Christiane Holzheid

Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life

In INSPIRATION on March 29, 2009 at 11:22 pm

A few weeks ago a friend send me a link to this video:

“A master class in storytelling. Ira Glass, host of “This American Life” on radio and TV, has spent years telling stories, and getting stories told. In one of the most popular Gel talks ever, Ira describes the elements of a good story.”

I was just taken by his talk and learned a lot. Here are my notes:

The rarest thing when listening to the radio and watching TV is being surprised – for someone to give you, the listener, a new thought, the ability for you to picture something in a new way…a happy, pleasurable surprise is rare.

In the news the seriousness and the funny are never allowed to collide, they are two separate things. A serious story and then maybe at the end a wacky weather person = it is kept separate = failure of craft.

Maybe failure of journalism – their part is to document what the world really is – they describe a world without surprise, joy, pleasure, and humor. it makes the world seem much smaller than it is.

Why not tell stories, whose estactics is surprise; stories which are saying , look how different and interesting this is. Look for stories where there is a little surprises all the time along the way – what this does is – it shoes that the world is a place with excitement, pleasure and surprise… where lightning can strike…

How to tell interesting stories:
– Listen and look for small things – little things that are special and are often left out or overseen
– Telling something exactly the way it is
– Portray people at exactly human scale.

Structure for story telling:
– Stories are normally structured to constantly throw you bait and pull you forward.
– Suspension has been created – once there is a feeling that something is about to occur, something is about to happen, you want to continue listing to the stories.
– A story is a sequence of actions / events, which lead to one thing and to a the next thing – it is not about logic or arguments – but about motion.
– Narrative is a machine that is raising questions and answering them
– If the story is told the right way – it hooks you. Once you are in you can’t get out, you need to know what’s going to happen next

what are physical reactions, emotions,  – we laugh, cry, grinch

What is the bigger thing a story is: why are certain moments so powerful?
You want a sequence of actions and then a thought – a bigger question (can you focus on the feeling the story portrays – what are stories good for?)

– The power of narrative – is like a backdoor into our inside… when a story gets inside of us it makes us less crazy. Meaning when we can connect to the story and what is happening. Maybe even we see ourselves in this story.
– You need to be able to associate – in order to understand… this is how it would be to be this person… I am feeling for this person, I understand.

– We live in this cultural moment where we are bombarded with more narratives than any people that ever lived.
– Every story on the web is a narrative, every add, on TV, every song,  is a narrative – and most of these stories are yelling at us and are trying to get our attention – they are giving us a falseness, like they need to be selling us something

Try to find a story where you can feel – yes, this would be exactly what it would be like, to be that person, to be in this situation, be able to imagine yourself as this person


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