As NaNoWriMo approaches, I want the next couple of posts to be about how to enhance the writing process and make your story more impactful so that it stands out to readers everywhere! This week (as you can probably tell by the title of this post) I just want to give a few ways that reading your narrative aloud can save your work.
Some may think of this as a part of the editing process. Someone is me, I normally wait to read aloud until I want to edit but there are times when I am unsure of a certain scene or situation where I go back and read what I wrote not only to see if it makes sense grammatically but to analyze whether or not it should be there at all. Yep, that’s right, there are times where I have to delete scenes that don’t feel true to the story which is the lifeblood of narrative. Writers, we must realize that just because we write an awesome scene doesn’t mean it is a fit for our current project. If you truly love it, save it for something else. So, with all that being said, here are a few of the benefits one gets when reading their work aloud.
It helps you flesh out characters’ voices.
Every character you write should be different enough that the reader knows who is speaking without a dialogue tag attached to every word they utter. This can be done with early character development from accents to speech impediments to tonality and lexicon. If all your characters sound alike, you will definitely begin hearing it. And if you want the reader to understand the difference between them, you better start working on some serious character building.
*That being said, dialogue tags are great, this is not an attack on the dialogue tags. (They’re watching.) But if you want to know if your characters are truly unique, read lengths of dialogue without the names attached.
Helps with the pacing of a scene.
Pacing, pacing, pacing. We all knew that one day we would end up here but who knew it would come so soon?
What writer doesn’t get excited about their work? But if we get too excited we can hinder the pacing of the narrative. Narrative that is too slow will bore the reader and narrative that is to quick will confuse the reader because it may seem like it comes out of nowhere. Just to clarify, I will give this example: Let’s imagine that in The Hobbit it took twenty pages from the time the dwarfs saw the trolls before there was an actual battle. It would feel as though the pacing was off wouldn’t it? Why? Because you were expecting a battle scene after a spine-tingling introduction to these fiendish creatures. Pacing is all about dealing with expectations. When it comes to flushing out a scene and building it up, respect your audience. If you have set us up for a spine-tingling battle scene, don’t draw it out with a soliloquy given by the villain as to why he doesn’t truly wish to fight. On with the bloodshed!
It’s easier to pick up on grammar and syntax mistakes, as well as sentences that are correct but just a little wonky.
As a writer, we often don’t notice the little errors because we know what should be there so our brains just insert it. It is harder to miss the little mistakes when you are reading it like you would for the first time. Why? Because you are parsing through it and we all read slower than we think.
Likewise, a sentence may be grammatically correct and punctuated perfectly but still won’t read smoothly, this is the perfect place to pick up on that. Those seven-line sentences that could be broken up into four sentences apiece, those sentences where it takes two or three reads before you’re truly sure if you know what the author is trying to say or not. (I know we have all been there as readers so we have to acknowledge the mistakes as writers.)
Makes it easier to pick up on places that could use a bit of “spice,” not to mention scenes where you do too much.
Let’s be honest, there are times that we writers just write to get to the next important plot point or action sequence and we fill the space with unintelligible or just mismatched dialogue and narration because we just want to move on. And readers can tell when the author is doing it. If you are bored with your own work, what makes you think the reader won’t be? In order to create more expressive writing, it helps to think about all the different scenarios and how do you do that? Talking it out. Yeah, you might look crazy talking to yourself in a crowd but hey, we’re word nerds, we were crazy from the start.
Additionally, sometimes we do too much. I love writing descriptive scenes. I will go all into the way the wind blew a particular leaf and how that leaf impacted the tree in the meadow in the middle of a forest for no real reason other than I love picturing it in my head and want the readers to see exactly what I am seeing. It is like I am not trusting my readers to be creative enough to envision the beauty I wish to portray. As a writer, that is a big no-no. Trust your readers and delete the extra! I believe in you! You can do it! It may be beautiful work or it may just be space filler. Who knows? Perhaps the way the clock sitting on the mantle is carved is very important to what you are trying to say but if it isn’t cut it out, you don’t need it and your readers will eventually get tired of reading it.
Helps you see how interesting your narrative is from a reader’s perspective.
This may be the most important aspect to note when reading narrative aloud. People will pick up a book as long as the blurb seems intriguing but most will put it down if the plot moves to slow or the characters fall flat. As a writer, you are apt to think that your darlings are the greatest and that everyone will love your work as much as you do but that isn’t always the case. Reading aloud helps you to flush out the character’s voices as well as their mannerisms and how they would react to a certain situation. As I mentioned above, reading aloud can offer some pretty great benefits but when you read you have to read as an outsider. Don’t skip along because you already know what’s going to happen. Fill in the gaps in the narrative, question what the author is saying and if a character’s actions are believable just like you would if you were reading a novel you had just picked off the shelf. If this was not your own work, would you continue reading after the first chapter? How about the tenth? What are you doing to keep the audience’s attention? All of this can be worked out just by reading your work aloud.
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