Short-form audio storytelling: 5 format ideas


This week your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to develop — and record — a short 90 second to 2 minute piece of audio depicting a famous event in history.

Here’s some potential formats you could use.

  1. Traditional News Bulletin: Check out the NPR hourly news summary which you can play from the top right hand corner of this page.

2) Breaking News: there’s a several pieces here about the assassination of JFK and how it was covered by CBS radio. You can also access the full live broadcast from ABC here (I recommend starting c.9 mins in and dropping in and out of the broadcast).

3) You can also hear a retrospective interview looking back at the event: “Bob Schieffer Reflects On JFK Assassination 50 Years Later.”

4) Monologue: listen to the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent for great examples of this.

“No interviews are included, there are no sound effects; no creaking doors, no footsteps, no noises off at all. Just the voices of the correspondents reading their scripts. As BBC senior correspondent Fergal Keane puts it: “Fooc is a programme which promotes story-telling rather than story-processing. It is the best programme we have in news.” (via the Guardian.)

Here’s 12 case studies from the show to listen to for style. And some scripts available in the preview format of this book.

There’s also some great US originated monologues of everyday people captured by Listen to these two examples (they’re just five minutes in total) of memorable — and life changing experiences .

StoryCorps 337: Just Pass it On:

Thomas Weller explains how he got started helping strangers in need; and the impact on New York City bus operator Ronald Ruiz when he helped one of his passengers on the City Island line in the Bronx.

For these two interviewees, these were historically notable events.

5) Two hander discussion: Stuff You Missed in History Class does this well. Again no interviews, FX etc. Just two people talking and walking you through a famous event or person.

Here’s a topical episode: The Schoolhouse Blizzard (Links to an external site.) from earlier this month which showcases the format.

“In 1888, a blizzard so sudden and severe hit the American Midwest and claimed the lives of hundreds, some of whom died just outside the safety of shelter. Weather prediction of the fast-moving storm simply didn’t reach people in time to prepare them.”

Any other ways in which you could do this?