Do you ever hear advice and discard it because you don’t understand why you would do that?
For me, one of those pieces of seemingly pointless advice was to read your work aloud. I didn’t understand what I would gain from an exercise that would take much longer than just reading the way I usually do.
Well, last week I decided to try it. I can’t say it caused me to make sweeping changes. But I did figure out why it’s beneficial, and so I’m going to share my experience in case any of you are on the fence about reading aloud.
Point of view. My work-in-progress is written in alternating points of view, so reading it aloud was extremely helpful in keeping those voices distinct. I noticed turns of phrase or words that sounded out of place for a particular character. For example, half of my WIP is set on another planet, so Earth-based metaphors wouldn’t be relevant there. When I heard the words in addition to seeing them, I could see more clearly that they didn’t fit the character.
Dialogue. As with point of view, dialogue needs to be unique to each character. Often I would read something and think, “Character A wouldn’t say that, but Character B would,” or vice versa. And within a scene, I could tell if the characters sounded too similar.
Repeated words. Although I have a pretty good eye for noticing repeated words or phrases, reading aloud helped in that I’d notice if I’d said something a lot. Maybe the phrases weren’t on the same page or even in the same chapter, but they were more noticeable out loud. I also caught a number of things I’d have one character think or say and then a different one would think or say something similar, so that repetition became a voice issue.
Flow. Often things that look fine on the page don’t sound as strong when you say them out loud. Sometimes I’d read something that looked perfectly fine but sounded awkward. Even if the book is never read aloud to kids or put into audiobook form, I’d still like for it to flow.
So, those are the benefits I discovered, and I’ll definitely do this again. Do you read your work aloud? What benefits have you discovered?