"'Do you know you’re bleeding?' Carol asked. She was on top, straddling him, but not allowing him to enter. He shifted under her, the tension of arousal making him uncomfortable.
"Glancing down at his chest, Mark was surprised to find his sternum flecked with blood. He jerked at the handcuffs.
He jerked at the handcuffs.
"'It must have happened when I kissed you,' she said.
"He ran a tongue along his lower lip, tasting the blood there, feeling for a bite. She watched him, amused.
"'No, I didn’t bite you,' she said. She reached into her mouth and carefully pulled something from under her tongue. She had a razor blade between her fingers; a safety razor carefully cut in two."The woman reading this passage smiled to herself, satisfied by the moment. The rest of the group waited for her to turn the page and resume the reading. The story was mine, a bit of uncomfortable eroticism called "Eating Cake". The location was a writer's group. Listening to this being read by someone else, someone whom I never would have imagined reading this work in the first place, accented the rough points in the tale for me and showed me what worked and what didn't.
In almost every writing class, students read their stories out loud, emphasizing those points needing emphasis, interpreting their work as a form of performance art. Except when they turn their writing over to a reader, there is no guarantee the reader will faithfully interpret what is before them. So, what's a writer to do?
Give that work to someone else to read out loud. Give it to someone who isn't necessarily going to read with the finesse of Meryll Streep or the knowing smirk of Jack Nicholson. Give it to someone to read what they see. Someone who will let the work speak for itself.
It's amazing what you will hear. All your missteps will be laid bare. Passages which you thought were clear will show themselves as muddled. You will see your work in a whole other light.
Reading your own work out loud is critical. Listening to someone else read your work is illuminating. Both are valuable tools for proof-reading. Okay, so it's not always practical, and not always desirable. But it's still another strategy. And isn't that what we're looking for? Using different approaches to proofing and editing your work keeps you fresh.
So ask Aunt Maggie if she'll read to you, just like when you were a kid. Or ask that hottie at the bar to read a page to you, maybe offering one drink per page, or perhaps per paragraph (I'm thinking about free verse). Hell, see that guy hanging outside the playground, the dude with the rubber bands around the knees of his pants and the raincoat? Okay, maybe not him.