In July 2020, I decided to turn my 2019 novel draft into an audio drama superhero mockumentary podcast (try saying that five times fast!). This page documents my ongoing struggle with how to make this happen. I've done plenty of creative writing and lyric writing, but I've never written a story for audio before! Check out how it all started here.
One of my goals for this month was to map out my podcast host's narrative journey. If she's a reporter exploring characters within my fictional setting, I can look at how she would logically approach investigating the story. In turn, this would help me figure out the overarching plot of the podcast.
I didn't meet my goal. Why? Because I'm torn about what I want from my podcast host. Do I want a character with a bias and personality that can lead the storyline or do I want a neutral observer? There are pros and cons to each approach, but I need to commit to one if I want to get anywhere with my script. If I choose a neutral interviewer, then I need to rethink my narrative framing of the audio drama. Is it a documentary? Is it serious? What is it? How do I present the story and how do I navigate the storyline without a strongly opinionated host? If I choose a biased interviewer, I need to thoroughly explore what her angle on the story is. Why does she want to talk to the other characters? How does she react to them? What drives her?
After some deliberation, and writing script snippets for both options, I decided to go with the neutral interviewer. I already have the characters of my story; the interviewer's job is to simply introduce the listener to them. It would be fun if the interviewer had a personality, but I'm not quite prepared to commit to the fleshing out of yet another character when the narrative is already full of them! I don't want the narrative voice to overshadow anyone.
However, I did some writing and recording experiments before I reached that decision. Check out a rough take of my biased interviewer introduction!
Today I asked my music technology friends for podcast recommendations and tips. The best way to pick up on the characteristics of a thing is to immerse yourself in that world, after all!
I learned 2 things:
This video that my friend recommended seems like a good place to start.
My most recent podcast problem is figuring out who my podcast host is. It needs to be a character who is interested in the heroes, sidekicks and villains of the story, and has a reasonable motivation to uncover more through interviews. This person must be the anchor of the show, guiding listeners through the narrative universe. This character did not exist until today.
I eventually came up with my host through monologuing myself into character (it felt as weirdly creative as it sounds). I now have the beginnings of my pilot episode script!
Problem number 2 was coming up with a name for the podcast. I consulted with a friend and eventually settled on the provisional title "Bunin Voices". This title avoids copyright issues by citing a location from the in-universe story, simultaneously giving the podcast a more regional feel specific to the fictional setting. I may change it based on future feedback, but it's good enough for now.
I am a musical person. I studied Music Technology for five years and have been composing/recording songs for over a decade now. Considering this, you might expect that I would have all the equipment I need to record a podcast. You would be wrong. I was listening to yet another webinar about the practicalities of podcasting today and decided that enough is enough. It's time to invest in two vital pieces of equipment: an extra microphone and a functional USB hub.
Step one of podcasting is figuring out how the hell podcasting works - I listen to podcasts sometimes but that doesn't make me an expert!
Fortunately, the Futurelearn mailing list seemed to sense my plight. This happy coincidence meant that I found a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called "The Power of Podcasting for Storytelling". Perfect!
I was excited enough to complete the two week course in the space of a weekend. Here's what I learned:
By the time I reached the end of the course I had a much clearer idea of where I wanted to take my story. The focus has changed from "lonely high school student makes a friend" to "what does it mean to be a hero?".
In November 2019, I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The plan was to turn my novel idea (2 sidekicks on opposite sides become friends) into a full-length first draft, even choosing to include a character I came up with during a high school art lesson!
In practice, I met my word count target at the end of the month, but grew no closer to finishing the draft. There were two problems:
After a month of forcing out the novel that went nowhere, I took a much needed break from it. I worked on the plot for a collaborative webcomic, took up freelance transcribing, and did a UX/UI internship.
By July, I had regained enough creative distance from the novel draft to reappraise it with a fresh mind and critical eye. I was ready to try again.
This time however, I encountered a new problem. Whenever I tried to flex my creative writing muscle and re-familiarise myself with the characters, I wrote interviews. The interviews were happening between fictional characters, but they weren't the story I had originally planned on writing. The interviews were about the events of the story I wanted to write.
I blamed this development on my freelance transcription work (transcribing documentary interviews for small media companies), but soon realised that it was a blessing in disguise. I could write about my characters post-character development and I could cover up plot holes through the interviewer being terrible at their job! All of sudden, my novel wasn't a novel anymore. It was an auditory investigation. I don't know how podcasts work, but I've never been more excited to write one!