Writing for the Ear

When we write, we aim to grasp the reader’s’ eye. To steal their attention, to have their eyes rapidly scanning the page, yearning to read what happens next. Here, we write for the eye. But what about writing for the ear, in say the form of a podcast? This is what Jessica Abel and Jonathan Kern teach us in Out on the Wire, which explores the art of radio and broadcasting and how writing comes into play in each.

So, how does one write for the ear? Abel makes the claim, “Narration, it seems, is not as simple as it sounds.” Rightfully so, might I add. What we oftentimes don’t think about when writing is making it conversational. Though, with sound, it needs to be conversational. The narration must flow as a conversation would, so that it is familiar to the listener and can get the message across in a more easily-understandable manner. The narration also needs to be interesting enough to hold the listener’s attention. Like when writing, make sure to hook the listener right from the beginning and hold the suspense throughout. We are speaking to our audience, a.k.a. the listener, so we must ensure we are appealing to them. The major thing is really to just keep it real. And as cliché as that may sound, it’s what is going to make a podcast entertaining. Keep in mind how you would go about holding a real-life conversation. What would that sound like? Don’t think about formalities and just focus on the rawness of it. A podcast is really just a well thought out conversation anyways, isn’t it?

Let the Ideas Flow

One single idea didn’t come to mind when given this podcast assignment. Rather, a jumbled influx of ideas swarmed into my head. This is often how idea generation goes down in my brain. Though, I was inspired by some of the prompts given in class and was able to narrow down the influx to a few potential topics of interest. When first looking at the prompt ‘When does _______ turn from being benign to harmful?,’ I actually thought of reversing it. Last year, I went through an initially bad breakup that ended up changing my life for the better, so I thought that could be cool to write about finding good from a bad situation in that sense. Also stemming from this, being able to reflect upon a time when you and your life was so drastically different to how it is now and how that can be so.

Moving to another idea, I’m a member of greek life here at UVM and have experienced frustration with recent events on campus and assumptions being made and blame being placed where it may not should be. I had a great conversation with a few of my classmates on the matter and realized this could be a very interesting and pressing topic to write about, with it being a current university matter. As a class, we came up with some possible prompts for this, like ‘Trying to formulate a solution when actually creating a problem,’ or, ‘Where should the line of responsibility fall?’ This could also go along with, ‘What is an event that has happened in your community?’ Being a member of greek life and having witnessed some other similar situations where the university has gotten involved, I think I could really take these prompts and run with them.

My video remix was centered around the idea of women being misrepresented and under-valued in the business world. I’m a business major and have plans to enter the business world, thus I could really speak to how it feels to be a woman in such a male-dominated field. Aside from these few ideas I’ve been toying with, I was captivated by other prompts we discussed in class and think any way you approach this assignment could be fascinating.

True You

Perhaps the last thing I expected to hear once I began listening to this podcast was a soft women’s voice speaking of how grasshoppers turn to locusts. I was wondering, what the heck does this have to do with the ‘true self?’. It turns out, grasshoppers may just have split personalities. I was hooked. It pulled me in, wondering where NPR was going to take me next. The podcast flowed seamlessly, much like the narrative structure sought by Ira Glass, into two more stories. We first encounter a tough, rough-around-the-edges woman who discovers a secret identity inside of her, hidden in her dreams at night. Then, a cartoonist who has a whole other part of himself that he is ashamed to reveal. Stories about our true selves and embracing them.

The stories are presented through narration, interviews with each subject, and dialogue between the subjects and interviewers. This takes the listener right into the story and makes it feel all the more real. You can hear how the interviews were conducted and the work and research that went into analyzing each subject. The interviews and dialogue were light, but held a certain depth that makes you wonder. I felt like I was right there, next to this woman’s bed, listening to her sleep talk. In the more happy parts of discovery, the podcast was accompanied with uplifting music, where during the more serious there was more intense music. This I found to also be highly effective in setting the current mood of the podcast.

I loved the realness of this podcast. The listener is taken along the journey of these people discovering their true selves through the certain psychological studies and interviews we hear. Upon finishing it, I found myself wondering if I, too have some different version of myself inside of me. Perhap we all do.

