Summary of Ira Glass on Story Telling

Ira Glass is a popular news radio personality who currently has 3 million listeners on his show This American Life. Glass says that writing for television and radio has a formula that is different from the way we were taught to write in school. He explains that there are two main building blocks to broadcast writing: The antidote and a reflection. The antidote is best to begin with action that drives the reader to ask questions that are later answered. In the antidote one thing is explained after another like a train anticipating its destination. There is momentum to the story that makes even the boring interesting. We are telling the reader what happened in a sequence of events, manipulating them to ask questions to keep them engaged. After the story is explained the reflection explains what the point of it all was. The reflection supports the antidote and says you just read this because it was useful or important in some way. The two of these elements combined are able to make something greater than what they are alone.

Glass also says a good story is hard to find, and one is ambitious to throw away a project that isn’t that good and start something completely new. He refers to all TV and radio as digressive, pointless, and boring. To be good he says is to get right to the point, be ruthless and tough, and discard a lot to make a good production. Everyone is aiming to make something special, but in order to get there, luck and perseverance is involved. After much practice and failing don’t give up and eventually the production you were dreaming you could make will be made. Doing a lot of work, week after week, and year after year is going to be the way one adapts the skills to succeed with their vision of quality.

Thankfully being you and speaking naturally is compelling. Never try to imitate someone else. Develop your own personality. A good personality, and a good story involve the drama of characters. An interview or conversation should have both parties involved; not just one person talking. Let yourself be seen and heard as a personality during an interview, and listen to what the other person is saying in the conversation.

Ira Glass talks about storytelling