Read it aloud


4/22/20052 min read

What I am spending a bit of time with at the moment is putting sound recording in the centre of the script development process. By running through a draft or getting to a difficult scene there are a few things that I do that help me assess it as I go...

Read it aloud

Obvious but much neglected thing to do. The aim here is to get it out of ‘sounding right in your head’ to actually just sounding right. This whole silent reading thing is actually very new culturally and has only caught on since the mass production of the book; it’s certainly of no use at all to the writer of dialogue.

What you are looking for at this level is not only what words but also - as you will naturally tend to pitch it emotionally where you think it ought to be - you will find yourself doing a little impro on the way, adding a few in between words to take a breath, make a stutter, change tense as you go and so on.

This also tends to take you out of sentences, a good thing. People often don’t speak in sentences, a sentence is just one of a number of speech delivery methods. Sentences belong to journalists and business writers, to ‘communications’, to making things clear. When talking people make sentences more or less by accident, they seldom set out with the end of a sentence in mind. Pinter writes sentences in his prose, but that’s about it. Best to think in utterances, phrases, outbursts, lists, interjections, overlaps.

I ask writers or developers if they do this and it is surprising how little it is done. It is one of the easiest most effective things you can do for your own writing.

Record it yourself

Next time you read it aloud record it at the same time (into your phone, your Dad’s reel to reel, computer). Then listen to it the next day. This is the fast-turnaround equivalent to putting something in a bottom draw. This really works as it imposes short-order objectivity without all the time and bother of a read-through (though ideally you should have that too of course).

What you get now is probably first a bit of a shock (I don't really sound like that do I?). But then you can hear the phrasing and architecture of the bigger blocks, the kind of things you don't hear when you read it yourself. And you can really hear those sentences, and take a shotgun to them.

This enforced objectivity is a smaller, more digestible version of an opening night. Without critics. If you can't listen to your own work for 2 hours, why would you expect others to invest in it?

So by speaking it loud you discover the speech in your work, by listening back to it you discover more about the structure than you would think. Maybe more than is comfortable. But the main thing is you can action it right away.

And it's a great way to work when you don't have any actors to hand...


If you have a Windows machine you won't be bale to record more than a minutes worth of audio without a program. Audacity is a free and very good basic tool. And a cheap microphone is all you need for this, don't let the sound geek in the shop make you spend lots of money, his approval isn't worth the cash.