Inside Story
Storytelling Species
Written by Bonnie Swift   

Some nights when I’m putting my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to bed, she asks me to tell her the 'owl story'. It’s a very short story about a time when I was driving late at night and accidentally bumped into a snowy owl with my car. The owl had been standing the the middle of the road, and jumped up in the air as I sped around a corner. I was able to slow down before it hit my windshield, so it had been a relatively light bump. When I stopped my car to get out and look for the giant white bird, it was gone. I tell my daughter that the owl probably flew back into the forest to be with its friends. My daughter loves the 'owl story' and asks for it again and again.


One night when she asked for this story, I tried an experiment, and subtracted much of its usual narrative structure. I talked about driving in a more general sense, about the concept of a speed limit, and about how cars that are going too fast will sometimes hit animals. I told her about the habits of nocturnal species like owls, and about snowy owl migration patterns. As I had predicted, she quickly lost interest, and eventually interrupted me. She wanted the story, not a list of facts.


Why does my toddler already prefer stories to non-stories? Some would say that, because she’s human, this preference is built into her DNA. Have humans evolved as a storytelling species? If so, why? Why would storytelling have helped us survive and reproduce in our ancestral environment?

Play It Again, Roman!
Written by Jackson Roach   

It’s easy to forget about all the little sounds, the pops and rustles and scratches and clicks that surround me in my everyday life. I’m constantly filtering through, focusing past, drowning out all these sounds. And this is especially true with my daily devices. Gone are the days of clacking typewriters and cash registers that go ker-ching. It seems like sound is almost completely peripheral to the function of new technology. I actively keep my iPhone on mute.


Or at least, I did. The Sound of the Artificial World, an episode of 99% Invisible, totally changed my mind. Now my phone is constantly blooping and swooshing and clicking. And every sound means something. Every sound is important to the way I use this device in my pocket. And all because of this one story, and the way it repeats one tiny clip of incredible sounds.

The Comfort of Consistency
Written by Alec Glassford   

On the occasional days I got out of class early in high school, I would listen to The Writer’s Almanac, a minuscule daily segment that ran from 2:55 to 3 p.m. on my local public radio station. The Writer’s Almanac, narrated by Garrison Keillor, whose melodious and calming voice is better known for the menagerie that is A Prairie Home Companion, follows a very rigid structure: a song, an array of histories, a poem, and a mantra.


The familiar consistency of this format imbues each new episode with a sense of a nostalgia. Even as I learn new stories each time I listen to the Almanac, the ritualistic elements of its craft always make me feel like I am returning home. Even in the experiencing of something so brief, my understanding of the show’s unchanging structure makes me feel snugly nestled in cozy and literary microcosm.

A Seventh Sense
Written by Christy Hartman   

Just this past weekend, when asked (again) why I had such good skin, I told my friend it was probably because I grew up indoors. There weren’t many kids who wanted to play with me, but I hardly noticed. My head was in another land. Story Land. At the library, I’d regularly put 25 books up on the counter to check out, and the librarians would look at me and always say, “Are you going to be able to read all these in a month?” Adults are always underestimating children.


Because I spent so much time in my bed, sprawled on the floor and hidden in cabinets (all great places to read in the summer), it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that real people had great stories too. But it did finally happen. I climbed out of the kitchen cabinet, turned off my flashlight, put away my books, and started to interact with people whose stories were not printed in black ink. And slowly I learned how to recognize and talk to people who had stories as interesting as those I found in my books. For this post, I'm going to share five strategies that I've learned for identifying great, natural storytellers and creating the context for their stories to emerge.

Details zoom us out from pain and rhythm keeps us moving
Written by Eileen Williams   

During high school, I had a Sunday night ritual. Come 7 P.M., I would turn on the radio and hear my favorite program: The Moth Radio Hour. I spent every week looking forward to this hour-long respite, this haven of stories. And although I remember many charming characters, pithy punch lines, and intense images, there is one particular piece that has stuck with me: “Perfect Moments” told by Brian Finkelstein [17:08]. Finkelstein’s story is possessing—a thoughtful exploration of the delicate boundary between life and death, comedy and tragedy.


Despite his morbid subject matter, Finkelstein will make you laugh (in the middle of a suicide attempt, no less) by delivering idiosyncratic details with a constant, almost melodic cadence. Highlighting particular, seemingly unrelated facts, he weaves an incredibly vivid picture while also giving us time to process and breathe in between the dramatic events and feelings they create. What at first seem like digressions actually help Finkelstein create dependable rhythm and introduce details that come to tie the story together, keeping us with him the whole way through.


Constructing a Fictional Truth
Written by Rosie La Puma   

I was originally drawn to creating radio because of my inherent trust in voices. Sound is an incredibly intimate medium, and that intimacy sometimes allows me to entertain the illusion that radio stories are happening in real time. The storytelling becomes a conversation. I too wanted to make something that sounded trustworthy and intimate. But above all, it had to sound “natural.”


It appeared simple enough, but proved much more difficult than I expected. I rewrote my first real piece over a dozen times. In each draft, I delicately tweaked my narration to make it sound more like that idyllic and ever-elusive “conversation.” And yet, even after I felt I had perfected every word, when I went in to record, the best takes were the ones when I didn’t look at the page and ad-libbed slightly.