Ira Glass on Storytelling

Part 1
There are two basic building blocks to stories, and it’s not like what you learn in high school composition. There you learn there’s a topic sentence and facts that fill out the argument. In broadcasting, it’s different.
1. The anecdote, a sequence of actions/events. This is a story in it’s purest form. One thing leading to another. It can be thoughts and ideas as part of it. No matter how boring the story, in this form it has a momentum of it’s own and compels people to listen. It feels like you’re on a train with a destination. Put in bait, raising questions. Why? It’s implied any question you raise, you’ll answer. Constantly raise questions and answer them.
2. The moment of reflection. The reason why you’re listening to the story. Many people just have the anecdote and it’s so interesting, but it means nothing because it doesn’t get to step 2. Or you may have a meaningful observation, but no anecdote to hook you to it.

In a good story you intersperse both blocks.

Part 2
It’s hard to find a good story and longer still to produce it. Most things don’t work. If something doesn’t work, kill it. It’s important to abandon crap. Prune ruthlessly.

Part 3
There’s a gap between taste and cultivated creative talent. The first stuff you make will be crap. Everyone goes through this. Fight through that phase. You’ll fail completely at first, but because you have taste you have a sense of what you did wrong. Iterate until your creation matches your taste.

Part 4
Don’t talk like you’re on TV. Talk like yourself, like a human, and the story is more compelling. Also, just talking about yourself indicates you have a horrible personality and it’s not very interesting. The interaction between yourself and others creates the drama.

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