For the longest time, I had known that there was something unique about audio storytelling, but I could never really figure out how to describe what made it distinct from other mediums. It wasn’t until I watched Jad Abumrad’s videos How Radio Creates Empathy and Digital Shamanism and Old-Fashioned, Newfangled Storytelling Magic that I finally understood what makes audio storytelling unique. Abumrad describes the experience of listening to an audio story as one of “co authorship” in which the story describes something and it is up to the audience to picture that in their minds. From my perspective, this makes audio storytelling occupy a sort of liminal space between written storytelling and video storytelling. Like written storytelling, it allows the audience to create their own images and interpretations of the visual actions of the characters while incorporating actors to portray the characters. In this way, audio storytelling can take two of the strongest elements from each medium and combine it into one.
One very good example of how this mode of storytelling can be effective is in an episode of The Truth Podcast called Moon Graffiti. The story is largely character driven, focusing on dialogue exchanges between fictional versions of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. The performances are both very well done, and the fact that the audience has to picture them within their mind allows the audience to feel closer to them than they likely would were this a video story. Making the audience visualize them creates a personal link between the audience and character because they are not only empathizing with the character, they are empathizing with the version of that character that they helped create themselves. Audio storytelling combines the personality and life that comes with an actor embodying a character and combines that with audience interpretation to create a deeply personal storytelling experience.