Looking splodey awsm.
Looking splodey awsm.
Glass is responsible for This American Life, one of the world's great radio shows and podcasts. He gave an interview to Lifehacker which is worth reading in it's entirety, here. But this extract, on how to organize an interview, is pure gold for students and young journalists. There are few jobs I find less appealing than transcribing interviews and picking out the best bits.
Let Ira show you how it's done.
When I come out of an interview, I jot down the things I remember as being my favorite moments. For an hour-long interview usually it's just four or five moments, but if out I'm reporting all day, I'll spend over an hour at night typing out every favorite thing that happened. This is handier than you might think. Often this short list of favorite things will provide the backbone to the structure to my story.
Then I transcribe the tape or have it transcribed by someone. Getting every word right isn't as important as having something on paper for each sentence that's been said, because to make radio stories, you edit by the sentence. For some reason in the radio biz we don't call these transcripts, we call them tape logs.
Then I print out the log and mark it up. Every possible quote I might use, I write a letter next to, A, B, C, etc. As I do this, on a single piece of paper, I make a list for myself of the quotes. So when I'm done, there's not just the tape log, there's a piece of paper with tiny handwriting on it, listing the quotes "A - he describes the old house, B - what it was like the moment he came home, C - his sister warned him," etc. Any quote that's especially promising gets an asterisk. Any quote I'm sure I cannot tell the story without gets two asterisks.
The point of this is that it gets all this inchoate material—the sound you've gathered—into a form where you can see it all on one page. You see all your options. It's in a form where your brain can start to organize it. Also, writing the list sort of inserts all the quotes into quick-access RAM memory in your head in a helpful way. I find that the important first step to writing anything or editing anything (half of my day each day is editing) is just getting the possible building blocks of the story into your head so you can start thinking about how to manipulate it and cut it and move it.
Listing the quotes this way is also important because a radio story, unlike other kinds of writing and even other kinds of journalism, is usually structured around the quotes. You organize the beats of your plot around the most compelling moments you have on tape. (Though I learned this from a print journalist so I guess it's applicable there too.)
Next I stare at my one-page list and think about what would be a fun or compelling beginning. (Okay, I've been thinking about that since I decided to do the story but now it's down to brass tacks: what actually works on tape and what are the many things that I tried that failed?) Usually there are two or three decent options for the beginning of the story and one or two obvious possibilities for how to end it. Then I think about what really are my very favorite moments and what doesn't need to be in the story. And then I sketch a structure based on my letter code: okay, F is the opening beat, then do C and D and then jump to M and N and end on G. And then I write. Usually my list will include a few extra beats that I'm not sure if pacing will permit. When I get to that spot in the writing, I'll know whether to include them or cut them.
This technique lets you go from many hours of interview tape to a concise, workable structure very quickly. It's hard to imagine how you could do it more efficiently.
A sad, lovely story via Beeso.
I've been writing this third book in the Hooper series to a plan. Something like the story board technique used by film makers. When you're trying to keep three interlinked narrative arcs and all their various sub plots in sync, you don't really get a choice in that. Or I don't anyway. Maybe Stephen King and George RR Martin do.
Anyway, I reached a point in the third book yesterday where the characters had dragged the story so far off plan that I had to admit defeat and go back to the blue print. I could have plowed on, hoping that writing a few more chapters would help me get back on the one true path, but that didn't work with Weapons of Choice and I paid for it all the way through that series.
So yesterday, rather than power on through another two or three thousand words that would take me even further off course I decided to stop writing and start thinking. Specifically I decided to think about the original chapter blueprint and what I needed the characters to do if I was going to get to the resolution I had planned. It meant compressing eight or nine chapters worth of action into three, and four days of narrative 'in-story' time into five hours.
That's not a bad thing. The first fifty thousand words of Hooper 3 cover about five hours of action. It would leave the book feeling lumpy to have the second fifty thousand jumping through the better part of a week.
This morning then was all about redrawing the blue prints. It can feel like a wasteful distraction, or even a disruption to stop lime that when you're in the middle of a writing exercise, but it's worth it. The hours I spent doing this over the last day will save me weeks of chaos at the end of the project.
When you're on deadline, without time to waste on blogging, he always come through.
Took a last minute commission from the Herald yesterday, about the news that the Oz C'wealth Games team will be allowed to drink in competition.
A marvelous development, in my opinion.
"Did Dougie Walters score a century between tea and stumps in the 1974-75 Ashes series on tofu shakes and goji berries? The hell he did. His preparation to take apart the English seamers consisted of sucking down two packets of unfiltered, lethally dangerous high tar cigarettes, a carton of Toohey’s Old and another carton of Toohey’s Old in the drinks break. He didn’t warm up with yoga or Pilates, he warmed up by flogging the hide off Bob Willis."
Best of all? The hurt feelings of the Glaswegians in the communtz.