Monday, 11 February 2019

Let thy speech be better than silence...*

I was in Northampton on Thursday evening for the presentation of the H E Bates Short Story Competition prizes. It was a lovely evening, but unfortunately only one of the four winners was there, which meant the other three top stories were read out by members of the organising committee. They did a fine job, but I couldn't help wondering how much better it would have been to hear from the writers themselves.

It's not easy to read someone else's words (unless you're a proper actor, of course); nor is it easy to hear someone else read yours. In the introduction to Nine Lives, my book of monologues, I invite people to perform them wherever they like and say: 'You will see I have included a note with each to describe the person I had in mind as I wrote the story; but if you hear a different voice, that's fine with me.' As it turns out, I find it quite hard to sit and watch someone perform as one of 'my' characters in the 'wrong' voice!

What do you think? Have you ever had your words performed by someone else? If so, how did it feel? Do you guard your characters jealously?

*... or be silent (Dionysius of Halicarnassus)


  1. Interesting question. I've never had the opportunity for someone else to perform my fictional prose, so I can't adequately answer. I have had people perform my poetry. It was actually BETTER than I had imagined with the different voices coming out of a singular person. Ah, those who can act!

  2. It's a real shame, isn't it, Julia, when winners of a writing competition can't be there to read their work? Obviously, if they live hundreds of miles away (or in another country!), that's fair enough, I suppose. I remember, many years ago, I won a local poetry competition and they had the prize-giving ceremony during the week and during the day (why???), so I'd have had to take time of work to go. I sent my apologies but I've always regretted it. It wouldn't have been too difficult to get the afternoon off work and I'm sure the competition organisers would have been really pleased that I'd made the effort (plus I could have read my poem out!). I don't enter - or indeed, win - many competitions these days but I've vowed to try to be there, if there's ever any award ceremony!

  3. Very interesting, Julia. I haven't had someone else read mine but I can tell you that some writers don't do their own work justice when reading it aloud. At our SAW weekend conference, the winner of each comp is invited to read the story, article or poem to everyone - some are excellent and some we have cringed at. Some realise they won't do it justice and appoint someone else to read!