07 June 2007

Ira Glass on storytelling, Part 1

Mike Kaspari of Getting Things Done in Academia introduced me to some cool videos in which Ira Glass explains the art of storytelling. Good storytelling is a skill that can be applied to many areas of life, including (for academics, in particular) lecturing and teaching.

I'll summarize Part 1 of the Glass series. There are two building blocks in a story. First, the anecdote -- a sequence of events. The amazing power of the anecdote is that it has momentum and can make even the most boring topic interesting. As a storyteller, you want to raise questions and answer them along the way. The second building block is the moment of reflection. Why am I telling you this story?

I liked the following quote by Glass (transcription not accurate since I was in a hurry):
You have the two parts of the structure: you have the anecdote and you've got the moment of reflection. Often you'll have an anecdote which just kills; it's just so interesting. This thing happens and it leads to this next thing, it's so surprising, you meet all these great characters... and it means absolutely nothing. It's completely predictable; it doesn't tell you anything new. So that's one huge problem. The other huge problem is you have this boring set of thoughts or boring story and someone actually has something interesting to say about it. A lot of us when we're beginning, we have the problem that we know we have something here, we know we have something compelling, but it just doesn't seem to be coming together. And often it's your job to be ruthless and understand that either you don't have a sequence of actions so you don't have a story that works or you don't have a moment of reflection that works.

No comments:

Post a Comment