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Obvious Things I’ve Learned While Reading My Stories Aloud

The Story Tittle Matters

The title does so much of the initial work of the story. Not only does it establish the tone, it provides the reader with subliminal clues, such as the setting, the plot’s main conundrum, etc. I’ve always known my titles encapsulate the meaning of the story—if you didn’t get the title, I haven’t written the story well enough. But these other things I have only just seen as I read aloud.

Extraneous Characters Need to Go

Occasionally, readers complain about the number of characters in my work—I like a well-populated world. But, when a story is read aloud, you are really forcing the reader to follow a line of thought. The reader has to tuck away information to be retrieved later. If a character they’d had to remember isn’t vital to the story, then you’ve asked them to do a lot of work for nothing, which I don’t think they will appreciate.

My Stories Do NOT All have the Same Voice

Sometimes when I’m considering the stories I’ve chosen to include in this collection, I lump them all together: the funny Southern stories. But when one reads aloud stories written in first person, you assume your character’s personna. The narrators in these stories have different voices. I know this because I can hear it: I read them differently.

Five Years of Reading Radio Commentaries Wasn’t for Naught

I wrote and read commentaries on WKNO for a long time. I learned a “read” story is different from a written story and different from a told story. For some reason, these short stories are good “read” stories. I was smart to decide to podcast them, read aloud.

I Know How to Write a Short Story with a Plot

Reading aloud, you can hear the ping! of the plot points that pique the reader’s interest, that which hooks them in, keeps them going, ear cocked, waiting to find out what happens next. Plot is so not my strong suit. So it’s nice, reading these stories, to hear the hook setting deeper.

The Power of the Delete Button

Often, the first sentence of one of my paragraphs should actually be the last sentence of the prior paragraph. Something in the need to KEEP PEOPLE LISTENING (Don’t hit that delete button just yet!) shows me this. I think it’s the awareness that the last sentence of a paragraph shouldn’t be a hard stop. Rather, as with the end of a chapter, it should lead the reader into the next paragraph. I never saw that until reading aloud.

So, all these hours and hours of reading these stories aloud in order to record a ten minute story, a twenty-one minute story—it’s more valuable than it feels.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .


different voices, extraneous characters, how to write a short story, literature, radio commentaries, wkno

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