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Find Your Story

Lesson 2 from: Essential Storytelling Techniques with Producers from 'Snap Judgment'

Anna Sussman, Julia DeWitt

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Lesson Info

2. Find Your Story

Next Lesson: Course Introduction

Lesson Info

Find Your Story

You know, because this is largely what our experiences were going to talking mostly about narrative stories eso not not the news what that means to us is the main reason to report things is to convey information and if you find meaning in their great but, um, you know, it's, just just to get information across in the case of, uh, what we're going to talk about narrative stories, um, we're also, um, word's going to talk about I mean, meaning sound like t has a good story is the one where I learned something about myself for the world, so so we have a story which, you know, can kind of be boiled down to a series of events with meaning and to me a great stories when that siri's air of events and meaning make something clicked for me that I didn't I couldn't put together before, it happens a lot when you're reading fiction, right? You have that experience where you're like oh, so well said, thank you for putting those pieces together for me hope for me that's what a good story does um and ...

then there's kind of the more like beach reading element of their like value of storytelling, which is when it just transports you to some place that you really want to be, you just really enjoyed being there that has a lot of value for me, too, and listening to stories and making stories. So I'll tell you about the story of mind that we're going to be going through today that when we enter road, which we call extremist makeover um this is a story about on adolescent boy who lives outside of kabul, when the taliban takes over and it's a fearsome time it's an unknown time and then there's one taliban, his neighborhood who's particularly brutal and he's particularly brutal tau women. And one day this talent comes up to caisson crisis friend and says, I needed to follow me and he walks through town to an empty cemetery and the boys were like, this is not good and he says, I need you to do something for me and they're quaking in their boots and they say, what is it? And he said, there's a girl I have a crush on and I need you to help me win her over like, okay, that's not what we expected and then these like crazy teenage antics and sue and it becomes this like buddy comedy of these two young boys, you know, trying to get this talib to be charming, you know, and to be like a rational human who's who's kind to women, and they discover that he's, just uneducated and you know all these things you would discover you know, like he just kind of doesn't know any better and he joined the taliban for all these economic reasons um and then the end there's kind of this you know, surprising touching moment when the the taliban realizes kind of the error of his ways and and comes back down to earth um so so one of the things I really liked about this story was that it brings me into a world that I otherwise couldn't access and that's like one of the most beautiful things about storytelling, right? I mean that's why films are so popular we need to get to enter this world so we'll talk about kind of world building and how do you do that? Um yeah would you like about your story? We're gonna talk about s o story that I'm going to be mostly referencing when when I'm using examples is a story I did recently about a couple names the man's name is jim woman that was rhonda um otherwise pretty average couple met and fell in love share things in common a similar sense of humor except rhonda was diagnosed with what we typically called dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder, and she chose to think of it as a healthy thing that the trauma was not healthy but that she just lived as her personalities and there were, uh she said up upwards of seventy of those personalities jim got to know each one almost all of those personalities on developed relationships different relationships with, you know, some of them were like there's a gay female. There was children there's um, older men like had relationships with all these different people on but the end um, spoiler alert, hopefully already. Listen to it, rhonda. Rhonda rhonda dies and he has to say goodbye not only to the love of his life, but to all of these different personalities and there's sort of a unique loss for each of them. Um uh, so yeah, besides the meaning here is another way of thinking about it is ask yourself what the story is actually about. So, like, take the example of, like, beauty and the beast so you might say to somebody what's the story about let's say, well, this this woman you know, goes to the castle meets this this big, ugly beast and slowly they they fall in love um that's, that's the events you know, like that's, the siri's of events, the meaning part is what it was actually about is it's a story about love and about how we were talking about earlier it's sort of like what's on the inside, you know, love is more than skin deep that's also sort of take right but yeah no but like be a good person which is often went like old time fables and every bible story and like every kind of all story that chance that stands the test of time is about like, you know, be good don't be evil so how do we find these stories? Um sometimes it can be really um I'm not frustrating and like and and overwhelming because I know that there are stories all around me and they're everywhere and I just don't know how to kind of like um push through and find them and kind of like identify them and then I just kind of get paralyzed um but there's tricks there's tricks to this write their skills to this and if you go to your find your story checklist so this is a great checklist to kind of do what julie was talking about which is turning idea into a story um so a couple months ago I had the idea that I wanted to do a story about a train heist just because I'm like selfish santo wanted to be in that experience and I wanted to sound design it so so I started looking for stories about train heists on don't you think you have something? Just run it through this checklist on and it's not a guarantee but if you can check all these off your pretty well positioned and and finding the story is the hardest part once you have the story life gets a lot easier uh we're gonna talk about all of these as we go through today so maybe hold your questions because uh, because we're getting to all of this doesn't have action that doesn't have a series of events does it have tension that's kind of the reason toe listen, does it have a good talker and this could really kill a story you can have a great story with like all of these elements and so much potential and if the person telling it can't nail it like can't tell it well you're done like just move on quickly um doesn't have compelling scenes right think that audio is a very visual medium um people imagine what they hear so doesn't have scenes that I can immerse myself in as a listener come doesn't have a twist so something unexpected if I know from the the first sentence of the story what's gonna happen at the end? Um that's not very satisfying experience for me with the listener doesn't have steaks something on the line neither for the person telling the story or for the person they're telling the story about, you know, is there something at risk kind of does it have a meaning? This is what julie was talking about what's this story really about um doesn't have an audience so you know there's people out there who want to hear this story um which you know, snap judgment and and a lot of the stories we're talking about a real general audience but you could go vary in it too particularly the podcast world you know there are people who want to hear story about anything um if you find the right niche audience but but make sure that they're out there and this last item is the most important to me and and the question is do you love it if you love your story you really well positioned to have a good story and if you don't love your story you're really well position to have a a tepid kind of lukewarm story in the end um and I will hear me you and julia to just kind of keep coming back to this all day today you know like do you have fire about this story you super amped about what you're about to embark on because it's going toe beat you up so like please love it from the beginning because you're outta luck yeah there's gonna be times no matter how good the story is that can you know get goetz very painful and and I actually share an office and we have a checklist they have a list of on the wall what is it there's you my story is great my story is awesome my story is ok my story. Shit. It was like the emotional roller coaster, which is like the process. And then you come out at the end, back at, you know, I love my story, and I love myself. And, um, but going that the process is I was, you know, arduous and enviable. You'll be all over the place, but how you think about it, but as long as that that's starting place that you can remember in access again, uh, you know, it's, invaluable throughout the process.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Interview Success Checklist
Sample Pitch Packet
Extremist Makeover Story Full Audio Clip
Find Your Story Checklist
Multiplicity Story Full Audio Clip
Story Map Worksheet

