Episode 1: Elements of a Narrative Podcast

Episode 1 September 07, 2021 00:28:07
Episode 1: Elements of a Narrative Podcast
Episode 1: Elements of a Narrative Podcast

Sep 07 2021 | 00:28:07


Show Notes

Ready to tell your story of innovation and creativity? In this episode we talk with Toni DeAztlan-Smith, assistant professor of practice in the School of Communication and Director of their Digital Media Production Center. Professor DeAztlan-Smith walks us through the different elements, with examples, of what makes an inspiring and engaging narrative podcast. So grab a notebook, have a listen, and start crafting your story!

The transcript for this episode can be found at the MakeYourStory website.

Music "Lessons" and "Bless-UPs" by Ketsa @ https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ketsa

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 If we can allow students who have some time and to have be introspective about the emotional process behind their innovations and what they're making, those stories are going to compel people who maybe don't have any kind of frame of reference for their major or, you know, the computer sciences, let's say they, they really don't understand it. A story, a story that tells the story about the making will connect to anybody and suddenly you have a whole new audience for what you've just made. Speaker 2 00:00:43 Hello and welcome to our first episode of make your story. Have you ever tried to make a pitch about a great idea I've had or something innovative you created, but you weren't able to make a connection with people to fully share the value or importance of it? Well, in this podcast series, we're going to teach you how to tell a story as a way to engage people specifically, we are going to teach how to produce a narrative podcast to tell your story of ideation and creation. This series is a collaboration between the Purdue libraries and school of information studies and the college of liberal arts communication program. My name is Sarah Huber assistant professor of library science, and I'm Speaker 3 00:01:22 Dr. And <inaudible> assistant professor of library science. In this first episode, we will be talking with professor Tony de Azlan Smith, who is an assistant professor of practice in the school of communication and director of their digital media production center. Tony, thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for having me. Can you tell us what students typically think a podcast consists of? Speaker 0 00:01:49 Sure. When students come into our podcasts in class, I think initially what they're used to are episodes where there are two people in a discussion usually. So something that on a topic, so sports dating, these kinds of general topics, and then two people, and it's a very personality driven, very conversation, German, something that you would like into a morning show on radio and what we try and kind of pivot the students to is something that falls more along a narrative flow, something that has that, um, storytelling story through lines. Speaker 3 00:02:26 Interesting. And yeah, today there are so many different ways to tell stories which ultimately begs the question really for me, why a podcast? What is it about this format that is so special and so intriguing right Speaker 0 00:02:38 Now? I know it's funny because I think we think of podcasting as a new trend, but it's actually a very old medium, if you think of like the oral tradition. And I even remember as a kid listening to radio dramas in the eighties, I listened to the star wars, radio drama that NPR did, for example. And of course there those serial dramas from the orderly radio days, pre television. So why podcasting? Well, there's kind of three significant things about it that I think attracts people. And one is just that the medium allows for intimacy and imagination to have someone's voice right in your ear. It's similar to getting told that story by a parent before bed, somebody very close to you. You have that voice literally feels like you can have that crackle sound that's coming from that voice, every, uh, intonation and expression that you hear and it's right there in your headphones, right? Speaker 0 00:03:39 So there's an intimacy in that medium. And also because it requires there's no visual, it requires quite a bit of imagination. I usually compare this to a really good book, right? If you're reading a book in your head, you're seeing the pictures you're coming up with the characters in your head and a really good podcast does that as well. It really Stokes the imagination of the listener. Another reason that podcasts I think are very popular, um, is that we want to share our voice literally and figuratively. So we all have stories that we want to tell, and we want to commiserate basically want to tell these stories, uh, to make connections with others, even though in the podcasting medium, the host or the storyteller, doesn't really get to see or sit with the listener, but just having that expression to tell the story and share your voice in the world and have it out there. Speaker 0 00:04:37 And on the flip side for the listener, having that voice shared with them again, for, to commiserate to build that community. And then finally specifically with the narrative nonfiction narrative podcasts that I teach and that we're going to talk about in this series. We