I am not a public speaker. Standing in front of a crowd, even if it’s just to introduce someone else, makes my throat go dry, my voice squeak and my palms sweat. A teacher once videotaped (yes, I’m dating myself with that word) class members reading aloud and when I watched the playback of myself, I silently swore never to open my mouth again in public. It was that hideous.
Needless to say, I swoon in awe listening to those gifted enough to give TED talks, run engaging seminars and perform in the theater. They seem so comfortable. So relaxed. So real.
Recently I had the opportunity to listen to an audio version of a book I read and enjoyed last year. Now let me state right here that I’m a sucker for a British accent (see: Pride & Prejudice, the BBC version; Downton Abbey, et al). Since the book was written by Jojo Moyes, a Brit, it made sense the audiobook would be read by British narrators.
As a writer, listening to this audiobook was a revelation.
The settings were more vivid than they were on the page. The dialogue crackled. The characters felt so real, so alive, that I found myself anticipating their responses to each other, laughing out loud talking back to them as I walked the dog.
I’ve often told my children to read out loud while studying. Seeing words on a page is only one way the brain receives information. Reading them aloud is another; hearing them read to you is one more. The brain process the information differently with each type of intake, just as it does when watching a movie version of a story you’ve read. So why should writing a book be any different?
Suffice it to say I will be reading my writing aloud from now on. I want to hear each word, understand how they’ll sound strung together, how I’ll feel when I hear them. My goal is to make my stories and characters as real to others as Ms. Moyes’ book felt to me. And I may or may not do it with a British accent.
Do you read your work aloud when editing? Has it changed how you write? How? I’d love to hear from you.