Searching for the perfect words to tell a story is difficult, if not impossible. When I need a laugh or bit of inspiration, I look to a quote on my keyboard tray that gives me inspiration. Okay, it’s not really a quote. It’s actually a tattered Peanuts comic strip by the late, great Charles M. Schulz. Snoopy is sweating a deadline atop his dog house with his typewriter beside him. (Yes, I actually used one of those a very long time ago). He smacks his head and in the next frame appear a single word: The. Snoopy’s thought bubble says: A good writer will sometimes search hours for just the right word!
I resemble that remark. Sometimes I resent it as well.
I agonize over words that I know will appear in print (or digital). I worry that I’ve misused them, so I look up definitions of words such as compelled (to be forced), travesty (false) and pecadillo (small sin). I poke around the internet to see how these are used in a sentence. I carefully choose my words, hoping they make sense in the framework I’ve built. However, it is only when I read my words aloud that I can feel whether or not they flow and tell the story I set out to tell.
Brevity is a virtue. Unfortunately, it is not a trait I possess. I throw up on the page and then whittle and pound wordiness into something I can work with. When I read it aloud, I can easily spot my missteps and trim them to a more respectable length. An added bonus is catching typos, punctuation errors and other grammar snafus.
For me, the most important element in a story is voice. What voice am I writing in? Is it authentic to me? Does it ring true for a character I’ve created? Hearing my words helps me see a little clearer. I get instant feedback on rhythm, pace and needless words. I take pleasure in reading my work aloud, especially to others. As I read, I will often notice an annoying hangnail that needs to be trimmed and softened. Other times, I need a new perspective that only an outsider can give. Sometimes all I need is affirmation that my work is good and resonates with someone other than the dog.
Reading aloud is a simple, effective way to improve my writing.
Rochester Spoken Word is an organization that gives Rochester-area writers a platform (and a mic) to have their work heard in a friendly atmosphere. Rochester Spoken Word founders Scott Seifritz and Evvy Fanning believe that there is a rhythm and flow to good writing identifiable when a work is read aloud, with real-time audience feedback. With that in mind, they created the Speak Easy series combining two of their favorite pastimes: talking and drinking.
I like to talk and drink, too (not necessarily in that order) and I’m happy to share that I’ll join about nine other writers who will be reading their stories during the next Speak Easy. I’ll be reading an original story from my book Mommy Musings: Lessons on Motherhood, Love, and Life Sunday, November 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Speakeasy is held at the Cheshire, 64 South Avenue (upstairs from Solera wine bar). Enjoy a hand-crafted cocktail or two at this tiny, retro wonderland featuring classic pre-Prohibition cocktails alongside a few tasty creations – made with or without alcohol.
Seating is limited and the show lasts about two hours. You can buy your tickets for $7 each here.
I wonder, if Snoopy could talk, would he have found the right word sooner?
What do you think?
This is my best work today. Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook, or tweet me @kristinebruneau.