Longtime readers may recall that NPR and I do not mix well. It’s not unlike what happens when you combine Mentos and Diet Coke: Something’s going to blow. And that something is usually my temper. NPR’s consistently condescending tone, the unabashedly ideological slant to its reporting, the knowledge that my tax dollars go to support it -- this mélange does bad things to both my heart and (if I happen to tune in while driving) my adherence to traffic laws. But as my father says, even a blind hog picks up an acorn every now and then, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t confess that NPR knows how to construct compelling narratives. Another plus? They’re willing to share their insights with the hoi polloi.
Ira Glass, producer of NPR’s This American Life, conducted an interview a couple years ago on the apparently defunct Current TV Web site where he discussed how to build a story. Though part of his talk applies only to radio, much of it can be easily transposed to genre writing. In the two videos embedded below, Glass talks about the interplay between action and commentary, the inevitable gap between what you want to make and what you actually do make, and the need to complete a large number of projects before you to achieve excellence. A particularly encouraging moment starts at 2:05 on the second video where Glass admits it took him over a decade to get a feel for creative work and then critiques one of his not-so-early stories. A worthwhile eleven minutes of insight.
(Hat Tip: Between Two Worlds)