We authors always wonder about reading our work to our audiences. Should we do it? How important is our rendering of our words? Or even–will our listeners fall asleep?
I’ve been to a lot of readings now and thought maybe some guidelines might help improve our performances, for performances they are. We get the chance to bring our own words to life for our best audiences–those who love to read. Shouldn’t we spend a lot of time making sure our performance will be great? At my last book launch my author friend, Sharon Clare demonstrated her abilities in this regard.
Here are a few ideas which all authors might try.
Dress the part. Whatever your personal style a reading event is a place to put your best face forward. In the photo here, Sharon has put on a lovely dress, not too ostentatious so as to take away from the main show (the launch of The Loyalist’s Luck) but professional and attractive.
Be familiar with the passage you’re going to read. Breathe where the punctuation indicates and NOT in the middle of sentences. Believe it or not I’ve seen this done many times to the detriment of the story. This is your reading audience who are most prone to buy books if they like your story. Polish it up like your best silver or your favorite sports car.
Mark up your text if need be so that you emphasize the right words and breathe for effect. Print the selection out and enlarge it, if need be. Use your marker to show emphasis. The more you practice this, the more natural it will become.
If you have a tendency to be a little nervous (who doesn’t?) plant your feet firmly on the floor and even push down on them. I learned this a long time ago when I was singing solos and my knees would shake so much my breathing could be affected, bad for a singer. Nowadays if my knees start to do their own dance I push down hard and they stop. Everyone gets nervous. We just need to find ways to conquer our fears.
Look at your audience. Not all the time because that’s impossible. Rather, choose a significant point maybe where a character makes an impactful statement. If you say those few words looking at someone in the audience you’ll emphasize the words and hook the audience into your story. And don’t be afraid to speed up and slow down as the meaning of the words requires. No one likes to hear a reading done in the same tone and at the same pace for the whole thing. Use pacing and eye contact to vary your presentation.
The tone of your voice can be extremely important. Speak with a lower tone perhaps with narrative bits and then raise your voice as excitement increases. Your pacing will increase, too, and once the scene changes again, you can go back to a more subtle, quiet voice. The variation keeps your listeners enthralled.
Last night was the last of four book events I had in six days. It was at a local library with about a dozen people there. I wasn’t going to read but gave in to the audience and read a poignant section from The Loyalist’s Luck. I love that part and can hardly read it without choking up a bit. I let that happen and the audience love it. Afterwards several people commented on how much they love to hear me read. And I sold books.
Many other things can help us put our books out in the world by reading; these are but a few. Feel free to add your own special tricks in the comments below.
For All Lovers of Historical Fiction!
The Loyalist’s Luck, Book Two in The Loyalist Trilogy!
John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.
The Loyalist’s Wife, Book One in The Loyalist Trilogy!
by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship
Short-listed for Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair’s Canada Self-Published Book Awards
When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.