This weekend, on Saturday the 18th, I will giving my first and most likely last public reading of one of my stories. It’s not a long story, just a bit over sixteen hundred words. I can’t say I’m nervous about standing up in front a crowd of people, nor can I say I’m worried about my reading of the tale. I overcame any fears of speaking in front of a camera, or live audiences a long time ago. Hell, you can’t be an effective waiter, public servant or even a one-time actor if you have those issues.
The thing that does give me pause is whether or not anyone will understand my story. Is it going to be scary enough? Creepy enough? Will it be too vague? Will anyone actually like it? Yeah, those are the things that make me second guess myself. Less than a handful of people have pre-read and edited this particular tale and they all liked it. Hell, I even like it. So much so that I wish I didn’t have a time limit and could sit down and expand parts of the story to see whether or not it has the makings of a short story or novella.
Unfortunately there is not much I can do about the piece of fiction I’ve created because the person in charge of the reading has already accepted the tale as is. We are also not allowed to lengthen or make changes to our accepted works. This, from what I understand about these functions, is pretty much standard. I can’t say for certain those are how all the rules go for all readings, but for this one, the rule applies.
That all being said, during my countless re-readings of the story out loud in an empty room, I’ve made certain tweaks so the story flows easier for the spoken word. Which is something new to me. I’ve never read aloud my tales and I’ve come to realize, when I do read aloud, I find many things I want to change. Nothing that would affect the stories plot or tone, but changes of audible flowing words. Clunky sentences I hadn’t noticed before have been rewritten so my tongue won’t stumble upon the recited words.
This little epiphany got me thinking about how things are said in real life. Like conversations, body language and how communication in general works between people. It has given my mind a lot of food for thought so to speak. Sure, I’m still a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-cerebral-cortex kind of guy. I’m known for saying inappropriate things at the inappropriate times and that bothers me not one iota. But it has given me a certain… leash, yes, leash on what I say to people and when I say it.
So much so, today I had the opportunity to actually rip into someone and feel no remorse about it but instead of saying what I wanted to say, I substituted with something a bit less cruel. Then I walked away and realized what I had actually done. It surprised me a bit, but I chalked it up to growing older and wiser. (Yeah, right.)
I guess what I’m getting at, the enlightened moment where my sharp edges have been softened over the decades so that I have become a more congenial was a surprise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a long way away from being a civilized person, and there are moments where I want to verbally tear into someone so deeply that when I turn and walk away all that is left of them is a greasy sludge like creature with no hope for a decent life left in their eyes.
Yeah, I’m getting softer as I step ever closer to my eventual demise. But I’m not as soft as some people half my age and I don’t think I ever will be.
Finally, if you’re in the Hampton Roads area on Saturday night, stop on by the Portsmouth Arts and Cultural Center and hear several stories that will hopefully haunt you until the day you die.
Have a great week.