The entire history of human expression, slightly abridged
So I was reading (re-reading, but whatever) the selection for Monday’s class, three chapters from Jonathan Kern’s Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production, and I got caught up on the part that talks about how important it is to sound conversational, that a person is listening to you like you’re in the room with them, that there’s an element of trust there, that it’s a relationship between two human beings.
Then I went back and listened to my first radio essay for this semester, “Because It’s There,” and I grew increasingly dissatisfied with the performance.
I’m not saying that this essay–“7 Stories about George Saunders”–was an exercise. I’ve felt for awhile now that I wanted to write something about George Saunders, a personal hero of mine, somebody who I greatly admire as a person and a writer (if you don’t know who George Saunders is, this Times article will get you started).
It’s not an exercise. But I only started writing it once I got that hit about talking like you’re speaking directly to someone you know and care about.
So, this time, I went unscripted. I made an incredibly crude outline–crude even for my already low (handwriting-wise) standards–and just said it like I would say it to somebody standing there.
I came across a couple of lines–the one about electrons, for example–that I knew from the first take that I would keep for subsequent (spoken) drafts, but I also kept the story loose. Entry number six, in fact isn’t the original story I was going to tell in that spot. I forgot what I had originally intended to say (a story about George Saunders and Robert Stone, I think) so I just thought something up on the fly.
The artifact that I came up with feels very different from “Because It’s There.” It’s more conversational, sounds more human. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but it’s clear, listening to both, that the listener perceives the character of the storyteller differently and that reflects on the way that the listener hears and understands the story.
Here it is: