It’s a simple request with a not so simple response – “Tell me a story.” From the time we’re children, we intuitively seek out stories in our lives, and through films and books, friends and strangers, we satisfy our desire for narrative. Radio has long been a place where stories thrive, and today podcasts are giving us a new platform for sharing audio stories. PRI is happy to support AFF’s pioneering venture in audio storytelling by sponsoring its inaugural Fiction Podcast Script competition. We look forward to seeing the scripts that find their way to the top of the finalist pile, and we’ll be looking for the elements that make for a good story in any medium.
Great characters are at the heart of any good story. In audio, we have to draw a picture of them using words – often their own words – so we can create mental pictures of who they are. Are they tall or short? Do they look they you in the eye when you talk to them? How do we know if they are sincere or lying through their teeth? A script has to give us the clues that tell us who the characters are.
As important as character is the setting. Especially in audio, we need to know where the characters are. The script has to paint a picture that we can conjure as we listen. Are we outside under a sky filled with stars? Or in a dank basement dripping with condensation and smelling of mold?
Compelling stories have conflict. Conflict can play out in a thousand different ways – between characters, between the main character and nature, between desire and responsibility. It drives the story forward.
Of course, narrative arc or story structure is essential. A story needs a beginning, middle and end. Even if the end doesn’t wrap everything up in a pretty bow, we need an ending note that signals – something. Resolution can be satisfying or not, but we need it regardless. Along the way, it’s nice to encounter surprise, revelation, insight, and humor. We’ll be looking for those moments in the story that make us gasp or sigh or laugh out loud.
If all of these elements are woven together successfully, we have a great story. A memorable, sharable story that can accompany people as they walk down a busy street or drive along a winding highway or nestle next to someone they love. Helping people around the world tell their own stories is our calling at PRI. Tell us a story.