like them because they give us insight into worlds that maybe we're not, uh, we don't have access to, I call this like getting that behind this peek behind the scenes. So you you're introducing and bringing people on drawing people into a world that you're familiar with, or an experience that you had that maybe they haven't. And so that kind of broadens the listeners, a world and frame of reference Speaker 2 00:05:22 And that, and they are kind of, your students were learning about a lot about podcasting through you. And, you know, through this collaboration, you gave us some podcasts to listen to specifically for the topic today. And one of them was a, this American life episode called breakup number 3, 3 9, and listeners, every podcast we referenced as examples in, uh, in the series, we will always have the link to them on that podcast webpage on our website. So in this episode, it's all about breakups and it, it, it there's four different stories. And one which was my favorite started with this young woman who wanted to write a song to express her feelings through a breakup. And she got to talk with Phil Collins because earner ex LA had this bill Collins space and she asked about good songwriting tips. And then the next one, uh, was about a little girl trying to understand why her parents divorced, which was very touching. Speaker 2 00:06:24 So, um, I'm laughing and crying to these. And then another one was a woman who was talking with a guy who lost everything to a divorce and her dog, and just wanted him to play ball. And he was, and so it was through the voice of the dog. Woman's telling the story through the voice of the dog, like, okay, you need to move on or something more important here, the ball, you know, what I gained from listening to these was anyone, any of these people could have said, yes, I'm sad, but I'll be fine. And, and keep that story to themselves. But instead, something really powerful happens. We get into their story, but also we connect. And so there's empathy. And then there's connections all across the world because these podcasts can reach anyone for Speaker 0 00:07:10 Sure. And that's why this episode is one of my favorites to introduce students to, um, it's an older episode, but it's especially the one you mentioned the first, uh, act one of the torch song, writing that and talking about that breakup. It's one that they can identify with most. Uh, usually from that age group, this American life, they are masters of the craft and they existed pre podcasts. Of course, they were considered radio show. They do so well is build a story. And it's a story arc just like you would with any other medium. They follow that journey. They take us on that hero's journey, which is a very classic technique and they use contemporary kind of topics. So it feels very fresh, but it's actually a very traditional way to go about telling a story. And it does because of the things we mentioned before, it does kind of emulate what we were saying about having that intimacy, especially the, the kind talking about her breakup, something that in the way that she discusses it in the details she uses it. Speaker 0 00:08:19 These are all techniques, of course. And we can really imagine this breakup and feel it, it pulls at your heart and then the behind the scenes. So one thing that sh the kind of next step, the next layer truly elevates it as a story. And a podcast is her journey to write a torch song, to try and get over this breakup, which leads to her interview with Phil Collins, um, which is kind of like almost like a cherry on the top of the whole kind of story and structure. And so even though whatever level I think a student's at and whatever topic they're at, these are kind of those techniques that you can draw from and make it your own with whatever you are writing to take that listener on the team. Speaker 2 00:09:01 Right. And, okay, so another couple of things come to mind, like, even though this was incredibly well done, story, there is sound effects. There is Phil Collins there, you know, all this stuff has happened. It is so heartfelt. Like you really get pulled into and feel her pain. And she's so honest, brutally honest, it could be embarrassing in some ways, like I kept wanting this person, even though they didn't want me. It is Speaker 0 00:09:27 Part of the intimacy of this medium is the, it's not enough to have almost like a superficial overview on a topic. You really need to draw from yourself and make those intimate, vulnerable moments for the listener to be outstanding. And that's a very difficult self exploration process that is also just part of this kind of work. Any kind of storytelling work really requires a storyteller to draw from themselves. And I think that's also where students and maybe any amateurs have the stumbling block to open themselves up to that vulnerability. And so once you can do that, once you acknowledge that, then you're creating a truly intimate piece that people will connect with. Speaker 2 00:10:12 She could have just put out that song, right. And it's a good song and you can, you can relate to it, but the story behind it, I mean, that is like, that's what draws you in. And you hear it much differently. I think than if without, with the story, it has so much more meaning. And I think, you know, how does this relate to telling our stories of what we're learning, what