NT post #3

by Mike Lew

20 Acts in 60 Minutes

I thought that this radio program was great.  The stories were off and on for me, but what was the most unique about these stories is the way in which they are told.  The use of different voices really set this program apart from normal short stories.  Not only that, but the stories were told using different vehicles of dialog.

The telling of a story using the voice of the characters is one way to convey much more than whats in the words.  This is especially effective in short stories where there isn’t enough time to give a background picture for a character’s motives and personality.  Much of this information that we glean from omniscient 3rd person storytelling is instead derived from the character’s voice.  Tone, inflection, and word choice all add to the flavor of the character.  Stories told in this way also put less strain on the reader (or listener) because it requires less imagination to dig gain an impression of the character.  In first impressions, it is common for people to profile a person based on the way their voice sounds.  Often in written stories, there must be a large amount of dialog between characters to gain the same visualization of a character’s personality.  I’ve said a lot of different things so let’s break it down into parts.  The audible aspect of the program conveys information about a character in three ways: dialect, inflection, and emotion.

The dialect of a character has a huge impact on our initial impression of the character.  People often associate certain personality traits with the area of the country they are brought up in.  For instance, in the short story were a radio host accepted buy and sell orders for furniture and other products, he was given a southern accent.  Though he had a very neutral use of inflection and emotion in his voice, the reader can automatically associate his dialect with a person who is sincere, trustworthy, and kind.  The image one produces with a southern setting is also that of a close-knit community, so it didn’t seem weird to the audience when people called in as though they were acquaintances with the host, or when calls were made about missing animals.

Inflection is another method the voice actor uses to convey their characters feelings.  If we look back at the example of the short story where people were auctioning their possessions on a radio show, there was one caller who was an elderly-sounding lady who wanted to sell off some furniture and appliances.  Her soft voice, shuttering, and downward inflection were signs to the audience that she was embarrassed about having to sell off all of those things.  The short story used this device to imply that she was desperate for the money without even mentioning it in the dialog.  Had the story been written, the reader might have lost some of the interactivity in the story had this fact been plainly spelled out.

Finally, emotion plays a big part in conveying feeling.  Emotion in obviously one of the most important parts of speech.  Its effects are extremely hard to imitate in a written form.  Have you ever tried to use sarcasm in writing?  It’s really hard!  Tone isn’t something that is universally understood by everyone, and its harder to get a reader to understand it.  When I read a comic such as Calvin and Hobbes for instance, there are often italicized words where the author intended to denote some sort of emotion, but to me, when I read something, I inject my own tone into the character’s voice.  I lose much of what the author intended.  Likewise, when people chat on IM and try to convey emotion, they cannot rely on words alone but often try to produce some sort of imagery in the form of emotocons.  Written conversation cannot clearly express people’s emotions.

Overall, the use of voice actors gives new life to these short stories and enables a greater amount of story to be told in less time.

The House on Loon Lake

This was another audio story told on a radio program.  Unlike the last set, this one was just one 60 minute story.  The story was set up like a documentary.  There was a narrator who told the story with injections from a cast of interviewees who gave their thoughts on the action.  The way this story was set up I thought was a great way to tell it.  I really like this story.

The use of the voice actors in this one was meant as a plot device.  Much of the mood of the story was lightened by the characters injections.  The narrator would tell the story and give off a certain atmosphere, and then one of the characters would comment on how that felt at that moment, laughing about how silly it was in retrospect.  The effect of this pattern to me actually deepened the mystery.  Because the narrator was also a character in the story, it seemed as though he wanted to tell the audience about something very important that happened to him, while the other characters put it off as just a childhood memory.  The other characters don’t seem to want to remember the event as much for some reason, and some pretended not to remember scary moments.  However, the narrator is adamant about telling the story because it is more significant for him.

This back-and-forth storytelling intensified the suspense for me, but at the same time relieved me of the feeling of pressure as a result of the suspense.  I believe that the relief of suspense was the role of the interjecting characters, whereas the narrator would build it.  It also makes sense as to why the narrator used a neutral tone in his voice so that the audience would be more caught up in the details of what he was saying, but the interjection characters used a normal speaking voice so that their feelings would be conveyed more and relax the audience.

Another unique aspect of this story was the use of background music in the story.  The music was present in not only the narrator’s dialog, but also the interjecting characters’.  The music had the affect of giving off a certain feeling about what is going to happen next.  This is pretty common in productions like movies.  However, I think it also had a secondary purpose.  Because the music was prevalent in the gaps between dialog, narrator speech, and interjecting character speech, it served to produce a “smoothing” effect on the emotions on the audience.  I mentioned before that the narrator was delivering suspense and the other characters relieved it, so in order to prevent the audience from experiencing an emotional rollercoaster, the music is added to smooth out those feelings.  In this way, the audience can flow with the story as a whole better, and they don’t become as emotionally disturbed.

 

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~ by MikeL on February 1, 2011.

 
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