Ira Glass on Storytelling

I ran across this earlier this week and it reminded me of of the “why are you telling me this?” quote I posted a while back.

The I-don’t-have-5-minutes-to watch version:

  • A story has two key building blocks 1) an anecdote and 2) a moment of reflection.
  • An anecdote is a sequence of actions.
  • Start with the action! Raise a question from the beginning. Keep raising questions. If you raise a question, it implies you’re going to answer it at some point. This is what keeps people watching/listening/reading.*
  • The moment of reflection is the point of the story. It’s the “why are you telling me this?” part.
  • You need both!
  • In a good story, you flip back and forth between the two.

*I agree this is what gives a story momentum, but at the same time I don’t think all questions need to be explicitly answered in stories. In fact, I prefer if they aren’t. You’ve got to leave something for your audience to figure out on their own / argue about for decades 😉