When you share an excerpt from your novel, or from a short story you have written, there are some things that you need to consider. These should be fairly easy for the author since the prose piece the author's creation. However, many authors do not think about these things, and how important they are to make an impact on the audience with whom they are sharing their work. It could make the difference in whether or not members of the audience want to buy the authors work.
Most novels have a narrator to carry the story forward. The narrator is very important when the selection is being presented orally. The following are some things that should be considered:
1. The narrator should have a distinct personality that remains constant and consistent throughout the performance. The prose narrator should not be wooden or aloof, but should have genuine feelings and opinions.
2. The narrator should be played as the script requires: loudmouthed or soft, effusive or reticent, friendly or obnoxious, clever or dim-witted, articulate or inarticulate, educated or uneducated, easy-going or hyper, sincere or sinister, and so on.
3. The narrator should employ vocal variety whenever possible, but only if changes in pitch, volume, rate, stress, quality, phrasing, and the like are appropriate to, and consistent with the narrator’s personality and probable development.
— A third person narrator (a narrator who is not identified by name, and who is telling about the lives of others) can be given the most expressive vocal range because we do not know anything about his/her background. (Still, however, remember that the reader must endow this narrator with a personality and with the ability to express, in a personal and conversational way, the events that transpire in the script.)
4. The narrator should have an opinion or “ATTITUDE” about characters, actions, situations, places, things. This attitude or “SUBTEXT” should color or underpin the words the narrator uses. For example, if the narrator is telling the tale of how a very nice fellow (Jim) is ruined by a devious acquaintance (Bob,) the narrator would likely favor Jim and dislike Bob. Therefore, the narrator would probably — say Bob’s name with distaste(because Bob is bad); — describe the unfortunate event that befalls Jim with a great deal of compassion (because Jim is a good guy); — describe Bob’s gloating over his nefarious deed with a certain anger or regret (because Bob deserves to be punished for what he did); — describe Jim’s attempt to bounce back from his defeat with hope and pride (because Jim is a good man who deserves a second chance and who should right a wrong). To use another example: if the narrator is relaying Hal’s fascination with guns, the prose narrator might sound enthusiastic (if Hal is rightly fascinated,) disdainful (if Hal’s obsession is foolish,) or ironic (if Hal will accidentally blow his brains out.)
5. The narrator should communicate, in a very personal way, with the audience, taking them by the hand through the story, making sure they understand all the subtle clues that point to the personalities of characters and the development of plot. The narrator gives the audience an “up front and personal insider’s view.”
6. Eye contact with each audience member should be meaningful and somewhat lengthy. Eye interest and expression should be used to send messages from the performer to the listener.
— One emotional phrase should be said to one person only. Careless bobbing of the head from script to audience as well as the bouncing of the head from person to person only undercuts the direst potent effect that each emotional statement can have. Consider this analogy: when a boxer throws a punch he winds up and follows through; were his fist to veer, the punch would not be fully felt by anyone. So to maximize the “punch” of an emotional phrase, play each to one person’s eyes, and let it lie for a second; then, either drop eyes to the script and immediately read, or move eyes to another and immediately talk. This technique allows lines to be felt to the maximum.
7. The narrator should VISUALIZE salient imagery. In order for the audience to appreciate an image or anything that has sensory appeal (a breathtaking mountain-top, a horrendous car crash, a blinding sun,) the prose narrator must verbalize it (of course) and visualize it, that is, SEE what is described or remembered. For example, if the is describing the blinding sun that caused the glare that caused his accident, the should SEE the glaring sun (locate it again in our presence) and REACT to it with eyes and face (the way the reacted to it in the past when the accident happened or the way the would react, perhaps, if time has created an emotional distance—in the second case, the would relive it less); then, the should attempt to BRING THE AUDIENCE TO IT, directing their eyes to the image, checking to see if they are experiencing it. If the prose narrator sees, the audience also sees, and will therefore have a more immediately richer experience. Some visualization, however, should not be so laid out. During intense moments of recall, a performer’s face may freeze as his past runs through his/her mind’s eyes. In this case, the visualized truth is created through the use of subtle eye movement that sees, perhaps again, a tragic event that only the mind and not the body can display.
The Prose Narrator Should:
1. Be a real person;
2. Have a definite and appropriate personality that is consistently maintained throughout the performance;
3. Make use of appropriate vocal variety.
4. Have consistent sub-textual attitudes about what happens to whom;
5. Communicate meaningfully and intimately with the audience, highlighting, for listener benefit, all important details and developments;
6. Utilize direct and intense eye contact with individual audience members, sending out messages with subtle eye expressions;
7. Visualize imagery, reliving with eyes and face the experiences that have left indelible impressions or painting new ones that are vibrant and ever present.
8. BE THINKING. Something is going on inside the narrator’s head as she or he tells the tale. Subtle movement of eyes and face, and vocal variety should indicate this.
Coming soon: Considering the character in a presentation.