I’ve always been drawn to short story collections. I’m impressed by writers who can craft a fictional short story and bring it to a quick resolution. And I love how a bunch of short stories are bundled together into one book.
The thing is, I almost never finish the short story collections that I purchase. Apparently, I require a book to have a common thread/plot from start to finish in order to keep reading it. Short fiction podcasts have solved this problem for me, and probably saved me some money, too.
I recently went on a listening binge of Radiotopia’s The Truth. The show’s site describes the stories as “sometimes dark, sometimes funny, and always intriguing.” Each episode is about 20 minutes long and the stories aren’t just read or told, but acted out, like you’d expect of a fictional story podcast.
What The Truth Does Well
…it was like I was listening to a movie from another room.
In a few words: acting and production. Although most of the stories are unique and well-written, I quickly understood why The Truth’s tagline is “movies for your ears”.
The first episode that I listened to was Sleep Some More. The story was great (especially the ending), but that was only part of the appeal. The story wasn’t just told, it was acted out. And acted well. The production values – background sounds, editing, etc. – were also fantastic.
The second episode I listened to was Intimacy Challenge. Again, the production of this episode was super impressive. The first six or seven minutes is of a dinner party with multiple characters, which can sometimes be chaotic when it’s all-audio (like the last few episodes of Lifeafter). But then I actually closed my eyes, and it was like I was listening to a movie from another room.
As the second episode continued, I could almost sense how the story would seem if I were reading it on the pages of a book. That’s how good the acting was. And this is a common theme through almost all of the episodes that I’ve listened to.
In addition to the acting, The Truth also does a great job with the comedic episodes. Remember: not every episode is dark. Some episodes are hilarious. I particularly like Naughty or Nice; The Dark End of the Mall; and Hey Bumblebee. If you see an episode description that says it’s a bunch of comedy sketches, don’t skip it!
What I Didn’t Like as Much
Since every episode features a different story, not every story is going to be as awesome as the one before. Occasionally, there are “duds”, but I think that’s because of the high standard set by the really great stories.
Miracle on the L Train, a funny story that made me laugh out loud more than once, has a bit of an unresolved ending, which drives me crazy. Also, there are only two main characters in the story, so there isn’t as much depth as in some other episodes.
A Drop in the Ocean, a thriller-like episode, also had a cliffhanger ending, but the real problem was how many male voices I had to keep track of. Unlike the dinner party scene from Intimacy Challenge, it was difficult to understand who was talking when and which characters were which.
I definitely consider the technical issue (not being able to identify characters) to be a bigger problem than the story itself. Just like a book of short stories, there’s no guarantee that I’m going to love every episode of a short fiction podcast.
The Truth is mostly for adults, it’s mostly not safe for work, and it’s most definitely worth a listen. I’ve already started following it. I recommend that you begin with Sleep Some More, the first episode that I mentioned. It has a little of all the best aspects of the series, and I think you’ll be hooked.
Do you like The Truth podcast? What other short fiction podcasts do you listen to? Leave your comment below to help other readers find your favorite podcast!