This is a draft chapter of a a guide book, a reflective journal, a record of inspirations. It is my hope that those interested in adapting their fiction (or nonfiction) to a podcast, will find helpful information to start their journey. No one can deny creative writing is an intensely personal process. For as many writing “how to’s” there are methods -often idiosyncratic- that writers employ to spark their imagination and engage with the written word. I am no different. To say I love writing is not entirely accurate. Rather, writing is essential to who I am and how I see the world. I had an interesting conversation with my husband the other day. He is a musician and a visual artist. We talked about how we navigate the world, move through everyday life. He said he notices lines and shapes of things in the world. When his mind wanders he is engaging with the visual qualities of life. That is not my way of thinking at all and I suspect it is not how most writers experience life. Rather, my mind is constantly constructing narratives, even without my knowledge. I’ll find myself “zoning out” and realize I’ve just made up a story about the lady in line at the grocery store. There is a constant stream of narrative.
I have been seeing the world this way for as long as I can remember. Getting through aversive tasks like cleaning my house as a child, I would contrive Dickensonian scenarios where I was a poor girl in rags going through the drudgery of everyday life, with a limited awareness that there was world of childhood delights for some other fortunate girl. Dramatic I know, but I ran these stories in my mind and they preoccupied, distracted me. When I was 14 I began writing, out of curiosity about my developing / coming of age self. I wrote about things adults did with the hope that this current of narrative would reveal life’s truths. Recently, an old friend who I am connected with on Facebook wrote and told me she had a stack of stories I had given to her thirty years ago when I was in my early twenties. She agreed to send them to me and I — honestly — was a bit dreading the idea that these stories would be so full of narcissism and writing blunders…some were, of course. However, I found one story I didn’t remember writing. The language was simple and concise. It was an incredibly sad story with just a hint of hope at the end. It was short: only five or six pages but reading my words from so long ago left an indelible impression on me. I had something to say and it was deeply sad at the time. I had something to say because I wanted other people to read it and understand. Writing allows one to engage with the complexities of life’s experiences. It is emotional, intellectual, and political. I love writing for these reasons.
When I was in my mid twenties I enrolled in a Stanislavsky acting program. I was not such a great actor, but through character and script analysis, a new potential for writing revealed itself to me. It was different than the stream of consciousness, loose narrative structures I had employed in my previous writing. I can remember standing on the stage — a tiny black box theater at the school — with the lights beaming down and a new potential for writing was revealed to me. I began studying the art of dramatic writing. It was entirely different and I knew it wouldn’t be easy (since I wasn’t even quite accomplished at constructing a narrative structure), The well known, narrative arc, was still elusive to me:
Ah, the elusive story structure. Seems simple enough right? Hmm…well more on that later.
I began reading and studying script writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I worked at an office job where there was literally one or two customers in an 8 hour shift. We used one of those old dot matrix printers — most probably don’t remember those I’m sure — and and on the backside (no two sided printing back then!)
I wrote my first play — or tried to at least. I forget what it was entitled but I sort of remember the story. There was a family — dysfunctional — and they all return for their father’s funeral. He had written his biography that included the family secrets on note cards..then he spread them all over the old dilapidated mansion. The siblings all arrived, full of the normal dysfunctional family sibling conflict. The play was full of avant garde devices (read: completely confusing). I layered monologues one over another. I had ghosts and gibberish. I basically threw all of the absurdist tactics I could into my story. I was a HUGE fan of Edward Albee and his uncanny dialogue — capturing subtext in seemingly inane conversation. I loved waiting for Godot. Ionesco. I also LOVED Tennessee Williams (so I threw a few scrims in there) and Eugene O’Neil (made it long, very long). For all my investment and good efforts…it was not a play. Rather, it was hundreds of pages of words written on the back of long perforated sheets of dot-matrix printer paper. As we all know critics can be cruel and in my case this was exceptionally true. I had a good friend (well regarded writer now) and I shared my play with him…someone told me — I don’t’ remember who — that he and his roommates had posted one of my more melodramatic and terrible monologues on their refrigerator for a laugh. I had a thick skin because I genuinely thought it was Pulitzer worthy and I kept writing…and some of my early one acts started to resemble plays. Since that time I have had minor recognition for a couple of my plays and I “get” some of the basic technical aspects of dramatic writing (more on this later too).
