Reading stuff to people

I've got a thing on at Fyvie Castle soon -- an evening of drinking wine and reading stuff out loud. This will be my first official engagement (ooh, doesn't that make me sound just like the Queen Mother?) since crashing and burning at the Book Association Burns Supper, and I'm hoping the whole stain of crapulence will have disappeared by then.

In order to make things difficult for myself, I think I'll skip the usual DYING LIGHT reading bit and do something from BROKEN SKIN instead. And maybe something from the as yet untitled Book Number The Fourth.

The dreaded author reading can be a monumental pain in the arse. Which bit of the book do you pick to do? I don't want to give away any of the plot, so it can't be one of the pivotal scenes. I want it to be something that pretty much stands on its own with a beginning, middle and end, to give the reading a feeling of completeness. And a bit of shouting, humour and a soupcon of naughty words never go amiss either.

When I was doing the COLD GRANITE readings, I hadn't entirely grasped this. Instead I went for a character piece where not a lot really happens. Though it does end on a joke about Aberdeen's weather. (for those of you playing at home, it's the bit on the backdoor step in Torry, in the rain, with Logan, the Geordie and DI Insch)

For DYING LIGHT I went with the scene in the woods with the fog. This has swearing, shouting, running about and blood. It's self-contained: has a build up and a finale. It ticks the boxes and usually goes down OK. Plus it's a nod to some of my favourite horror film clich├ęs, which is nice.

For BROKEN SKIN there's one scene that I think's going to work OK as a standalone reading. But I won't know till I actually try it. That or I could just do the first three pages. Which would probably work as well, but doesn't have any foul language. Well, maybe a little.

And for Book Number The Forth I think it'll be the bit I wrote on Saturday: a car chase. It isn't my usual thing, but again it can be taken completely out of context without spoiling the story. And I'd get to make Brrrrrrrrrrm, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrm, Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee noises, pretending to be a manky Vauxhall and a filthy Range Rover. See -- just like a grownup.

I frequently wonder what makes people pick the bits they read out at events. Sometimes they're extremely well chosen, other times they make me want to doze off for fifteen minutes or so, till the person stops talking. Sometimes I want to just charge the stage and stab them in the eye with a pen. Repeatedly. Screaming, "What the hell were you thinking?"

Mind you, some people don't read from their books at all. I have heard that Christopher Brookmyre, for example, does a short story instead. Which would be tempting, if I had time to write one. But I don't, so I can't.

Anyone want to share their thoughts: what makes a good reading?

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