I’m a guy, so I like to hear myself talk. Maybe more than most. I talk to my kids in funny accents, which they thought was a laugh riot when they were tykes and I was using my posh British and Cockney combo for Yertle the Turtle, or hauling out the Walter Brennan for The Lorax. Now that they are all in their twenties, I think they find it a little strange. I did some radio way back in the day, folks at the day job have even had me do some voice over stuff for the web site. I do like to run on at the mouth.
So of course I’ve got audio versions of some of my short fiction and a couple novel excerpts up on the blog, and now I’ve made my debut voicing other folk’s work, reading WALKWAYS, one of Steve Weddle’s kick-ass Oscar Martello stories over at Crimewav. Does that make me a professional? I guess that all depends on what Steve paid me, and that’s between me and Hot Lips – I mean me and Steve.
Fine, you say. Why should I give a shit?
Because if you aren’t reading your stuff out loud, at least to yourself, you’re missing out on a potent editorial tool. When you read your stuff out load, you’ll notice things that you might not notice if you are just reading it off the screen or the page.
Here’s what I tend to notice.
You’re repeating yourself. Have a word or phrase you’re overly fond of? That’s OK, we all do. But when you’re just reading, your over-used little darlings can slip by you. When you’re reading out loud, that sort of repetition tends to jump out and do a paradiddle on your ear drums like some drunk riverdancer in golf shoes.
Something’s off in the pacing. Maybe you’ve gone all William Shatner and you’re story’s nothing but staccato declaratives. With me, I’ve more likely gone Faulkner and ripped off some kind of three-page sentence. Neither of those things is necessarily bad, but you have to be careful with that kind of shit. You want your story to hum along like a Ferrari, not like some out-of-tune, rusted out Chrysler K car. If your pacing engine has got the hiccups, you can often hear it better than you can see it.
You talk too much. I do love me some dialog, so my novel’s are pretty heavy on the stuff. And I’ve taken that whole don’t-get-carried-away-with-the-attribution lesson to heart. So you won’t see she expounded or he exclaimed or she uttered breathlessly in my copy. The occasional he said or she said is just fine, thanks. But you do need to keep it clear who is saying what. Now, you get cues on the page that you don’t get in audio, like line breaks, so sometimes attribution will seem confused in audio when it’s is just fine for a reader. But if you’re reading aloud and you’re getting confused as to who is doing the talking, then it’s a good time to check. Also, if you’re listening to a long passage of dialog, it can start to feel like a clay court tennis match – boring ground strokes back and forth and back and forth and back and forth over the net. Time to bust that shit up. Time for somebody to take a quick break from talking and do something – get up out of their chair and grab a drink, fiddle nervously with their hair, unbutton a blouse, something. Reading passages like those out loud can really hammer home when it’s time for a character to shut his yap for a second and reinforce that conversation with some kind of action.
Anybody else use audio editing as a back up? Any special tips? We’re all, eh, ears.