How to tell an audio story without narration

January 12, 2017

Standard audio stories have a host introduction, narration, voice tracks and actualities (such as natural sound). But you can also use non-narrated pieces, stories that don’t include the reporter’s voice or storytelling. Non-narrated pieces aren’t usual, but they can be effective when paired with the right story. These stories can take several forms.

  • First-person essays. This works well for commentaries, when a particular point of view is presented.
  • Man on the street. In this non-narrated approach, a reporter asks people’s reactions to a question or issue. Plan to ask each person two or three questions. Back in the studio, you’ll create a montage of the best responses.
  • Voice collages. This structure incorporates many voices into a tight space. It provides different answers to a single question. Usually, the answers are provided in succession, after an initial setup. This format works best with a very specific subject. It also works best in short form: 30 seconds is a typical length for a collage.
  • Features. You can also present a person’s responses to a set of interview questions without the reporter speaking. This formats works especially well when people tell a story about their life or something they’ve done.

Use a non-narrated approach with a particular purpose in mind. It won’t work for every topic, so don’t force it on a story that would benefit from another approach.

Taken from Writing for the Ear, a self-directed course by Dan Grech at Poynter NewsU.

Take the full course

Have you missed a Coffee Break Course? Here’s our complete lineup.