If you haven’t listened to the first episode of this series, go back and listen to that first. We covered what a narrative podcast is and whether you should or shouldn’t pursue this format of podcasting.
Assuming now that you’ve considered those, we’ll cover an overview of the process of creating a narrative podcast in this episode. We won’t go into a lot of detail, as we will delve into the different parts in future episodes; but you’ll be able to see the big picture.
This episode is going to be a little different than the rest. There are only going to be three guests with us – Jessica Rhodes, Erik K. Johnson, and Jessica Abel. The majority of the episode will be my voice. The rest of the episodes will be featuring more of the guests and less of me.
In addition to the overview or roadmap, I’ll be sharing a couple other things here that are key to making the process easier or better – or hopefully both.
From Interview Connections, Jessica Rhodes is the host of the Rhodes to Success podcast and the co-host of The Podcast Producers along with Corey Coates. She realized the importance of having a team.
I haven’t followed this advice yet, as I’m working on this series alone, other than the contributions from those I was able to interview. I am, however, talking with someone about helping form some of the later episodes. This should help make it easier and have a better product in the end. I’ll definitely report on this later.
Erik K. Johnson talks about crafting stories on his podcast, Podcast Talent Coach.
Erik shares 4 main parts of a narrative.
These four parts help to structure what you probably already knew in the back of your mind. For a more in-depth process for our purposes, though, I want to share the extensive process that Roman Mars shared in his presentation at Podcast Movement 2015. He is the host of 99 Percent Invisible, which is a narrative or journalistic style podcast with high production value.
Roman Mars has a team that he works with, and it take them several weeks to put together one episode of the podcast. I’m not completely positive, but I believe that they work on multiple stories at a time, overlapping them. I say this because they do release weekly episodes.
I know that this is a generalization, but I would venture to say that the average podcaster has a very simple process or workflow.
As a general rule, I believe that most podcasters are in a rush to release the episodes because they are trying to keep to a schedule or because they’ve already blown their schedule. This is mostly due to a little thing called life. This is completely understandable since the vast majority of podcasters are doing this on the side of their jobs and families. In the rush, though, the process is simplified and the easiest path is usually taken.
Roman Mars, though, shared his process, and the process is probably similar in other high production podcasts and organizations that produce audio like this. Here’s a quick rundown of this workflow:
- Research enough to pitch idea to group
- Research more
- Conduct pre-interviews
- Adjust story concept
- Pick interview subjects
- Write first draft of script
- Second draft
- Third draft
- Full cuts
- “Read to tape” as group
- Group edits
- Fourth draft
- Rough mix
- Listen to the rough as a group
- Another group edit
- Rough sound design
- Listen as a group
- Fix sound design
- Pass off your final master
- Final mix
- Send out
- Get notes
- Fix based on notes
- Review again
- Green light
Are you overwhelmed at this list? I know I was.
You may be wondering whether you really need to follow such an involved process. You don’t. But if you want the best quality in both story and production, you’ll need more than what you’re doing.
I put together a PDF with this workflow on it. You can get it by going to the website, CreativeStudio.Academy and entering your e-mail. If you already signed up for the list before, you should get it delivered automatically. You’ll also receive future resources as I develop them throughout this series.
As we go through the rest of this podcast series, I simplified this workflow into just a handful of parts.
- Flowing or transitions
How the actually process works for you will depend on several things, including the specific topic, your skills and strengths, and whether or not you have a team to work with.
One person that has put extensive study into this process is Jessica Abel. She wrote and drew the book, “Out on the Wire.” I mentioned it in the last episode, but I want to tell you a little more about the book and her podcast a little more.
She started working with Ira Glass from “This American Life” back in the late 90’s to create a book about the storytelling process there. Out on the Wire expands by her interviewing many others that create stories in audio, both on the radio and on podcasts.
The podcast is very informative and entertaining. Not only does she bring the information on what and how to create story, she assigns homework every other episode. To be honest, I didn’t go through and do the exercises yet, but I know that they would greatly help me. I’ll probably go through some to help with the later episodes of this series.
She goes through much of the process as we’ve laid out already, but in greater detail, especially focusing on the crafting of the story. She shares a few ways to get started with constructing this narrative arc.
We will definitely be hearing more from her about these and other strategies to plan and prepare for your narrative in the next few episodes, but this can get you started.
To wrap up this episode, I want to share something I came across that kind of ties in with creating your narrative. This came from Pixar, and I’ll have the link to the full article in the show notes on CreativeStudio.Academy. It is a list of 22 rules, but I’m just going to share a few of them here:
- #1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
- #3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
- #7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
- #11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
- #14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
- #22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
I want to hear from you!
Scroll down to the bottom and leave a question or comment. Like I mentioned, I’m not the expert in this – I’m trying to learn along with you. Maybe there’s something I left out or you have a different viewpoint. Please share that so we can all improve. In fact, if you want to record yourself, I can include the audio in a future episode!
In the next episode, we’ll delve deeper into the early stages of planning for your narrative. This is a crucial part that can make the rest of the process easier, so be sure to subscribe and come back next week. Thank you for listening and share this with a friend! God bless!
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