get excited when exciting things happen, and resigned when you think about your character's unlucky lot in life.

If the book is third person things get trickier. Third person limited, do as with first person. Even though you are reading different pronouns, pretend you are reading "I" as opposed to "he/she".

If the book is third person with multiple points of view? Well then you got an even harder task. You've got to step into each character's head each time you switch. So first you are Sally all nervous about her date. Then you are Ben, arrogant because all women love him. Then you are Doug the mailman, tired of his long day at work. You can do it. You really can.

Oh and you really don't need to do different voices if you don't feel up to the challenge. Your book is already written in a way so that people will know who you are talking about. And if you are using the proper motivations and emotions with each character, then the audience will know who is who easily.

I know, I know. Sounds a bit flaky, but remember this is the "acting" post. I wanted to touch on motivations, and the "magic if", and remind people that descriptive text must be just as emotive as dialogue.

Tomorrow I will give you guys some tangible straightforward techniques, kind of like a cheat sheet for faking emotion. It's really cool. Trust me.

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Deux


Zinnia said...

When I read aloud, I read like I'm sharing something with a close friend. It works well for me.

Reading aloud when writing a WIP is a great way to catch errors too.

adrienne said...

Good points both of them! It's always so interesting to read aloud when working on your WIP, it's so odd that that way you can catch tons of errors you otherwise might not have noticed!