When I started Random Waves, I new very little about audio storytelling. Nowadays, I know slightly little more than that, but I was certainly helped by the HowSound podcast from transom.org. Promoting itself as "the backstory to great radio storytelling," each bi-monthly episode examines a radio story or producer to figure out what makes a great radio piece.
As I'm gearing up to create new episodes of Random Waves, I wanted to make sure I was crafting better stories than before. So I began to REALLY listen to HowSound, as in study each episode and take notes. Lots of notes. Over 40 pages of notes covering HowSound episodes ranging from July 2011 to October 2013. It was a lot of listening, and a lot of good listening at that.
Now, as useful as 40 ages of notes of good audio storytelling might be, it's not exactly easy to swallow in one go. So I'm digesting all those notes to a few more-or-less universal rules that Rob Rosenthal seems to hammer down again and again through various means in his show. Here they are, in no particular order...
- Go for the weird. In all things, don't go for the conventional. Find interesting characters. Find places that are unique. Explore narratives that are different. Don't sound like every other show out there.
- Connect to the universal. Produce a story that will be relevant to everyone -- not just today, but also 100 years from today. I think it was Robert Krulwich that said that radio is a powerful medium because the listener helps produce the story. To achieve that, the listener must have stakes in the game.
- An audio piece is a new piece of music. A lot of producers create a story and then tag music onto it for extra effect. The better producers think of the narration, quotes, and sounds as a part of the music. Edit them together as one.
- Be confident. Own your story. Be in control of your interviews. Be confident on tape and in narration. Geek out on tape for the subjects you geek out on. Show your emotion.
- Show. Don't tell. Interesting stories take place in the active moments. Don't rely solely on narration and quotes. Get out in the field. Collect sounds. Collect active tape. Do stand-ups. Paint a picture with sound.
So, now, all I have to do is go and produce. I'm currently up in Maine for a week for work, which means I have a few nights alone in my hotel room ahead of me. No better time to paint with sound, I should think. Wish me luck!