|The Radio Sentence|
I love concision. I love elegance. And I love radio narration that demonstrates both those qualities. Today’s blog post is dedicated to one nugget of narration that knocked my my socks off. It will examine what 16 words can teach us about simplicity, stakes-setting, and where to put the most important word (hint: it’s last).
Here’s the sentence, from a story called “The Hounds of Blairsville”, which appeared in the April 11th episode of This American Life, “Tarred and Feathered”:
“Things are being said about you. Bad things, all over the internet. On something called Topix.”
|Off to a Good Start|
I think that the most challenging part of a writing a story for radio is formulating the introduction. The stakes are very high: your listener will decide within a few short seconds whether to stick around for your story or whether to turn the proverbial dial, and so you must do everything you can to persuade that listener to stay, and you must do it quickly. A good introduction has the magical power to seize a person’s attention and keep them curious about how your story will unfold.
I came across a great example of this in our own archives, in The Human Map, by Raj Bhandari. Within the first 30 seconds, Bhandari introduces himself, his topic, his character, and, perhaps most importantly, promises us that we will learn something new if we continue listening. So what else can we do but stay?!
Here is the transcript of the first 30 seconds. I think it’s worth reading closely, because it is so packed with top-quality craft elements.