Ira Glass: Building Blocks, Decency, & Fatal Errors

I chose to watch parts one, two, and four of the Ira Glass videos. I found his advice to be extremely compelling and interesting, especially from the perspective of someone who has never dabbled in audio storytelling for themself. Part one of this video focused on the two most important elements of audio storytelling that many people do not consider. This includes the anecdote and the moment of reflection. The anecdote specifically refers to a sequence of events that the story must follow for the audience to maintain interest as it progresses. As Glass explained in his video, if there is a clear pattern by way of one event leading to another in a story, the listener is more likely to stay engaged throughout the entire segment, as they are expecting a conclusion to be drawn when the sequence of events comes to an end. However, correctly utilizing an anecdote is not simply having a clear, recognizable, and easily understood sequence of events. A question, or bait, typically at the beginning of a story, is essential in keeping the audience interested in the story. If there is a question that needs to be answered via the conclusion of the sequential anecdote, there is more of an incentive to keep listening to eventually discover the answer. The second building block that Glass deems as necessary for a quality story is a moment for reflection. The listener needs to find times in the story that they can pause and think about why they are listening to this story. What is the bigger purpose? What is the goal in telling this story? If individuals make commentary throughout the story in between events within the anecdotal sequence regarding the purpose of the story, then the audience members will be further inclined to introspectively consider these questions as well. 

The second part of the Ira Glass video that I watched focused on how an audio storyteller would go about finding a high-quality story. He explained that, in his personal experience, finding a truly decent story could take weeks, if not longer, of sifting through bad stories and thoroughly interacting with an idea that has potential to ensure that its quality will come to fruition through supporting work. Glass referred to the example of a creator thinking that they had found a really great story, but when they went out into the field and interviewed the person who told the story via phone call, the chemistry was not working how they had previously expected or they were not telling the story in the same humorous way as they had via phone. In this case, Glass talked about how being ruthless and ‘killing’ the story would be the only appropriate way to proceed, given that the goal of creating these stories was to finish with something special as opposed to a product that is mediocre at best. It is also important to consider that, as Glass mentioned, the actual content of a story will attempt to come across as ‘crap,’ as he put it, when it is first put on film or in its rawest state. To make a story come across as strong, intriguing, and compelling, the creator must prop up and support it at every stage of the creation process. Therefore, one cannot be complacent when creating a story that is truly good and interesting; instead, you have to be proactive and abandon stories that are not working and will not work in the future. You must truly work as hard as you can to improve stories that have potential to make an incredible piece of digital storytelling.

Next, I watched part four of the Ira Glass videos. Glass talked about two impactful mistakes that new storytellers make when starting out. The first mistake of note was when people clearly try to be something that they are not. Typically, when people first get a new tape recorder, camera, or whatever type of storytelling equipment, their first reaction is to emulate people who are already working on television or the radio, Glass says. This is a mistake because the more authentic and real that you are when talking to the audience, the more likely you are to have interested listeners. As Glass also cleverly pointed out, we already have specific TV and radio personalities who are well established, and this is for a reason; therefore, it is unnecessary to copy and paste their exact style into your own work. Being yourself with your audience is typically the best way to maintain a fanbase or audience, because they are listening to what you as an individual have to say as opposed to the regurgitation of what they could already see or hear via other media sources. The second mistake that Glass touches on is that people sometimes submit work that highlights their lackluster, or unfortunate, personality. By this Glass means that people can sometimes dominate the entire story and only focus on themselves, which is not as interesting as them interacting with other people; this in turn creates a more dramatic narrative. The more successful creators are those that are honestly interested in the stories of other people as well as including humorous accounts of their own lives to complement the other person. There needs to be an equal balance between only hearing the perspective of the narrator and viewing their relationships with other people. This way, a riveting plot line will unfold that captivates the listener more than a one-dimensional story.

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