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JOAN BARTH ON: READING ALOUD

July 12, 2010

Writers are often advised to read their work aloud as a way to make sure their words and sentences flow smoothly. I think it’s even better to have someone else read while you listen, as you can often discover what is missing in your writing by doing so.

When I read my own work out loud, I’m often unable to hear what I may have left out. Listening to someone else, however, I find myself asking questions about my characters and their actions, or about the settings I’ve created for them. My natural curiosity is aroused when I am concentrating on absorbing a story that’s being told to me by someone else, but it lies dormant when I’m listening to myself.

If it were up to me to read aloud the following sentence: “The boy stood on the burning deck”, chances are I’d be more concerned about clearly enunciating a line from a famous poem than the meaning of the words. But if I’m the listener, I start to ask questions: What boy? Is the deck attached to his house or on a ship? Why is it on fire? If the boy is at sea, where is the ship located?

So ask a friend to do you a favor and read your work to you…I guarantee that hearing it in another voice will give you a new slant on what you’ve written.

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