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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