by Lillian Csernica on January 11, 2016
One of the most common pieces of editing advice is to read your manuscript out loud. Hearing the narrative and the dialogue outside of your own mind will show you wear it’s rough or awkward.
The reverse of this technique is to improvise a scene by acting out the dialogue (and the narrative as well, if you like) in one or more character voices. If sitting there staring at the blank page is inhibiting your flow of inspiration, get up and start moving around while you tell the story aloud. It helps to have a recording device or a program such as Dragonspeak to capture all those off the cuff gems.
Writers often talk to themselves. I do it when I’m grocery shopping, debating the selection of various items on my list. I also do it when I’m watching TV by myself. A few days ago this led to the beginning of my latest short story.
So there I was, watching another one of those movies where the team of paranormal investigators seriously regrets hanging out in the haunted insane asylum overnight. Me, I’d call this a bad idea on paper, never mind actually going inside the building.
It got to the point where I started yelling advice and criticism at the actors. Having watched far too many of these movies, I can tell from the music and the timing when the next Scary Thing is about to happen.
I was sitting there, being sarcastic at the characters onscreen, when it suddenly hit me: This is great dialogue. A few minutes’ thought gave me the basics I needed to set up a team of wannabe ghost hunters talking to an older relative of one of them who had some actual experience with the paranormal. The older relative tries to make the kids see how little they really know about the risks involved in stirring up paranormal entities.
Does it stop them? It does not.
I’m having a lot of fun shaping the main character by using all of my own objections, all of my knowledge of folklore and superstitions, and what little experience I do have with the paranormal. A few of my most successful stories have come from using my own voice for a character that I design to suit the needs of the story. I’m thinking of “Fallen Idol,” “Music Lover,” and “The Family Spirit” in particular.
Humor in paranormal writing is a happy thing. Humor in most writing is a happy thing.
Do you find reading your work aloud helps the editing process? Does acting out a scene just make you feel silly? Let me know what works for you.
BONUS: Since my new short story will fit the horror genre, the first three people to respond in the Comments section will receive a copy of my ebook The Fright Factory: Building Better Horror.