Ira Glass on the Art of Story Telling

Since 1995, Ira Glass has host­ed and pro­duced This Amer­i­can Life (iTunes — Feed — Web Site), the award-win­ning radio show that presents mas­ter­ful­ly-craft­ed sto­ries to almost 2 mil­lion lis­ten­ers each week. What’s the secret sauce that goes into mak­ing a great sto­ry, par­tic­u­lar­ly one primed for radio or TV? Glass spells it out in four parts. Part 1 (above) gets into the build­ing blocks of a good sto­ry. Part 2 talks about the impor­tance of find­ing the right sto­ry. Part 3 reas­sures you that cre­ative excel­lence takes time to devel­op. It also comes with hard work. And Part 4 flags com­mon errors to avoid. Give Glass 17 min­utes, and you will be a bet­ter sto­ry­teller for it…

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  • Ira Glass has a com­fort­able, com­pelling dis­po­si­tion that reminds and instructs in the unique­ness of the spo­ken and writ­ten word. That is to say, WORDS… are like the pieces of a Jig­saw-Puz­zle, a sin­gle piece alone on the board reveals noth­ing. A pile scram­bled on the table has no cohe­sive STORY to tell… But, con­nect a por­tion of the pieces and you begin to see a dis­cernible image. The more pieces you con­nect, the clear­er that image becomes. How­ev­er, it’s only when you’ve con­nect­ed ALL of the pieces, IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES that you have an IMAGE as it was INTENDED to be. So, when telling your STORY (in con­ver­sa­tion or the print­ed page) keep in mind each WORD you choose ought to con­nect one to the oth­er, with the intent of REVEALING an IMAGE that is com­pelling and wor­thy of your audi­ences time and atten­tion. A Pic­ture on the Wall, the Tongue like a Pen, Frames It In with the Great­est of Details… WORDS PAINT PICTURES… The more WORDS you get on a sub­ject, the clear­er that Image becomes… So remem­ber, every word you say is a stroke of the brush…

    A Stroke Of The Brush
    Copy­right 1987 Michael Gib­bowr

    On the Can­vas Of Life
    A pic­ture we see
    Though not yet com­plete
    It one day will be
    Yet a ques­tion I pon­der
    Is why all the rush
    For Beau­ty depends
    On each Stroke Of The Brush

    So why all the scur­ry
    Why all the haste
    It only results
    In a Por­trait of Waste
    Oh my Appren­tice
    If you could just See
    A true Work Of Art
    Overnight can­not be

    For a Mas­ter­piece is more
    Than a Mix­ing of Paint
    It’s a Labor of Love
    Over which you don’t faint
    It’s like a free flow­ing riv­er
    Like the stars in the night
    Alive and Excit­ing
    It tells every­thing right

    It’s some­thing that has
    No words to describe
    The Beau­ty and Splen­dor
    It holds deep inside
    It’s some­thing that has Life
    In each Stroke Of The Brush
    For the Painter con­tent saw no need to rush
    He sim­ply enjoyed each Stroke Of The Brush

  • Thomas Stewart Rogers says:

    In this video, Glass describes how to make a bor­ing event into a lis­ten­able sto­ry. That’s essen­tial­ly what he does each week on his pro­gram. What he does­n’t point out here is that at the end of the sto­ry, the lis­ten­er may think to him­self, “Why have I just spend 20 min­utes of my life lis­ten­ing to this mum­bling about a bor­ing event” and stop tun­ing in to the pro­gram.

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