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  • Donald J. Bingle, Writer on Demand

Ruminations on Reading and Audio

Summer is not only convention season--I am a regular panelist on writing topics at both Origins and GenCon--but it is also the season for outdoor cafe' readings and open microphone nights at local coffee shops and art galleries, which means that I have more readings scheduled than other times of the year. That's fine. I like reading and some people tell me that I do a good job of them. (Of course, most of those people are my friends, so their judgment is already suspect.) Anyhow, here's a few ruminations on reading in public. First of all, you should pick a reading that fits the program for the scheduled event. If the setting is for artsy adults, pick something more literary. If it's at a park where kids may wander by, avoid scenes/stories with sex, violence, and adult language (or at least edit for the potential audience). If there is an event theme or nearby holiday, match up with it (horror tales at Halloween, holiday stories in December, etc.). Read something that is discrete or self-contained in some way. If you are reading an entire story, pick one that is short enough to finish. If you are reading from a longer work, pick a scene that (a) does not require too much set-up (openings are good), (b) shows off the tone and pace of the longer tale, and (c) does not contain any spoilers. Sure, it's okay to tantalize the listeners enough that they want to go out and get the story/book, but don't leave them so frustrated they get pissed off. Try to avoid scenes with too many different characters in them. While it is easy to convey two characters in read dialogue by slightly different accents/voices or by a simple turn of the head one way or the other, depending on who is speaking at any moment, it is difficult for listeners to keep track of too many characters at once without the visual cues of the written word. Fit your tale to the time allotted. Time your reading by actually reading aloud and then figure you will go a bit longer (for set-up, audience reactions, etc.). Don't try to cram in a longer reading in a short time slot by reading faster--that's not fun or entertaining or impressive in any way and defeats the purpose of the reading, which is to induce people to your work. By the way, if you regularly trip over the same phrase when you practice, others probably do that when they read your stuff, so that sentence needed fixing. Reading your material aloud is a great way to check for clumsy construction and to identify attribution descriptions that come too late. (E.g., if you shout "That's enough!" and then read the description "he whispered," odds are your readers are reading that line as a shout rather than an urgent whisper, so move the attribution up front: "John turned to Sally and whispered, "That's enough!") Practice, not only for time, but for nuance and inflection. This isn't like being called on in class to read a passage, this is theater, people. Vary your cadence, emphasize words to maximize impact, pantomime some of the visual character clues like pointing or wrinkling your nose, etc. Read louder and slower than feels normal, because theater isn't normal, it's louder and slower. Try to get familiar enough with the material that you can look up from the page from time to time. I'm not great at this and am always in awe when slam poets do a ten minute segment from memory. Bring not only your most recent book/product to sell, but whatever book/product has the story/scene you read from. Your audience might specifically want what you read. You induce buyers to a product, not just to you as an author. Consider whether you have the voice, acting skills, and sound set-up to do your own audio books. I used a professional voice-actor to do the audio version of my spy thriller, Net Impact ( Bruce Pilkenton did an awesome job, with Chinese, New Zealand, American, and other accents and voices, far better than I could have done, but my voice might be right for some of my shorter works. For example, here's video/audio of my readings at Waterline Writers for my dark tales "For Every Time, A Season" (, "Someday" (, and my lighter, holiday tale "Season's Critiquings" ( Let me know what you think. And, lest anyone post this week without mentioning Twitter sensation Sharknado, my Schlock Zone Drive-In novella (under the pen name Buck Hanno) "Ratfish" is at a special price of 99 cents this week. Grab it, give it, read it, review it, and tell SyFy you want a movie made out of it, if you get the chance. Aloha, Don

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