Participatory Storytelling

When working with audio, its all about details.  The volume, the effects, the fade-in/out, the combination of tracks and sounds, the intro/outro music.  They are all building blocks to create an engaging and pleasant-sounding piece of audio. What this assignment challenged me to do was not only make something engaging and pleasant, but to also retell a story written in segments of 140 characters or less.  Therein was my biggest challenge.

The original platform for telling the story did not allow for much detail (and the collaborative nature definitely led to some serious plot holes and continuity issues).  To recreate the story on a platform that requires so much detail required me engage with the story differently than I had before.  In order to capture nuance, I had to put myself in Ti’s shoes.  For example, take a look at the first five sentences of the story:

Ti gingerly inserted the last key into the padlock hanging from the rusted hasp. It fit. She turned the key. With a loud click, the padlock disengaged and fell to the dusty floor. The door swung ajar with a heaving moan. 

Right away, we know there are several sounds that will happen:

  • The key being put in the padlock
  • The key turning
  • The padlock opening and falling to the floor
  • The door opening

But I also had to consider the things that weren’t directly mentioned; the sounds that were implied and the sounds I would expect to hear if I were Ti, standing at this door with a key in my hand:

  • The ambiance of being outdoors (perhaps she is trying to unlock a front door)
  • What Ti is mumbling to herself (by this point, she is inserting “the last key”…there could have been many before and she could be frustrated or hopeful)
  • The sharp breath of surprise as a heavy padlock falls to the floor and the door opens

This list of implied sounds goes on and on:  the footsteps, the breathing, the resonance of the voices in the empty room, the creepy ambiances of the room and the appearance of the ghost (and the change of ambiance as Ti goes back outside), the rustling of pulling a cellphone out of a pocket, the clicking of bicycle gears, the tone of Ti’s voice, and so on.

Searching for nuance in the original story called for a lot of imagination and creativity.  I found myself understanding and engaging with this story in ways that I hadn’t before.  Instead of passively reading, I was interacting and choosing how to make the story happen next.

As you may have realized after listening to my radio play, I added sounds and dialogue that are not necessarily mentioned in the original story.  In the planning stages of this assignment, I debated between using a narrator and just using sounds and dialogue to get the point across.  As you hear, I went with the latter…a decision I’m actually quite pleased with.  After listening to my final product, I think a narrator would’ve gunked up such a short story.

Also, there would’ve been more potential for confusion if I had been the voice for both the characters and the narrator.  One of my biggest worries was figuring out how to make the voice for Ti’s grandmother different (and ghostly) enough so as not to be confused with Ti.

My audio play was created using Audacity (which is available to download for free), with the final product hosted on SoundCloud.  All of the sound effects I used came from YouTube’s Audio Library, which features thousands of free audio clips to use for creative projects.  The song used for the intro/outro music is called “Arid Foothills” by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com, licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License.

3 comments on “Participatory Storytelling

  1. Awesome! I had no idea that audio alone could be so engaging! I loved it. You are a wonderful voice actor – and you did a great job incorporating the sounds. They were perfect, even down to the ambient noises. I’m not able to comment on the writing portion as it is yet to come but I LOVE your media bit. Well done.

  2. Kudos on a beautifully produced radio play, complete with perfect sound effects and an atmospheric reverb on the voice. You definitely have the acting gift. Your pacing and inflection are very effective throughout. What I love about this approach is that it uses your own individual strengths and interests to teach us all about effective audio production and perhaps encourage us to try it at some point. More later…

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