Carl Coaches

One of the many great perks of being a writer is the wonderful fellow travelers you meet. Among my writing compadres is Carl Selinger. Carl is a Renaissance man — an engineer, teacher, photographer, pundit, and published author. He’s also one of the founders of the Write Group, a wonderful community resource in my town — and he’s a fount of wisdom and wit when it comes to all aspects of the writing game.

After attending many events in tandem, we finally managed to sit down for a cup of coffee, a muffin, a smoothie, and a writerly chat. We covered the waterfront. At one point, I mentioned that my writer’s group, the Working Title Six,
was about to give a fiction reading at our local bookstore.

Now, luckily for me, Carl is an old pro on the reading front. He often hosts open-mike events and right off the top of his shiny, super-smart head, he gave me some very helpful tips about keeping an audience engaged that inspired me to totally rethink the passage I was planning to use. Just in case they might be helpful to anyone who’s preparing for a reading — or thinking about one — I’m passing on Carl’s excellent advice:

Timing is important: After watching the clock for many events, Carl has found that people often rush through their selections. Reading prose aloud at a rate that’s easy for listeners to absorb and leaves you time for dramatic pauses takes roughly 2 minutes a page. Since I have 10 minutes for my reading, I’ve selected a scene that’s 5-6 pages long.

Keep back-story descriptions to a minimum: Audiences get antsy if there’s too much set-up before you start reading. Giving a long, complicated prelude to your selection can distance your audience from the impact of your story, so keep it simple!

Choose your read-aloud passage carefully: Capturing and retaining an audience’s attention is the name of the game. Carl suggested that I choose my selection from among 3 audience-friendly options:

1) the beginning — this eliminates the back-story issue.
2) a passage that reveals my main character emotionally
3) a scene that’s self-contained yet leaves the audience hanging

Readings can be fun and offer fruitful feedback. To reap the full benefit, it’s important to keep your listeners in mind and give them a good show. Thanks, Carl. And write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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