Lady Suits

Women are pretty badass. I think this we can all agree upon. And with the changing times and the increasing efforts in the fight towards women’s equality, we’re only growing stronger. Women in sports, women in politics, and most pertinent to my life: women in business.

I’m a business major with a writing minor. And let me tell you, I already hear enough about having a humanities minor and not Stats or Econ. Since freshman year, my classes have been primarily male. I’ve only had a handful of female professors and have been the only girl group member for multiple group projects. I’ve experienced first-hand my male classmates packing up early in classes taught by female professors, while waiting until male professors to get out their final thought. I’ve also experienced first-hand some pretty amazing and intelligent women I get to call my classmates. My team for my internship this past summer was lead by a highly successful female supervisor. Needless to say, being a young woman pursuing business, I am very inspired by the growing women in business movement. Though, we are still undervalued, under-respected, and misrepresented in the business setting. Thus, this is what I plan to base my video remix on.

I would imagine my audience would be primarily young women entering the business world like myself, as well as future businessmen. We all share this business education, but may not all share the same perspectives on gender equality in the workplace. Though, we should. I plan to use strategies like showing various headlines, use clips to show how men are viewed versus women, and present some successful famous-name female entrepreneurs. Perhaps even a voice-over of a motivational female business speaker. I want to be able to graduate and enter the business world confident that I’ll be treated equal to my male coworkers, and I want all my other lady business majors too as well.

The Usual Suspects

We’ve all seen political remixes, whether we realize it or not. Take that remix of Barack Obama singing ‘Call Me Maybe,’ for example. We’ve all seen that and all remember it, because of its creativity and ability to take make something new from something already existing. This is the power of a political remix.

Perhaps some of the most common we see are those taken from news clips. The political remix that stood out to me as being the both powerful and persuasive, ‘The Usual Suspects: Black Men in Black Hoodies,’ is a perfect example of a remix of various news clips. It takes a typical news cast and manipulates it to emphasize a modern cultural truth, this being that black men are continuously targeted as the ‘usual suspects’ in regards to crime. This also becomes the argument the remix attempts to make, through demonstrating how frequently black men are targeted as suspects across popular news channels. It does so through its main tactic of repetition, essentially being a two minute video of clips of newscasters mentioning something along the lines of the phrase ‘black male.’ All different scenarios, different newscasters, different locations, different ways of saying it. All compiled on top of each other. Though each clip and method of saying it is different, all have this implication of targeting black males.

This aspect of repetition throughout the entire video is what makes it so powerful. It makes it transparent just how much of a cultural truth this has become and continues to be. It makes it apparent how much it happens in our day to day lives, even if we may not realize it. Most important of all, is that the remix sticks with you. The phrase replays in your mind, even after you finish watching. I even watched it a second time. This is what makes it so effective. Something the creators of the remix could consider to make it even more effective could be to expand from the news and seek out use of the phrase in more day-to-day conversation. This would emphasize that this cultural phenomenon is not only evident in the news, but in our daily lives as well.

Finding Clarity in the Madness

Teenagers are a complicated breed- I think this we can all agree on. Writer David Dobbs agrees too. Dobbs, though, wants to know exactly why they act the way that they do. Why the unpredictable mood swings and the impulsive decisions? Dobbs explores this why, and more, in his National Geographic published feature, “Beautiful Brains.” Through his artful and effective implementation of research, Dobbs reveals that perhaps these maddening teen years are in place for a reason. I’m shuddering at the very thought of my moody teenage self as I’m writing this, so I’m ready to hear why the hell we have to go through it.

It is made apparent right from the start of the feature that Dobbs’ targeted audience is parents (so not exactly my curious 21 year old self, but still). One must also consider the typical National Geographic reader, which tends to be more in the adult age range. With this in mind, we can assume this is a decently educated crowd. However, a piece of writing teeming with facts and figures can be overwhelming for anyone, even the Ivy alumni soccer mom. Dobbs utilizes various academic sources to support his claims, though he does so in a way that can be easily comprehended. Any time he utilizes a source or scientific phenomena, like say brain maturation, he delves into a detailed description of what it is or how it works. For my non-scientific brain, I praise Dobbs for this.

