Radio stories usually aren’t very complicated. Generally speaking, you can probably place stories into two categories. The first is the argument story — these people say this, these other people disagree. The second is the narrative story — the piece is organized chronologically as a sequence of events. (To be sure, I’m painting with a broad brush.)
Whitney Jones produced a somewhat different story last fall while he was at the Transom Story Workshop where I teach. His story “Leaving” falls in the “narrative story” category but instead of one single sequence of events, “Leaving” follows two — a parallel narrative. That’s unusual.
The reason you don’t hear parallel narratives on the radio too often is because they’re complex. They require more attention from a listener who, typically, is doing something else while they listen. So, in recognition of that, producers and editors tend to simplify. That’s smart.
But, if the writer pays close attention to keeping the two separate narratives clear and simple then brings them together in the end in a satisfying manner, I think a parallel narrative can work on the radio and I’d like to hear more of them.
Definitely, Whitney’s parallel narrative works and works well. But you should weigh in. Have listen and post your thoughts.
Whitney was our intern. Help us work with more like him!
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