There is something about reading a book out loud with a group of friends or family that makes the story come alive in a way drastically different than it does when you read it alone. Nothing beats cuddling under a warm blanket with your sister, a cup of hot chocolate in hand, while listening to a tale that takes you to an exotic, new world.
My Creative Writing assignment this week was to read a poem aloud to someone and then talk about the experience. I read I Only Looked For Pain and Grief by William Wordsworth. The poem starts out sad. It talks about looking for grief, but instead finding God’s love, and experiencing relief through that find. Because it’s written in old English, I had to read it once to myself before I committed to reading it aloud.
But perhaps my larger, more ‘intense’ experience this week was reading the beginning of MY book to my family. I’ve experienced the pleasure of having other people read the story I wrote, but I’ve never really read it out loud to anyone other than bits and pieces to my patient husband. However, my kind, supportive family urged me to read it to them, so I did. It was strange, at first, hearing the words I’d written spoken aloud to others. It got even weirder when my sister took a turn reading a chapter while I listened with Michael and my brother-in-law.
It almost takes more courage for a writer to read their story to others than it does to place the manuscript in their hands and run away. At least if the reader take the story home with them, the writer won’t have to see their grimaces or watch them yawn with boredom. When the author reads TO their listeners, they risk rejection.
The thing about reading out loud is you are creating the experience for your listener. If you read quietly and dull and don’t put any inflection in your voice, everyone else in the room will be lost in their own thoughts, or worse- asleep. I’m pretty sure I started out that way. But as I became more comfortable with sharing this strange story with my family, I was able to focus more on the experience. How did I feel when I was writing this thing? Definitely not bored. I felt alive.
I slowed the pace of my reading, and made the important words in a sentence stand out slightly. Attempting to evoke emotion out of my listener, I used emotion in my voice. Not wild, crazy emotion. Just enough to make the story come to life instead of sounding like a boring lecture from chemistry class. (No offense to all you science people out there….)
Stories and poetry seem to have a deeper meaning when read orally and communally. Perhaps that’s why they created plays. Maybe that’s one reason movies are more popular than books- because you can enjoy the experience together. And maybe that’s why I enjoyed reading my book, the story I wrote, to my familia.