Ratings and Reviews

Serena Larkin

Loved this training---plenty of great takeaways from women who've done the hard work, done it successfully and well, and know how to share that with others. Especially enjoyed: 1. Their clear story checklist (Compelling lead, Unique angle, Who will listen?, Who will speak?) 2. Their hammering home of continuing to ask yourself throughout the process why YOU love your story, so that that passion helps to drive it 3. Their emphasis on the dynamism of storytelling and its taking shape between the producer and the audience Great stuff---thank you! PS Could commenters here please focus on content, rather than the presenters' voices? I liked both myself, but if you didn't, that's really not the point of this review section. Also, please see:

Georgia Buchert

Three hours and 10 1/2 pages of furious note-taking later, I'm feeling encouraged and excited to get back into some story projects I'd put on hold. Julia DeWitt and Anna Sussman brought to my memory some great concepts I've interacted with in my previous work and gave me fresh information to help me evolve and become a better storyteller. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and helpful resources.


My high hopes for this class were exceeded. Co-instructors Anna and Julia did an excellent job conveying what story collection is like in the field, offering pointers for capturing necessary tape, and explaining the building blocks of narrative that's strong enough to keep the attention of distractible listeners. I loved that they're seasoned producers who get the human elements of storytelling and understand that it's a messy, challenging process, but shared the paths they've mapped out that work. Also appreciated the pointers on pitching, which was one of the most useful part of the session to me. I second the comment of another reviewer that the moderator's interjections distracted a bit from the flow of the instruction, though understand why CreativeLive wants to do this.

Student Work