Over the next few months, we'll feature sections of 'There's Money Where Your Mouth Is' that will help you build a solid foundation of techniques. This month's script tip is about Reading Patterns.
There are patterns in basic sentence structure and lists. A sentence typically contains a subject, verb, and object. This SVO pattern can be short sentences: "I love you." I is the subject, love is the verb, and you is the object. Or longer, more complex SVO sentences like "Johnny, the maître d' at the restaurant, ordered the cleaners to use bleach on the napkins." In this case, Johnny is the subject, ordered is the verb, and cleaners is the object. Depending on the message, one word has longer stress and more nuance than the others. The word of medium importance is read at a medium speed and stress. The word with the least importance is read faster. These slow, medium, and fast speed variables draw focus to what's important. And, it's what we do in natural speech. In the script analysis, is it essential that the noun, Johnny, ordered the cleaners to do something? That Johnny took action and ordered the cleaners around? Or is it more important that Johnny define who should clean the napkins, the cleaners?
Years ago, English classes taught students to diagram sentences. There was a straight line that contained the SVOs. All other words and phrases dropped off the line in a series of angles. As a general rule, words that fall off the line are read faster. These would include prepositional phrases that tell us when, where or why like under the chair, behind the tree, without a doubt, during breakfast. Conversely, modifiers are often stressed or "pop up" to clarify the message. Adverbs modify verbs, other adverbs, and adjectives and answer how, when, and where questions. Adjectives modify nouns, pronouns, and noun phrases and clarify what kind, which one, and how many.
Changing reading patterns to reflect our natural speech patterns requires that the brain be reprogrammed to accept and deliver these changes in pace and word stress. Spend a lot of time on this section. It's not as easy as you think. Once you recognize these recurring patterns, cold-reading scripts will become much easier. Figure out what phrase or sentence is the slowest, medium speed, and fastest (thrown away), and if a modifier should be stressed.
The perfect getaway. Pleasant Pacific Cruise Line, for the time
of your life.
Answer: Client's name is the slowest. Perfect tells us why our getaway is better than others. It's the middle speed. The last phrase is the fastest because it's easy to have a good time.
It's time to enjoy the great outdoors, and what better place to get equipped than Marine Outdoors.
Answer: Once again, the client's name in the phrase "than Marine Outdoors" is slowest. The first phrase has two stress options: enjoy or great outdoors. Either way should be read at medium speed. The middle phrase should be read the fastest. By doing so, it tells the listener that it's easy to quickly find the equipment that you need.
I'm the manager / of a Yellow Belly Catfish Restaurant. / It's my job to make sure all the seafood served / at Yellow Belly / is fresh and prepared to your liking.
Answer: This script is a little more complex, so slashes have been placed to define the five phrases. Before you begin, remember that no one cares about you and your job as a manager when you read this. Instead, they're interested in the quality of the food and the friendliness of the staff. Since real people don't sell, and this is written in the first person, do not oversell the restaurant. You'll still stretch out the second phrase that includes the client's name, you just need to make it sound natural and not like an announcer. "All" is the modifier that either defends their food or tells the listener why their restaurant is better than the competition's. "All the seafood," "fresh," and "prepared to your liking" are all copy points that should be read at medium speed. It's not necessary to stretch out the second Yellow Belly because it will sound too sell-y. So, in these situations, it's okay to read the client's name faster. "I'm the manager" and "It's my job to make sure" should be read at the quickest pace because they tell us nothing about the product.
A general note: No matter what speed you read the phrases and sentences, every word should have meaning, attitude, and nuance. It's just that some information is downplayed more than others. If you emphasize too many words, the listener goes on overload and retains little or no information.
You'll work on this technique and others in the By The Book class.