So that is the background on this adventure I am now undertaking: adapting a novel for radio. This too has been an enormous learning curve. Writing for radio involves more dimensions to constructing a story. There is still the story structure, technical elements of script writing, and an engaging story. Add to that, adapting the arc to stretch across 15 episodes (8 hours of audio). Add to that the potential and downfall of audio / soundscape. It’s been a journey and it’s not over yet!
These chapters will share what I’ve learned as I adapted my novel The Diarist to a serialized fiction podcast — The Diarist Podcast — launching March 2018. First I’ll present a background and tell you a little bit about the story The Diarist, how it came to be, and why I thought it would make a good podcast. These were the early days…recording the story — as it was in narrative form — on a cheap microphone on my broken laptop (boy did we come a long way!) These early attempts at creating audio drama helped me sort out whether I wanted an audio book or a scripted podcast. After this introductory / background chapter I’ll share some of what I know about fiction writing and script writing; the similarities and difference. Think of this section as back to the basics of writing. Plot, structure, elements of conflict and action (and character, and setting, and voice…). Later on in the book l will compare examples from the novel and analyze how I transformed prose to script (you’ll get to hear some sound clips from the podcast too!). I will next share with you inspirations for the story: a lot about research: historic photographs, newspapers, stories, friends.
Now for the steep learning curve. I will spend some time sharing what I’ve learned about podcasting — the technical, financial, and practical aspects. Part 2 of this book will contain a lot of resources and links, Q&A from podcasters in the field, and a breakdown of the steps I took to go from a draft novel to a clean, well-produced, 15-episode audio drama. A How-To-Podcast handbook would not be complete without a step-by-step outline of the process…from script, finding actors, to hosting, to fund raising, to launching, to maintaining social media campaigns.
I will end the book with a series of interviews with my cast, director, and sound engineer…and a Diarist Podcast Scrapbook, complete with rehearsal pics, excerpts from the script, audio clips, and more!!! At the end of each chapter you’ll find “The Pulse of Podcasting,” these are actual conversations drawn from online podcasting groups…it puts all this into context (or at least it’s a reminder that you’re not alone!)
The good news is there are a lot of really cool people out there podcasting amazing stories. It’s also a relatively niche to break into. And it’s fun!!!!
I was in another place. Everyone else was in the ‘real world’, a pretty summer day, cool refreshing beach water, already a bowl of watermelon on the table. But, I was not there. I was in the morning with the atmosphere of dysfunction that I had grown up with. It was a seriousness that stopped the activities of real life. It was the same as a real emergency but it was imagined. All through my childhood my siblings and I trekked back and forth between real emergency and imagined crisis. All the while watching the landscape of normal lives right there, but passing us by. Maybe that is what it is like to have a mentally ill mother: trips to the emergency room, suicide attempts, police visits, imagined dangers, affairs, break-ups, pretend run-aways, sharp objects on flesh. And, what does this all mean? Does my PTSD make me, too, a ‘mentally ill’ mother. But, I do not — or I think I do not — do harmful things. Was my choice to drive to North Carolina that day a choice that came from my mental illness or was it just an impossible situation; was it the internalized obligation of seeing my dying mother? A prisoner. That was how I felt that morning with the southern heat starting up, the ocean-with that horrible undertow-crashing rhythmically outside of the glass doors. The kids laughing and pulling on bathing suits. I remember I was so angry. I was furious with my sister and brother — for not wanting to talk about it. My brother’s perspective was that he had been dealing with it in real life and wanted a break. He had every right. He was the one who took the daily calls from her, kept secret his knowledge of my and my sister’s private lives, visited the hospital, listened to her fabrications and pleas for attention. He tolerated her verbal abuse and narcissism.
Enjoy my random posts. These are pieces of writing that don't "fit" in any of the other categories or posts updating what's new in my world.