we're developing, what we're creating on campus and our, and our life as students, there is a process and there are failures and successes and different things, highs and lows, and there's an arc to it. And it's a way to really draw people in. Speaker 0 00:10:53 And I think there's an unemployed knowledge process, emotional process, if you aren't, if you don't consider yourself an artist per se, you're not noting that process. I think the thing is artists note the process and the emotions they go through in their experiences. And I guess non-artists, they kind of just do the thing, right? And so we have these amazing students on campus who are making incredible innovations, and they're not thinking about the highs and lows when they get to the point they're getting to that end product. And so I think allowing them some time, if we, if we can allow students who have some time and to have be introspective about the emotional process behind their innovations and what they're making, those stories are going to compel people who maybe don't have any kind of frame of reference for their major, or, you know, the computer sciences, let's say they, they really don't understand it. A story, a story that tells the story about the making will connect to anybody. And suddenly you have a whole new audience for what you've just made. Speaker 2 00:12:02 Yeah. And it'll inspire them, right. Like when I listened to this breakup, I mean, she has sounded young, you know, um, not young, but, um, I thought, wow, she makes me want to be reflective and think of my experiences, you know, what I was feeling during different breakups and to live on a deeper level. Speaker 0 00:12:24 Yeah. And how cool is that, that a story, a 15 minute story, audio story can do that. Right. Okay. Speaker 2 00:12:35 You mentioned the hero's journey. And I think that is a really great way to approach a story. And when I think of hero's journey, I think of Joseph Campbell, but can you tell us what your definition of a hero's journey is? I Speaker 0 00:12:49 Think we focus on the hero word versus the journey word more so, so it might be better to say protagonist journey, I guess, because it kind of seems like there's something to conquer. It's just identifying an order from the beginning point to the end point and then constructing your story. So that that order is represented that arc is there. Um, so we kind of look to make it really simple as saying beginning, middle end of a story. And ideally you have one person typically in a podcast it's yourself. So in the example of the break-up episode, uh, Starlee, kine, the young woman, she's going through a breakup and it's her, she Chronicles her journey through that, um, breakup to, to the end, which is creating a song, a torch song. Um, so that's, that's what I essentially, I guess, met by that hero's journey. If that makes sense. You sent us, um, Speaker 2 00:13:49 A grammar girl's episode where, um, Laura burgles was interviewed and she paraphrases Kendra Hall's three parts set up for a good story in her book, stories that kick. And she says, you said beginning, middle and ending. And I liked this three part normal than an explosion, and then the new normal. And I think of that as a journey. And it's a narrative arc. And like you said, a narrative is just a story. We're just telling a story and, and people want to see, you know, where someone began and then something disrupted everything and they're different. They come out different totally Speaker 0 00:14:28 Applicable to podcast scene or any kind of story that someone's telling, because we all want that climactic moment of change for on that journey. Right. And see how it all shakes out. Yeah, Speaker 2 00:14:40 Absolutely. And any time we, you know, take part in, I'm going to approach something, I'm going to do something and the process of creating or making something contributing to something innovative. You, you go into it one way, you start doing your own work, working with others, you start your research, you start, you know, in you're changed and you've created something. Something is very different at the end. And Speaker 0 00:15:07 I bet that these students who are making things and experiencing, let's say through a lab or a research project, the change is probably one that maybe they were able to do something that they never imagined. They could. Speaker 2 00:15:22 I, I know that for myself, when I approach something that I want to create, I am a very different person at the other end, too. Right. There's that internal and people can relate to that. Speaker 0 00:15:32 Yeah. And I think being able to write that podcast out, we'll give, you know, give them, give students the opportunity to acknowledge that because it usually goes on, uh, unacknowledged, Speaker 3 00:15:48 You had us into a, as one of your suggested podcasts, say podcasts coming from the Ted radio hour. This episode specifically, uh, dealt with, um, Tracy Edwards and her portion of the segment called what a sailboat can teach you that a classroom can't this episode broadly focused upon how people of all ages can learn outside of the classroom. Obviously this episode stemmed from March, 2020 when COVID 19 hit. And so many classrooms were closed and taken to the virtual format. Um, the episode itself certainly hit home for a lot of listeners, whether they were students or parents, et