Sound can be a great way to tell a story. It’s a medium with a great deal of emotional intensity – it engages feeling as well as thinking, and does so at a lower cost of bandwidth than video. Sound is also pretty good for multitasking. The notion of drive time is still alive and well in radio, because listening and driving are fairly compatible.
There are some elements of telling a great audio story that are important:
- A clear script with words that are easy to listen to. Short and simple rules the day – especially when people are multitasking
- Appropriate themes, music, etc. Your words can carry a lot of the emotional workload in print, but that is harder in a time-based medium like sound. Intervals of music can mark transitions between ideas. Subtle background music can set the theme for the whole piece.
- Natural sounds can help a lot. This is the equivalent of “show don’t tell” in writing. In sound, play, don’t say. When you can have the sound of feet tramping and a running brook instead of saying “it’s a hike next to a creek” it both keeps your central message clearer and adds emotional immediacy.
An NPR story I use in one of my classes. Note the strong use of natural sound to set the scene. Having the little girl’s singing is essential to creating identification from the listeners.
I don’t often showcase student homework, but this piece, designed to tell a story without visuals and without naming the product is quite engaging. Good use of background music and natural sound together. You can find the creator on Twitter here.