Say it loud

You live in Bath. It’s four in the morning. You’re stumbling home after many too many. And you hear the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse commanding you to prepare yourself for the end.

Nothing out of the ordinary then.

At least in Bath.

For anyone who didn’t take the time out to attend, the Bath Literature Festival staged a five day reading of the King James Bible last week. That’s five whole days. Of 24 hours. They called it: ‘The Bath Bible Challenge’, which kind of undermines the levels of endurance required. It’s a bit like calling the Shackleton expedition, ‘A Stroll in the Snow’.

But dig a little deeper and you find that it’s not just a wheeze dreamt up out of nowhere by a publicity hungry festival manager. These marathon events are popping up everywhere.

The New York theatre company ‘Elevator Repair Service’ have recently been touring the world with their staging of The Great Gatsby. I say staging, not adaptation, as they plunge through the entire book. All six hours of it. And it’s not the only one doing the rounds. Heart of Darkness (five and a half hours) and As I Lay Dying (five hours), have also gone through the full treatment.

If you stop to think about it though, it’s not surprising. Great writing is not just about content or plot, it’s about using rhythm and imagery. It’s about finding unusual words and a consistent voice. Very simply, great writing stands up to being read out loud.

Next time you’ve finished a brief and come up with a perfectly shaped piece of writing, read it out loud to see if your word choices are boring or all your sentences are the same length or maybe your punctuation is wonky and it’s got loads of sentences that ramble on for so long that you find yourself straining to get the words out while rapidly... running... out... of... breath. (Phew.)

If, while reading your words, you find that you’re shouting, mumbling or sounding like a children’s TV presenter, you’re writing in a voice that’s not yours.

So start again.

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