In Naomi Alderman's Podcast, Listeners Walk Into The Story
Dystopian thriller, The Walk, is a tale of mistaken identity, terrorism, and a life-or-death mission to walk across Scotland. But the format of this story is — unusual.
The Walk is an immersive fiction podcast, and the creators want you to listen to it while walking. It begins with a terrorist attack at a train station; you are the protagonist, known only as Walker, and the police think you're a member of a shadowy terror group called The Burn.
...one of the most brilliant things for me is to be able to tell a story where you're listening to it as you're moving through a landscape.
Author Naomi Alderman, whose latest novel was a bestseller called The Power, is the creator of The Walk. It's not her first foray into audio storytelling — she was also one of the creators of Zombies, Run!, a phone app that dropped unwilling exercisers into the middle of a zombie apocalypse and had them walk — or run — to escape the shambling hordes.
"I'm really interested in what you might call storytelling that bleeds into the real world," Alderman says. "And one of the most brilliant things for me is to be able to tell a story where you're listening to it as you're moving through a landscape."
On the protagonist Walker
Walker is you. Walker is every listener, and my ethos is that I like to allow my listeners to become very involved in being that character by not insisting on the character has a particular race or a particular gender or a particular age or even a particular ability at walking. You can equally listen to the thing whilst rolling along in a wheelchair.
On how the story encourages listeners to keep moving
We start out as the character in the story; we sort of get mistaken for some members of The Burn. So there's a terrorist incident in the first episode, after which, this shadow organization, The Burn, is after us and also the police are after us because they think we're the people who did this terrorist attack. So, right from the start, there is an imperative to keep moving.
On writing for audio drama
It's a really, really fascinating discipline, actually. And of course, I'm writing not only for the ear, but for the ear of somebody who is potentially on the move. So there may be traffic noises, there may be other things, so there's a certain clarity that it demands. But there's also a kind of informality that you can get into the language. And I think when it's done right, audio is an incredibly intimate medium. I mean, here we are, speaking directly into someone's ear.
One thing that you can absolutely do in audio, which I think you can't really do in film or TV, is to have characters just chat to you about who they are. So it's more like the soliloquy and a play onstage. It works really well, if I have Walker, who's my silent protagonist. Walker's walking along, and somebody else is walking next to them, and this person will just tell Walker about themselves.
Alyssa Edes and Matt Ozug produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Sydnee Monday and Petra Mayer adapted it for the Web.
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