Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.
Most of us are familiar with the voice of Ira Glass, public radio personality and host/producer of This American Life. I enjoyed these four small videos cut from a larger interview with him on creating compelling stories. While he is coming at it from a radio/TV perspective, I think he is spot on for a lot of online blogging too. We all want to find ways to create interesting, compelling posts to build our audience (and often so they will buy our books).
I took notes and put a few of the key points below. Hope you enjoy!
You have to understand the building blocks of a story. Don’t write like you did in high school with a topic sentence and supporting sentences. A story in its purest form is an anecdote where the sequence of events draws the audience along to the end.
The other building block with the anecdote is the moment of reflection. The story should be compelling, but it should also mean something. A good story will flip back and forth between the two building blocks and create something larger than itself.
It is hard to find a decent story and often takes longer to find the story than it does to produce it. You also need to know when to give up on a project and move to something better. Put it in a drawer. If it is meant to be, you’ll come back to it one day.
My favorite section is Part 3 of 4. When starting out, the taste of the create person is higher than the content they are creating. Only through doing the work and putting in the hours will you be able to close the gap between your taste and your skill level.
Two common pitfalls that beginners make is to act just like the people we see TV or radio. Just talk and be like yourself. However, this leads to the other problem, which is having a good personality. Show just enough of yourself to be amusing, then step back to let the interviewee or the story shine.
This was the inspiration for some more posts I’ll have in the future. Hope you’ll enjoy all my What I Learned From … selections.