cetera. And so, uh, in that Ted radio hour episode, that focused on many different stories of learning outside the classroom, Tracy Edwards discussed her challenges with learning inside of the traditional classroom, if you will. And instead learning far more on her own as a result of departing from that traditional learning setup, uh, encouraged by it by her mother who was wholly supportive of her kind of finding her place in the world and learning in a way that worked for her. Speaker 3 00:16:58 And so she learned far more on her own by learning to sail and coordinating an all female team of women that was just determined, just as determined as she was to win an otherwise male dominated race. And so what struck me about this story is not only the commentary that Edwards offered about her life, but also the ways in which the host of the podcast really helped elicit this great story from her. Um, they certainly reacted to the story that she was telling and had this fine ability to prompt Edwards and really keep her at ease when discussing these really difficult moments in her life. And there were some moments in the story that used sound effects, and that was certainly a coordinated and, and added into the episode really well. And we had sound effects like rushing water. For example, we were talking about the race and sailing and even actual audio clips from the race. Speaker 3 00:17:54 And we hear Edwards being interviewed. Then in there we hear the crowd cheering, uh, things like that. That really helped me imagine myself in the moment and, and alongside Edwards, experiencing this adventure with her and ultimately feeling all the more proud of what she had accomplished along the way. But, uh, really before we get into devising a podcast episode, and certainly one as intriguing as that one, we do need structure. There is a workflow, there it is a process. It's an art that really needs attention and so many different facets to create this amazing final product. So I was hoping you could tell us a bit about the workflow and what did it's, uh, what it's like for coming up with a strong workflow for a narrative podcast. Speaker 0 00:18:38 Yeah, absolutely. You're totally right in saying that there's quite a bit of work behind it and this trips some students up, because again, they're more familiar with the format of two people kind of having a discussion and just capturing their ideas. But when we really want to craft the narrative podcast, you need to do all this work behind the scenes before you can even get to that recording stage. Um, so we look, if you want like a laundry list, we have identify your story. That's very important. Having a focused story idea is helpful for the listener, but it's more, it's more so helpful for the creator because once you start delving into a story, you realize that it can go into many different directions. So you really need to think what is my story? I usually tell students to even start off with once upon a time and then move from there, just boil it down to that one line because to get you started, because that is what we're aiming for that story. It can't be about everything. Speaker 3 00:19:52 So interesting. Um, I'm sorry. Uh, it's, it's so interesting because I mean, you, you are the one in control. You're, you're deciding the scope of your story, uh, whether it's a larger, longer story you want to tell, or maybe just a moment, uh, in your life or a moment in a situation that you really want to highlight that you feel was a big lesson to you, or a strong story in and of itself that could, could reasonably fill up, uh, the duration of a full podcast episode. Speaker 0 00:20:21 I think no matter how broad the topic may be, the size of it, isn't dictated by that topic. You, you still need these main kind of components for the topics. So whether it is a coming of age story or a story of me coming to class, you both of those can be just as Hetty and weighted and take just as long short, believe it or not, depending on how you've focused it and how you combine those elements around it. And what's really nice. And what I try and get my students to do is find a way to combine the two, right? So the example you gave about, uh, we talked about Tracy Edwards and the sailing, the topic at hand was what you learn outside of the classroom. And that was the big, bigger story, what we learn outside of the classroom. And then the story of Tracy was almost a chronological biography of her life and how she got to the point of success as a sailor. Speaker 0 00:21:24 And so that in itself, it's, it's kind of, uh, interesting that almost, uh, to think about the size of a story versus the weight of the story. Um, and it could be a whole class. I give a whole class on, uh, identifying your story, but that's why you can get lost in it. And so being able to start off with once upon a time, you know, that this is a story about this, and then just keep that as your through line. Um, and then the rest of the components will get added on to give it that fullness of the, of the story and the narrative arc research. I had mentioned before that one thing that we enjoy about podcasts is that it gives a behind the scenes, if you do enough research, you will find these nuggets that I tell my students are the <inaudible> stuff, the stuff that, the stuff you can't find on Google, um, these are the things that you