What I learned from reading to an audience


Well, I’d not done much in the way of public speaking in a long time, so offering to read one of my stories aloud at a recent ‘Talking Tales’ storytelling night was maybe not such a good idea.

However, I’m glad I conquered the nerves of spouting in front of a live audience and did it. For a start it made me really aware of how dialogue comes across when read aloud (do the characters sound credible? Is the conversation believable? Do real people talk like this on the street?). I had a bash at doing the voices of my working class characters too, as I felt that would give them a bit of definition. Giving the characters their own accents and drawl would make them feel more like real people to the audience, I hoped.

Then of course, reading a story aloud makes you really aware of the pace and rhythm. Are there too many stops and starts and jumping between different scenes, so the audience gets confused? Does that scene take the listener neatly into the next section and flow into the rest of the story? Is there too much description that makes it drag/could be boring to a listener, although it may work better when read in someone’s head, from paper?

The stories that seemed to get the best reaction from the audience were the humorous ones, stories with strong characters, action and a lot of energy. I’ve never performed stand up comedy, but I guess the issues are similar, with pace and delivery being important and key.

And, of course, seeing the attentive smiling faces of the audience, caught up in the moment, made me feel it was all worthwhile. After all, you don’t get that immediate feedback from someone reading your words on paper or kindle, alone in a room somewhere. Stories really are for sharing.

I’d certainly do it again.

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