Audience Reading: Poll

I need your help.

A friend of mine has asked me to give a reading from my work at a function he’s organizing — ok, it’s his birthday party, and he’s a musician, and he plans to have a number of artists perform or present their art. There will be music, there will be poetry… and there will be me, reading a short bit of my science fiction to the audience.

I’ve never given any sort of public reading before, and I admit to a certain amount of nervousness. So, having read what online advice I could glean about such things — thank you, Internet! — it seems that I should try to keep it to about 5 minutes. At a typical audiobook pace of ~150 words per minute, that equates to 800 words. I’m prepared to round up, so I’m looking for a selection from my work-in-progress of roughly a thousand words.

But which thousand words? Obviously, I want it to be strong and captivating, so what does that mean when delivered via spoken word? Too much dialogue, and the audience could get lost in “he said, she said.” Too much description and too little action, and they could fall asleep. How to find the right balance?

Should it come from closer to the beginning of the work, when there is less knowledge assumed on the part of the audience? Or is a later selection ok, and just let unexplained things go?

So here are the five options I’m considering. Which would you pick? (Poll at the end of the list, or feel free to comment!)

  1. Ch.1, Approach
    1. This is the scene where Anna and Laxmi argue about aliens in the exercise room. There are some references in the dialogue to the sociological impacts of advancements in interstellar travel.
    2. 1,146 words
  2. Ch.1, Observatory
    1. Not the whole scene, but from “The observatory was a small transparent blister…” to “we outran our own historical radio waves to get here.”
    2. Here Anna enjoys some rare solitude while looking out at the galaxy and pondering radio signals; she gets a bit philosophical, and there are some nice references to the vastness of interstellar space and speed-of-light travel.
    3. 1,090 words
  3. Ch.2, Reaction
    1. This is a hard-core action scene. The shuttle is disabled and in danger of crashing, and (spoiler alert!) Takashi dies.
    2. 1,331 words; perhaps a bit long, but it’s a fast-paced scene.
  4. Ch.2, Deorbital, excerpt 1
    1. “You want to do what!” to “Yes, that technology.”
      1. Here Anna describes how and why she wants to land on the planet, in the face of insurmountable odds against survival.
      2. 964 words
  5. Ch.2, Deorbital, excerpt 2
    1. “The terminator merged with the eastern horizon behind them,” to “I think my leg’s broken.” (end of scene)
      1. Another action scene, atmospheric entry and crash-landing on the planet.
      2. 1,031 words

header image credit: user:Enokson/ under Creative Commons CC BY-ND-NC 2.0

2 thoughts on “Audience Reading: Poll

    1. Thanks, Gerhard! I think I’m starting to see a consensus building, though it’s early in the poll so far. I always did like that scene, however, and when it’s time for the rewrite I believe I’ll enhance to build more upon Anna’s character and inner motivations (which, at the time I wrote it, were still a little fuzzy to me).


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