Close your eyes. What do you hear? Trees and crickets? Traffic and schoolchildren horsing around? Music playing somewhere in the background?
And what if all of that went away, so that you couldn’t hear any of it anymore? How much would your life change? Quite a bit.
And then what if you could get it all back?
That is the general premise of Unheard: The Story Of Anna Winslow, my new found footage audio thriller, available now across the world through Audible. In it a young foreign student, Melissa, at a university in northern England, begins an investigation into the disappearance of a fellow student (the titular Anna Winslow). She begins to discover that Anna Winslow started to suffer hearing loss and then undertook a radical new procedure – one that could have put her life in danger, and could now threaten Melissa’s life.
One of the things that Melissa quickly finds out about Anna Winslow is that she became famous for an on-campus incident but there was more to the story. People didn’t try to help her, and Anna failed to try to communicate with others, and it all led to the actions she’s taken and her disappearance.
And here’s Melissa, the ultimate outsider. Someone who grew up in the United States but is new to England. Like Anna Winslow she’s shy, and has found it hard fitting in to her new surroundings. That’s one of the reasons why she’s jumped in head first into this assignment – it’s a chance for her to avoid stepping out of her comfort zone with others. But in order to solve this mystery, she’s going to have to do just that. She needs to leave the safety confines of her recording studio and meet some potentially dangerous people.
This project originated with Audible UK, and I wanted to honor that by setting the mystery in northern England (which I’ve travelled to during a comics promo trip a few years ago). I fell in love with the peace and ruggedness of the area, and decided to make it a character in the tale.
There’s another reason why I wanted to set it in the UK…
British actors make everything sound great.
Yes, it’s the accent, but the depth of talent in the acting pool in the UK is great, and the performances I heard in the rough cut were phenomenal. I’d love to cast every project of mine moving forward in the UK now. Since I’m Canadian, I think I’m allowed, right…?
This is my first audio drama and I quickly decided to incorporate the limits and of the medium into the story. We can only hear what’s happening, not see or feel the story. It’s imperative that we listen. And not just the conversations and interviews taking place but everything else. And very early on I incorporated something that would make the listener ask:
What was that noise?
What did I just hear?
Oh my God.
As someone who has written a lot of sound effects (SFX) in comics it was great to be able to script something and actually be able to hear them come to life. And I could just imagine people listening to this on earbuds so it makes it that much much personal.
This is what excites me about audio dramas today. With smartphones being so ubiquitous across the globe everyone has access to podcasts and audio storytelling apps. So the populace is there – now the key is to tell great stories that will get people to change from the latest Swift or Bieber song and instead listen to original, riveting and episode stories.
There’s so much noise in the world today (literal and metaphorical) – hopefully we will all learn how to figure out what to listen to, what not to, and – most importantly – make sure we communicate that properly.