Matthew's Glossary

AIO: TOG - From time to time, I will reference the excellent Adventures in Odyssey: The Official Guide by Nathan D. Hoobler. That would be a lot to type every time I reference it, so when you see the abbreviation AIO: TOG, it refers to this book. It’s attractively laid out, has tons of large images (it also weighs a ton), and is filled with interesting AIO trivia and facts.

Backstory Works Best When It’s Back - Prequels, flashback episodes, and backstory episodes are the opposite of economical storytelling. Rather than trusting the listener’s imagination to fill in the details, all those details are filled in for the listener in excruciating detail. The suggestion of a mysterious past is far more effective than explicitly showing the supposedly mysterious events from that character’s past. Once you’ve shown the events, they cease to be mysterious. (Example: 019: Recollections)

Bechdel Test - To pass this test, a movie must (1) have at least two women in it (2) who talk to each other (3) about something other than a man. Some add that the (at least) two women must be either named characters or have substantial roles.

Chekhov’s Gun - The technical term for when a seemingly irrelevant detail turns out to be central to the plot. According to Wikipedia, it is “a literary technique whereby an apparently irrelevant element is introduced early in the story whose significance becomes clear later in the narrative.” (Example: 042: The Last Great Adventure of Summer Review)

Crossing the Airwaves - My proposed variant of breaking the fourth wall for radio and audio dramas since breaking the fourth wall is chiefly a visual metaphor. (Example: 005: Gifts for Madge and Guy)

The Early Episode Reintroduction Tango - Early in a series’ run, it is often necessary to reintroduce characters and reestablish the premise of the series for those who may be catching the series for the first time after the pilot. Sometimes these episodes act as mini-pilots. (Examples: 002: The Life of the Party and 007: Promises, Promises)

Economical Storytelling - A way to squeeze a great deal of story into a very small amount of time. The story cuts from an event directly to that event’s obvious conclusion—often days or even weeks are skipped. No unnecessary time is spent on details the listener can fill in for herself. (Examples: 017-018: A Member of the Family and 004: Connie Comes to Town)

High Concept - A somewhat oversimplified definition of high concept is a story that can be described in a sentence or less. Wikipedia defines it as “an artistic work that can be easily described by a succinctly stated premise.” In actuality, high concept means more than that. A lot of artistic works that are not high concept can also be described in a sentence or less. A high-concept story is a story that is driven by an eye-catching premise.

Inciting Incident - In screenwriting it is recommended that the inciting incident come no later than page fifteen (i.e. happen within the first fifteen minutes). The inciting incident is the event that sets the story in motion. Another way of putting it is that it is whatever causes the complication that the protagonist must overcome to achieve her goal. Whether radio, cinema, or literature, in my opinion, the sooner the better. If page fifteen is good, then page ten is better.

MacGuffin - A filmmaking term for a plot element that exists solely to drive the plot forward. What the MacGuffin is is unimportant as long as it moves the plot along. According to Wikipedia, it is “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction.” (Example: 042: The Last Great Adventure of Summer Review)

Manic Pixie Dream Girl - According to Wikipedia, “Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a stock character in films. Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term after seeing Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown (2005), describes the MPDG as ‘that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.’”

Myth of the Golden Age - It is a myth that something is better just because it is older. We get the mistaken impression that *all* old books and movies were great because the ones we still read and watch today are great. Each age has had its share of works that are mediocre and plain rotten. While you come into frequent contact with those elements of your own time, only the cream of the crop of previous times have survived to today.

The New Kid on the Block Strategy - A common trick in pilots where a character who is new to an established group serves as the audience surrogate. (Examples: 001: Whit’s Flop, 002: The Life of the Party, 004: Connie Comes to Town)

Semi-recurring Character - A character who is in a few—or even several—episodes, and then she’s gone—usually with no explanation. (Example: 035: V.B.S. Blues)

“Sitcom Character” - Goofy characters are often derisively referred to as “sitcom characters” (i.e. they couldn’t exist outside sitcoms). Some critics seem to think this is a negative, but realism is not the goal—nor should be the goal—of sitcoms. These characters serve the same purpose as caricature; they magnify specific character traits. The scare quotes denote we aren’t talking about characters in sitcoms in general but a specific type of character usually found in sitcoms. Dwight on The Office is an example of this type of character. (Example: 037-38: Camp What-A-Nut)

Two-parter - A two-parter is two separate and complete—yet tightly integrated—stories that, when combined, form a whole story but can stand alone as coherent stories on their own. It is not simply a story-too-long-for-a-single-episode-so-they-had-to-be-split-in-half. Many people who script TV shows and comic books fail to grasp this. (Example: 031-32: The Family Vacation)

Universe - When we speak about the universe of a fictional work, it means something different than when we use the word universe to describe the stars and planets around us and the atoms that make them up. It’s a term that encompasses the setting and tone of the work as well as the “rules” of that universe such as whether magic is real or Santa Claus exists in that universe. Sometimes, like in Adventures in Odyssey, it is almost indistinguishable from the real world (except for, in the case of Odyssey, some of the characters never age). Other times, like in The Lord of the Rings, it may be an entirely different world. Read more about it at Wikipedia.