Scaled Down

Intro from Jay Allison: Radio students from all over the country, plus Canada and Australia, came to live on Cape Cod for a couple of months to attend the Fall 2012 Transom Story Workshop. Rob Rosenthal and Sarah Reynolds ran the class with dedication, and made sure the students came away with skills enough to craft lovely pieces… which they did. The students found remarkable stories sitting under the noses of us who’ve been living here for decades. Come listen. It’s impressive to hear such work from a group of people just starting out, and it’s encouraging too, because there’s bound to be more of it.

Listen to “Scaled Down”

About “Scaled Down”

I got this tape in a last minute scramble after many, MANY stories fell through…and immediately worried that it wasn’t compelling enough. The stakes aren’t particularly high. There’s no central tension, no character undergoing profound change. My challenge was making the story memorable without these elements. It took three tries to get there.

First, I produced a non-narrated piece. Amy is a fantastic, very visual speaker. All through our interview, she was slicing open fish, cutting out their organs and smearing their tissues on slides. I thought that between her voice and some squirm-inducing ambi, I could create a sound-rich portrait of an unusual job: performing necropsies on marine animals. But the sounds just didn’t come out well on tape. Amy was using tiny tools; the mic barely picked up any snipping or slicing or smearing sounds. The necropsy LOOKED bizarre and gross and fascinating, but SOUNDED flat.

Next, I tried manufacturing drama. I wrote a Law & Order-style script – framing the story as a murder mystery, even cuing up the Law & Order DUN DUN sound at suspenseful moments. But as the Transom crew pointed out in their infinite radio wisdom, the drama didn’t lead to a payoff. Amy didn’t solve a mystery and figure out what killed the fish. She sent tissues off to a lab for more information. My murder mystery script wasn’t true to the tape.

At this point, I told (okay, whined to) Rob that without the Law & Order twist, my story wouldn’t be fun. He shared some brilliant advice. There’s the (manufactured) fun that comes from snappy narration and clever sound effects. And there’s the (true) fun that comes from going on a journey of discovery. A couple dear classmates helped me zero in on what’s actually compelling about the story, leading to my third and (I hope!) most successful script.

Listen to More Pieces from this Story Workshop Class

Mallory Falk

Mallory Falk

Mallory grew up in Pittsburgh, lives in New Orleans, and fiercely loves both cities. She spent the past three years working as a youth organizer, coordinating youth news conferences and media projects. She's excited about audio storytelling as a tool for social change and looking forward to producing more pieces. You can hear more of Mallory's work at PRX.

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