The benefits of reading aloud

My previous post noted repetition in a book’s opening page. This one will include an example on the same subject from a previous post but from a slightly different angle.

Is your prose working well? One way to find out is to read it aloud and, no, you don’t need to be in front of a mirror to do this. If, despite your excellent lung capacity, you find you run out of breath before finishing some of your finer sentences, it may be that they are overly long and complicated – though why you would emulate the style of late Henry James I wouldn’t know.

So you may read aloud. I do that quite a lot, though always in my head now to avoid waking the cat or alienating cara sposa, who has enough to put up with as it is. One result is that I read quite slowly compared to many – reading aloud and speed reading don’t get on. But I get a better handle on the author’s writing style, or so I like to think.

One thing I am sure of, though, is that if we used our ears more, physical or mental, then we would hear those accidental repetitions we might otherwise miss and our work would be better for it.

Below is a scan from the second page of a novel. If the author (and her editor) had heard what had been written, the word ‘this’ might not have occurred so often. It pays to listen. ___________________________________________________________________

“mistaken in making of this a flying visit. My mother marvelled for days over this, with no resentment. It was less a visit than a visitation. It was never repeated.

The other friend, the one I thought of as Betty Pollock, though that might not have been her name, was less opulent, but kinder. This friend we actually journeyed to see, an event so rare that I remembered it. This visit occasioned no wistful comments from my mother, probably because Betty Pollock was not someone of whom she had learned to be slightly afraid. She was even rather unattractive, though clearly was not concerned by this, and in any event her large plain features were transformed by her dazzling smile. The other thing I noted about her was that she was happy. This was mysteri­ously apparent. I experienced it with relief, though I did not understand it. Now of course I can identify it as a state of steady satisfaction combined with an absence of longing. This must have been less the gift of her husband than of Betty Pollock herself, her smile signalling her contentment with her lot to all within her radius. She too had very red lips, though her hair was grey. She too was eager to reminisce, having nothing to hide. ‘Yet my mother seemed inhibited in her presence, perhaps because of the contrast between them. I think that Betty Pollock vanished from the scene shortly after this visit: her husband was anxious to leave London and move back to Swanage, where he had grown up. I think my mother missed her, though not as much as she missed Dolly Edwards, who remained out of touch.

They had once been part of the same set, though this was a modest suburban affair, formed largely by parents who knew each other as neighbours or friends, and vigilant elder broth­ers who did duty as escorts when no other was available. I see Dolly as the bold one, Betty as the poor one, and my mother as the beauty, but whose beauty was undermined by”

______________________________________________________________________

Does anyone out there know who the author is?  Answers on a postcard please . . .

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4 thoughts on “The benefits of reading aloud

  1. Hmm, there are several things I might choose to edit here, e.g. this tortured construction: “Betty Pollock was not someone of whom she had learned to be slightly afraid.” I am on a writing course and we will hear our own work read by others. Hopefully, we will detect problems as we listen and observe others fidgeting as they listen.

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  2. It’s easily done. You have to train yourself out of it. Why does it happen? I think because if you have just used a word it is at the forefront of your mind and so more likely to be used again.

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