can only pick up from really reading through reading through the documents, going to the events, interviewing people. And then now you have these nuggets of information that you can sprinkle in, um, that really enlightened the listener and gives them what I call those moments of mental floss. Have you heard this term, Speaker 3 00:22:44 Tell us about mental, mental floss. Speaker 0 00:22:46 I try and tell my students in your research to find the mental floss, Elman mental floss, is this idea of picking a brain. I'm sure we've all heard that and finding these, like finding these bits that kind of shock us, or kind of surprise us. And so that's kind of the idea behind that, that mental floss. And that's what you're looking for in storytelling when you do your research. So you're not doing a research, uh, like you would for your class on research paper, you're looking at your sifting, you're doing your research. So you can sift through it to find those little nuggets to include in your narrative. Um, another task on your to-do list is going to be to conduct the interviews. And what's really important is that you go into your interviews, knowing what your story is, because interviews could go all over the place and you really want it to focus on the story at hand. Speaker 0 00:23:39 So that one, you're not sifting through hours and hours of tape later, but also, uh, so the person you're interviewing knows where, where you're living, that's kind of gives them an anchor and then they can, you, and you can start teasing out a what we call, um, midwifing them into eloquence and helping them tell their story. And on that focus topic, and your research will help you in that you, if you go to an interview without research, you're basically asking that person to tell you everything about the topic. And that makes for actually a very boring interview. And what you really want from your interview, right, is that, uh, the emotion, the insight, the applying the scene. So if you do your research, you know what to ask about so that you can get to those sentiments and get that, that nice sound that will really connect with your audience, another task on your, to do list. Speaker 0 00:24:28 You're going to have to write a script. Students do not like this part. And I think it's because when you listen to a podcast, it feels so natural. It gives you this idea that it's unscripted when really it's just really well-written. And if you have a really well-written script, it won't come off as scripted. So, um, ha getting your interview, having your research done, and then, you know, your story, you're able to write out this script that will be recorded on your to-do list. Again, more stuff, uh, identifying and collecting those additional elements. Um, you had mentioned in the Tracy Edward piece that they had recordings from the events that's part of that collecting of elements, getting that archival, uh, elements, um, sound from the cell phone video sound from the events, just because you weren't there doesn't mean you can't bring the, the listener there. Speaker 0 00:25:25 Ambient audio is another component. So the ambient audio or what we call field recorded audio, um, the ambient or wild field sound you might need to collect. If there's something going on that you can go record yourself. And then another kind of collection that I also tell students is, uh, the 9 1 1 call. If you think of it that way, getting that piece of that file of audio, you know, you can add that in there. Sound effects are also useful elements to include, to signify something frying sound for cooking. Let's say, um, just think as widely and broadly castle wide net on what kind of L audio elements you can include to enhance your story. And then of course identifying some music that you will be using to create those beats and pacing. And then once you have that, and, uh, you've recorded your script and you have all your pieces together, you edit your audio files, uh, using some kind of software like audacity, which is free. I use Adobe audition and the work, additionally, when it comes to it, believe it or not now is promoting it and getting people to listen. So that is also including the work in the podcasting world that might not be for other type of mediums. Speaker 3 00:26:50 Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and input with us during this first episode for this season of make your story. You've mentioned so many wonderful concepts and elements of creating a narrative podcast, and we'll be exploring each of these in greater depth in the episodes to come. And in the meantime, thank you listeners for joining us as well. We're so excited to have you along with us on the journey. And if you do decide to create your own narrative podcasts, we do have a worksheet set up for you that also mentions the different concepts. Tony was chatting with this with us about, so if you'd like to brainstorm your ideas and sketch out some thoughts you have for a potential narrative podcast that is there for you as a resource, Speaker 0 00:27:35 Thanks for having me. And it was great to chat about this. And if any students would like some assistance as they formulate their story ideas, I'm happy to be a soundboard for them. And they can reach me by email. Um, [email protected], that's D E Z T L a [email protected].

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