Also notable, is the presentation of the piece. Dobbs’ writing is accompanied by powerful and artistically-crafted photography, as well as real-life stories to accompany each of the photos. In using these stories, Dobbs relates to the reader, thus making the research more decipherable and comfortable to read. Not to mention, he often aligns himself with the reader, in referring them as a group of “us parents.” 

Now, I’d say Dobbs has quite a beautiful brain himself. 

Finding a Happily Ever After

Are stepmothers really evil, like the beloved fairy tale Cinderella makes them out to be? Immediately in the introduction of Leslie Jamison’s print feature, In The Shadow of a Fairy Tale, we are taken into her world of acting as a stepmother to her stepdaughter Lily. We are brought into the tragedy of young Lily’s upbringing and how it aligns with one of a dark fairy-tale story. Jamison utilizes her own experience to tackle this question and also question this fairy tale ‘stereotype’ of casting the stepmothers as evil and the orphan child as being abused. She faces this stereotype every day. She fears being evil, like all story books seem to portray. Soon after she introduces us to her relationship with Lily, Jamison launches into more factual information on various fairy-tale characters and archetypes. She explores the different scary stepmothers we’ve grown up reading about, like the evil queen from ‘Snow White’ or the stepmother in ‘Hansel and Gretel.’

The remainder of the piece plays out with this bouncing back and forth between the personal and the factual. Which is nice, if you ask me, as once you get tired of reading about Jamison buying a present for Lily, you get to then read about the climactic decision of whether or not to actually call the stepmother Mother. In writing the piece this way, Jamison is also able to add a certain depth to the exploration of this issue. Incorporating her own experience and psychological dilemma with the topic-at-hand makes her words all the more meaningful.

With all the dark twists and turns the feature takes, one could only hope there’s a happy ending involved (at least I know I did). Jamison begins her ending by delving into the only two fairy tales in existence that actually involve good stepmothers. With this, she weaves into how stepparenting is more than what a mere story may make it out to be. It is love. And in the end, stepmothers are just like you and I. So the end-all-be-all question becomes this: are fairy-tales really just a bunch of baloney?

A Sip of Inspiration

Before gaining access to the Whitetail Gin site, it has you confirm that you’re over the age of 18 to enter the site. Now I don’t know about you, but this made me feel pretty exclusive, almost as if I was a member of some secret gin society. Not to mention for those younger-than-18, which I am gladly not, I can imagine such would create a sense of curiosity and longing to be allowed in. Once you get into the site, your eyes are immediately drawn to the center of the page, where the headline presented in three short lines states: ‘Inspired By Nature. Sourced in Mull. Created in London.’ Boom. We are instantly told the gin is British, which automatically makes it cool in my book. The rest of the site aligns well with this cool and sophisticated, almost suave vibe. The headline rests over a darkened image of the gin’s ingredients, almost scattered across a white countertop. It’s a busy image, with bits of pine needles and lemon peel overflowing onto the table top. But the darkening of the image allows it to fade into the background more, while still popping at just the right amount. Underneath the headline, it prompts you to ‘Discover More,’ which at this point I’m intrigued to do so. Clicking this brings you to the other various sections of the website, including the inspiration behind the gin, the various awards its won, and its specific products. The most fun part of this scroll, though, is that the website itself moves with you, almost as if it’s alive. Each section glides into the next with the various images moving as your mouse does. It feels as if you’re swirling around a glass of gin over a bed of ice. Such makes the site highly interactive and eye-catching. Once you finally reach the bottom of the glass, you’ll find Whitetail’s social media handles and contact information. With the mere artisticness of the work, I’m pretty much dying to see the Instagram. The site is effective because it’s different. Modern. Unique. It draws the user in and proves to be very clear and user-friendly while doing so. Fine British gin, anyone?

Link to sight: https://whitetailgin.com