Ira and Jad’s Excellent Audio Adventure

Background time!

I’m pretty familiar with audio storytelling. It’s always been something I’ve found interesting but more so in the last year. I’ve been listening to two audio dramas (Awake and Tokyo Demons) from this digital magazine called Sparkler Monthly.

Both are really well done and I recommend giving them a listen.

So, I really enjoy listening to audio story telling, But I have I really put much thought into the genre as a whole? No.

Upsetting, I know. But this weeks videos remedied that. I was introduced to two talented storytellers of the audio genre.

This American Life’s Ira Glass and Radio Lab’s Jad Abumrad.


Ira Glass

Ira Glass

Jad Abumrad

Jad Abumrad








Starting with Ira Glass, the first topic described in his video interview (Part one, Part two, Part Three, Part Four) is what he considers the two main building blocks of storytelling: Anecdote and The Moment of Reflection.

Sounds cool and all, but what does that really mean? Let’s break it down a little bit.

When talking about the anecdote Ira suggested imagining you’re on a train and how you have to go through multiple stops to reach a destination. There needs to be a flow of events. A to B, B to C and so on. Things don’t always have to be in order either. A could go to C But at some point you need to explain B. No one likes a story with brought up questions that are never explained or answered. I know I personally don’t. It makes the ending so unsatisfying.

Continuing on with Ira’s building blocks, we come to the Moment of Reflection. Now this is exactly what it says it is. That moment of reflection. When you realize what the story was about. The whole point of things. Ira mentions that it’s a common tendency to get caught up in the whole structure of the story and forgetting the moment of reflection all together.

This is a big no-no. It ruins the story. If the structure of the plot is a train ride then the moment of reflection is the destination. There must be a reason for the ride.

Not building block related but still from Ira Glass, is the importance of bringing some of yourself to the story. Ira spoke of this in the context of interviews but I feel it works across the board of storytelling.

I mean what good is any story if it’s just a rehash reporting of facts and events?

Don’t be deceived though, Ira wasn’t saying go out there and make everything about you. You don’t want to get too wrapped up in talking about yourself. No one wants to hear someone simply sing their own praises for copious amounts of time. What needs to be achieved is a sort of even mix. You want to show things through your eyes. Put your own spin on it.

We’re going to switch gears for a moment and talk a bit about Jad Abumrad. One of the strongest points made by him in his interview was why audio storytelling is such a powerful medium. He actually says the beauty of radio comes from the absence of images.

As a visual artist, that line kind of got me poised to go on the defensive. I mean visuals are my life you know? Images are important!

But I decided to be a big girl, put my pride and defensive feels up on the shelf and continue the video with an open mind. This turned out to be one of my best decisions.

There’s a real deeper reasoning behind his claims. He explains that the lack of images, gives the audience the opportunity to use their imaginations. Which it really does. All the audience hears is the sounds of the story. The plot, the voices the slamming of doors, etc etc. But the rest of the story has to come from them. You may have given them the colors and basic descriptions of scenery and characters but for that complete immersion into the world, the listener must envision the rest.

Jad describes this as a sort of co-authorship between the author and the audience. This kind of goes back to what Ira was saying about putting a personal spin on things. Radio allows the listener to put their two cents in the story.

So the words of both men basically led me to the same conclusion, Radio brings people together in a way no other medium can. It’s something that can’t be, unless the audience/listeners are involved. And no matter how far with technology we get, how many films and comics come out, radio will always be there.

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