Reading From a Mystery

Hey all, Gerry Boyle here. About to set out for a reading and I’m puzzling, as always, about what part of the book to choose. I’ve decided on PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. The problem is the difficulty of reading from  a crime or mystery novel.

My choices: the first page so I can at least give the audience a taste. But I’ve been asked to speak for 20 minutes. The first chapter? That will take about 3 minutes, tops. Then what? The next chapter? An action sequence from the middle of the book? A character-building passage? Hey, I could read the climactic chapter and save everybody a few hours and $24.95.

I always puzzle over this and not because I don’t like to read from my work. I’m fine with that as I like my stuff as much as most authors like their own writing. And the sound of my own voice. But you can’t get too deep into the book without requiring a long intro to set up a scene. And if you read all from the early portions, where the tension is building and characters are developing, it can seem a little sloggy, especially if you drop in mid-chapter.

Too late to help me for this time around. But I’m all ears if my fellow Maine Crime Writers and the Maine crime readers have any suggestions. How do you authors choose? What do you readers like to hear.

So wish me luck.

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3 Responses to Reading From a Mystery

  1. MCWriTers says:

    I think we all puzzle over this, and that some books seem to lend themselves to readings more than others. I’ve watched a zillion writers do readings over the years, and this is what I’ve taken away, for what it’s worth:

    Put the passage(s) you’re reading in context. This lets you tell something about the story, and your characters, and the situation they find themselves in.

    Choose passages that will highlight your story, your character, the theme of the book. This lets you introduce your potential readers to the characters in the book, and gives them reasons to want to pick it up and learn more. It also gives listeners the flavor of the book. You might pick something that highlights Brandon, something that shows the geography and character of Portland, something that shows your deep sympathy for the little people who inhabit your books.

    Don’t drone on for too long. One or two pages. Three to five minutes.

    I know you know all this. But some of our readers might not.

    Finally…I’ve heard two good versions of how not to be intimidated by your audience. The first is an e-mail I received the afternoon before I did my first book event, back in 1994. The e-mail said only this: Remember, they want to like you.

    The other, more negative though amusing, is that if you’re intimidated by an audience, just imagine them naked. Not sure I want to try this one.


  2. Lea Wait says:

    Kate’s right, when you have to do a reading. I try to avoid them — I really think people should read books, and authors should talk about how they’re written, and why, and answer questions. But if I HAVE to read a little … I almost always choose the scene in which the body is found ….!

  3. Barb Ross says:

    I’ve puzzled over this one, too and it took me awhile with my first book to figure out what to read. One thing I’ve noticed is that with my short stories I NEVER read the first scene, which to me suggests and area for improvement for my short stories 😉

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