I’ll make a bet with you. I bet you’ll say “Wait, what??!” at least five times when you listen to Hillary Frank’s story “Real Teens, Fake Babies.” The story is that good, that surprising.
“Real Teens, Fake Babies” was produced for Hillary’s podcast The Longest, Shortest Time. It also aired on This American Life.
For the story, Hillary followed two teens — Rachel and Paige — in Baby Think It Over, a sex-education/parenting program for high school students who are given robot babies for 48 hours. The babies are remarkably lifelike and so is the experience of taking care of them.
The characters, the scenes, the plot twists in the story are remarkable. Actually, now that I think about it, I bet you’ll say “Wait, what??!” at least seven times. And, I bet you’ll say “No way!” when the characters change in the story; they shift their point of view, significantly.
In fact, Hillary says the character change in the story is the centerpiece. She structured the story around that moment.
In addition to radio and podcasting, Hillary writes young adult novels. She says that character change is so important in her writing, she’ll actually map out the arc of a character. In the chart, Hillary plotted out the ups and down of Ellie and her relationship with Nate from her book Better Than Running at Night. And, even though she didn’t draw a similar chart for the characters in “Real Teens, Fake Babies,” she did create an outline that accomplished the same thing.
I don’t feature the entirety of “Real Teens, Fake Babies” in HowSound. So, to get the full effect of all the “Wait, what!??” moments, I suggest you take a listen and subscribe to The Longest Shortest Time while you’re at it.
*photo of Hillary Frank by Natalie Chitwood.