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How to tell better stories for fun and profit

· Storytelling,Performance

Want to become a better storyteller? Here are some helpful resources worth checking out.

The Moth podcast is great, of course. So is StoryCorps. (We are starting with some oldies-but-goodies here.)

Strangers. KCRW says, “Each episode is an empathy shot in your arm, featuring true stories about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were.” This one scares me a little, frankly.

The shows I've listed so far are not educational "how to tell good stories" podcasts - they simply TELL good stories. The best way to learn storytelling is to figure out why a story affects YOU. Why YOU crack up (or tear up, or throw up, or give up) as you listen to the story. What happened? How did the storyteller get past all your defenses and create an emotional connection with you? The technical terms ("inciting incident," "rule of 3," blah blah) aren't nearly as important as developing a felt sense of what just happened - to you. Sure, it may be more efficient to get someone else to tell you how story is put together - but it's more effective to figure it out for yourself, because it's an opportunity to learn something more useful than "how stories work" - it's a chance to learn how you work, too.

That said, sometimes you just want to learn about the nuts and bolts. I get it. I like to learn that stuff, too. So:

Narrative Breakdown gets into the stuff.

Check out Scriptnotes. Full disclosure: a friend is a huge fan, and I trust his taste, so I'm recommending this without ever having listened to it. I don't need to! That's what friends are for, they filter the world for you and give you the best stuff. Thanks, friends! (Although I WILL point out that Craig Mazin is one of the hosts of this show, and if you are a political junkie like I am, that is wonderful news.)

Would you like to make podcasts yourself, and delight all the peoples with your storytelling charm? Then check out Alex Bumberg's class, Power Your Podcast With Storytelling. You know him from such shows as This American Life and Planet Money. Now he's telling you how to do his job. Hooray! I am a Creative Live fanatic; they offer great courses, well worth the price.

Speaking of Creative Live, here's a recent class on how to be a funnier public speaker. I know, it sounds awful, but the teacher is from Ireland, and that accent is the sugar that makes the medicine go down.

Want to learn how the sausage gets made for the stage? Check out Marc Maron's WTF podcast. Yes, I know, this is not exactly an unknown, out-of-left-field podcast, but I had to add it to the list because I've learned so much from it. Nobody spills the beans like comedians do. I catch myself thinking about the Robin Williams and Louis CK interviews all the time.

Do I even need to mention This American Life or KCRW's The Treatment? Probably not.

Finally, here's an interview I did a few years ago with Pilar Alessandra for her podcast On The Page. We do our best to bridge the divide between interactive storytelling and screenwriting. Do we pull it off? Beats me! I can't listen to my own interviews. You be the judge.

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