Week 5 (1/9): Narrative elements for audio stories

Illustration: Giulia Forsythe/CC/flickr

BY DEB BAUER

Last week we looked at the structure of hard news stories in News Writing Fundamentals.  Today we will study the structure of writing for radio and television concentrating on the narrative elements for audio stories. Principally it is essential to keep in mind we are writing predominantly for the ears.

Let’s first recap what we have learnt about the basic structure so far:

Narrative elements for audio stories

All stories have a shape, as Kurt Vonnegut explains.

Commonly this shape is called the 3-act structure. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) is often credited with originating the 3-act structure because of his observation that a tragedy must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The 3-act structure is a model used in narrative fiction that divides a story into those three parts (acts).

    • The Beginning, or Setup
    • The Middle, or Conflict
    • The End, or Resolution

Narrative can be written from different points of view. There are three popular forms:

      1. First person is the I/we perspective.
      2. Second person is the you perspective.
      3. Third person is the he/she/it/they perspective.

Writing styles for Media:

Different forms of media require the application of different writing styles. There are some accepted standards that you can use in your writing.

Media release:

The release of news or public interest stories to a range of media outlets e.g. newspaper, television or radio broadcaster or on an organisation’s website. Ensure that you identify the purpose of the media release before you write it; if the media release is written on behalf of a company, ensure you portray the company in a positive light and use persuasive language. If the media release is of a current affairs or journalistic nature, ensure your facts are well researched.

Style:

    • informative
    • formal
    • factual content, rather than opinion
    • highly structured
    • always in the third person

Tips:

    • use the inverted pyramid technique with the important detail in the first sentence, start with the key detail and then fill in the blanks, include an end or closing statement
    • include a short, catchy headline
    • use quotes or other evidence, in support of the facts
    • clarity is critical
    • no abbreviations or acronyms
    • brevity is key
    • keep it punchy
    • use a conventional layout with a title stating the topic, date and presenter
    • can use images to illustrate the story
    • include appropriate details so the reader can contact the author.

In Writing for Radio:

An audio script follows a distinctive format to convey how sound and music will be used in the performance. Check out Caz Adam’s excellent and comprehensive post on examples of writing an audio script.

And a step by step, instructive post on examples of how to format an audio script.

Here is some more great advice in how to craft a great script.

And finally, a video:

TASK

Write a short radio or TV script from one of these sources for press releases, OR write an audio script from a current entertainment or music industry story you find online.

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