Finding a story worth telling
Whether you’ve made your way here from my portfolio or found this post searching for good audio storytelling, I’m delighted to share my radio news story and the making of it.
After producing three other episodes San Ysidro, Little Italy and hosting the Old Town show for the City Stories public radio news program, I channeled a different approach to my Julian storytelling.
Famous for early Black settlers, gold mining and apple pies, Julian is a beautiful mountain community. It snows in winter and lies east of the city in San Diego County, California about an hour from the beach,
It has a wholesome ‘Mayberryish’ reputation, but I wanted to find something it wasn’t known for. So I asked, “what’s sexy about this place?” and anticipated blushes, but there were none. The affable people of Julian boldly and lightheartedly joined in the fun.
Learning to make Storytelling happen
After capturing all the interviews, with my H4N field recorder, I sat down to write the script. To my surprise, the script came to me in a rhyme scheme. One of the most fascinating writing experiences ever! The poetry of it seemed to fit my subject matter, so I ran with it.
Produced like an audio magazine, in an NPR radio news style, City Stories’ features a variety of storytelling from its reporters. In Julian, I was assigned the Miscellaneous category. I felt a sense of freedom getting to choose the topic, which I think fueled my creativity. Other storytelling categories consisted of subjects like Person, History, and so on. Depending on your mindset storytelling without the guard rails of a specific genre can be a challenge. In a way, you pull double duty in having to define your storytelling category and write it. It can lend itself to writer’s block if you’re not careful. I found staying light and playful really worked to my advantage.
Two audio storytelling techniques I used to encourage my good mood were early preparation and confidence. See confidence is the rainmaker for ideas and the best way to sustain it is early preparation. Pre-paving my psyche I told myself how easy it is for me to find a story and once I did, the 5W’s and my determination would take it from there. I also understood the mountainous terrain traveling to Julian about an hour away was a problem for me. I’m scared of driving on two-lane ledges at 60+mph, so I made arrangements for my good friend, Gary Brown to give me a ride. With no time to waste while I was there, I googled the seedling of the idea I had to “find the sexy in Julian” before I set out in comfort for the drive. Because I had an inkling of where to go, I secured one interview on that first trip and only needed to return once more for the others.
Small efforts make mighty impacts, when you prepare early you can’t help but be confident.
Audio Storytelling Behind the Scenes
Meeting regularly with the editorial board to review progress and get feedback on the craft of storytelling influenced some of my decisions. For instance, while the team liked the creativity of my vocal prose. They suggested I dial the sexiness back a bit in my first voiceover. It was just too exaggerated, almost caricaturist. I agreed and changed it.
Some might say collaboration is essential, and in my opinion, it is ideal for focus, momentum, and learning from others. However, it varies for each creator, in my experience, both circumstances have been beneficial. While it’s good to have others to help ground you and bounce ideas off of, I also love the stealth of storytelling on your own. It’s a great exercise in trusting yourself and developing leadership. Needless to say, when I initially shared my story idea with the board, not everyone could see my vision.
Photo Credit: Darnell Forde
But they got on board, once I presented my first raw actualities. Audio actualities are typically field-recorded interviews or sound that is edited to fit your audio storytelling angle. Similar to the more popularly known “sound bite” in TV or video news reporting, an actuality is a :10 to :20-second audio clip specific to radio or sound reporting.
So, we were all amazed by how revealing my actualities were. In truth, one interview I just could not use and it was demanding to keep my script family rated. But, I was extremely proud because I considered it a great compliment to be able to draw forth such honest and generous responses from people on such a taboo subject. Beyond showing myself I can evoke compelling responses in an interview, I believe I made them feel a human connection they could trust. Which meant a lot to me.
Audio Storytelling Rewards
After this show aired on KSDS Jazz 88.3 in San Diego, the mayor of Julian sent our team a letter calling our show a “fine piece of radio.” That had never happened before, it was a huge honor and recognition of our achievement. You can hear the entire episode, hosted by John Naccarato, a talented journalist that left broadcasting for his love of nature, a woman, and his dogs. He’s as fabulous a human being as his voice suggests. Sounds like a great story, huh?! Maybe I’ll tell it. Subscribe below to let me know you’d like to hear more stories like this.
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