Friday, November 15, 2013
When Writers Shouldn't Read
By Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.
Last Sunday I participated in an author event at a local library. (A shout out for Douglas County Libraries and their support of indie authors!) At that event, and an earlier one for a major bestselling author, sponsored once again by Douglas County Libraries and Tattered Cover Bookstore, I heard authors read from their books.
Readings have historically been an expected part of author appearances. The author shares a little about their process, or their life, or something relevant to their book, and then they choose a passage or two to read aloud to the audience. It's a time-honored tradition.
I'm going out on a very long limb here to say it's a bad idea. And in some cases, a very bad idea.
It doesn't matter how well you think you read, and how much you love your book (I think I read aloud exceptionally well), you need to take a pass. Unless you've had professional training as an actor, the words you've written are best left to the ears and minds of the reader.
Most of the readings I've heard have sounded flat to my ear. Boring, really. Misplaced inflections, odd pronunciations, and either too fast or too slow. My mind begins to wander and I mentally check out.
Unless you've written a children's book and have a room full of four year-olds, reconsider including a reading in your author appearance. You'll probably be ahead of the game.
What do you think? Is it just me?
Posted by Peg Brantley at 1:00 AM
Labels: author appearances, author readings, Douglas County Libraries, Peg Brantley, professional actor, Tattered Cover
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I wonder if some authors don't practice reading aloud nearly as much as they should. I read a funny passage aloud, and the people who were listening kept snickering even though I stumbled once or twice (despite practicing for hours and hours).ReplyDelete
My first few attempts, which fortunately were between just me and my daughter... let's just say a monkey could've done a far better job.
I agree with the practice thing, but if someone doesn't come close to having the skill, and there's no teacher to help them learn, all practice gets them is more of the same. Usually.Delete
I'm with you Peg. I don't attend readings and I don't participate. I'm happy to give talks at a bookstore or answer questions, but I let readers do the reading. :)ReplyDelete
I agree, Peg. My mind wanders when anyone reads aloud to me, so I'd much rather read it myself!ReplyDelete
During my booksigning event earlier this week, I came up with what I think is an ideal answer. My book, Widow's Row, is available on audio. That audio was professionally produced and narrated by a talented actress who could read male and female dialogue, young and old, and different nationalities. I just popped my computer on, turned up the volume, and let the pro do my reading!ReplyDelete
That's an interesting alternative. It would have to be one hell of a narrator (which I trust you had). How did you select what you played?Delete
I giggled at, "…and have a room full of four year olds." I couldn't agree more!! :)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Michelle. Your comment made me smile right back!Delete
Some are good at reading in front of others, and some aren't. But anyone who does it MUST practice beforehand.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Barry, I agree with the concept of practice. But just as I need an editor to make my book worthwhile, I'd need an acting coach to make my narration worthwhile. I still think it's probably the wiser move to allow the reader their own personal experience.Delete
I loathe having to read my book in front of a group, and I'm not sure audience members enjoy it, either. I think it's more enjoyable for all to have a discussion about the work. If they want to know what's inside, gaining access is pretty easy these days.ReplyDelete
You sound just like L.J., and I couldn't agree more. A discussion can lead to more discovery, and the reader can make their own determination.Delete
I think the challenge is made even greater if anything other than the first pages are read. Absent context and any feel for the characters it is hard, as a listener, to engage.ReplyDelete
Excellent point. Afer all, it's the first page or so (or less) that allows the reader to see into the rest of the work and make a decision as to whether or not they want to invest their time and money.Delete
The "required" reading of one's book came into vogue in the 19th century, I believe. Before other forms of mass entertainment. Writers such as Dickens and Twain were raconteurs and actors as well as writers. If one is not an actor, or an orator, I agree - don't read your books aloud. Or anything else. :)ReplyDelete
We might compare the "read your novel" to the "read your poetry" club. Too many poets hyperventilate when reading their work these days. But, then, their poetry is often hyperbolic. :)
Reading fiction aloud is a skill and craft, like any other. Read one's own fiction aloud requires madness or an innate thespianism. Or both.