Many writers will recommend that as you edit your tale, you do a final read-through so that you can see how the story sounds. After all, if you’re going to be doing readings in libraries or at signings, you want to make sure that your tale flows well, that it’s free of typos, and that the dialog sounds natural.
But might I suggest something more? I think that you need to perform your story much as an actor would. Imagine that you’re an actor, hungry to get a job, and that you’re reading this tale as an audition so that an employer can gauge your skills.
That means that you don’t just read it, but that you read it with gusto. In other words, before you read, you need to gather your wits, develop the voice of each character, and then “act out” that character’s scene, complete with gestures and the speaker’s emotive tone. This helps you make certain that you get each character’s voice down honestly.
More than that, it lets you look at your dialog tags and study the way that you’ve signaled the emotional beats, to make sure that the reader can understand what your characters are thinking and convey their feelings.
Of course, every story has a narrator, and so you will pay attention to how you’ve narrated the piece. You’ll look closely at the poetry in your use of language. You’ll weed out weak transitions between speakers and between scenes, even as you strengthen your description and niggle with the text.
Remember: writing is a performance art. When you create a piece of fiction, you get to sit in your chair in silence and thoughtfully perfect your tale.
But ultimately you will offer it to the public, where millions of others may sit quietly. On the invisible stage of their own minds, they will devour your words. Through the images and sounds and emotions and thoughts that you arouse, they will be thrust into your world, into the lives of your characters, into their loves and dramas and tragedies, and your readers will be swept away.
Just giving your work a half-hearted reading isn’t enough. When Shakespeare finished a play, he would sit with actors and rehearse a tale perhaps sixty times before it was ever performed in public, and it might be performed another hundred times and changed over a single season. He would throw away scenes and add new lines again and again, honing his work. What we see when we read his plays isn’t a rough draft or even a tenth draft. We’re seeing something that may have been shaped and polished over many seasons.
Do as the bard did. Perform your story, at least a few times.
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