I've been so distractable lately, I'm having trouble focusing on what I'm reading for more than a few minutes at a time. Life has been busy and interesting, but also kind of stressful (mostly because being busy stresses me out--in the best of ways!).
Anyway, I've been listening to some podcasts lately, because I can focus on them a little better than on audiobooks. In addition to Reading the End (which is delightful) and This American Life, I've been listening to The Black Tapes.
This reminds me a bit of Limetown, premise-wise. It's an NPR-style faux documentary with the premise of a weekly show examining stories of the supernatural, with the throughline of looking at the work of a paranormal debunker. A female reporter named Alex Regan is following the work of Dr. Richard Strand, looking into his unsolved cases--he's the Scully; she wants to believe--and also rummaging around in the mysterious circumstances of his own life.
Now, the show itself is, I would say, only okay. The through story of Strand--his missing wife, his stand-offishness, his tenuous friendship with Alex--is actually pretty interesting, but the case-of-the-week material is quite thin. Each one is basically the outline of a case, rather than an investigation; it seems like just when the story gets interesting, when I have questions that would either get weirder or debunk it, they declare it unsolvable and move on. (Note: I'm only about half a dozen episodes in; the teaser for next week implied that some of these stories might tie together in upcoming episodes.)
Anyway, what really has me fascinated is the format, and the mechanics of the show. Like I said, it's NPR-style, and it's modeled on the tried-and-true This American Life style of storytelling. I mean, I'm sure they didn't make it up, but that's where I learned about this kind of story, and maybe you did, too. RadioLab, Serial, all these other shows that tell these little research/investigation of regular folks stories have a sound and a feel and this is going right up the middle for one of those. The canned music that they use is *literally* music they use sometimes on TAL.
The acting, though, is not quite what I want it to be. I feel like, in an effort to not make it sound theatrical or acted, everyone sounds very calm and quiet. Not like they're reading, but very much like reality show characters reconstructing a conversation for the producers. The guy who's described as a fidgety ball of energy delivers his answers softly and evenly. People describe things in rehearsed sounding ways, even when they are theoretically having a spontaneous conversation. There are almost always pauses between questions and answers, even when, in context, you would expect the character to BURST out with the answer that you know is coming. There's a very subtle note of human nature that's missing from the acting or directing here, and it puts a bit of a dent here.
(Also, Alex does not seem like a very good reporter in a lot of ways. That, though, might be written into her character, because her producer sometimes calls her on it.)
But what this really has me thinking about is the podcast as a format for fiction. A couple of friends and I have been talking about doing a podcast together (hit me up, E & L, we should make that happen in the new year!), likely talking about books. And there are a lot of fun comedy or talk-show style podcasts (How Did This Get Made is a favorite around here). But what kind of fictional stories can you tell in this format? Horror is one I keep seeing, especially based on the faux investigative reporting. I wonder what other fictional podcasts are out there. And I've been wondering what it would be like to make one.
Really, I've been thinking about making a bunch of things lately. I'm considering doing NaNoWriMo this year (note that I've dropped by posts to two a week to spend some time thinking about that). But I've also been thinking about writing a short play (seeing a lot of theater and I'm inspired). A podcast script would be so interesting. What's the premise? How do you shape it around a recording in a believable way? What kind of non-horror story lends itself to serialized storytelling in an audio format--that is, through interviews, explanations, and conversations?
I'm messing around with something. I have no idea whether I'll do anything with it. But the challenge of writing in a way that truly sounds like people talk--that just seems so interesting to me.
(I've also always wanted to cowrite an epistolary novel with someone, if any of my blog-reading writer friends has a great idea and would like to mess around on a project like that!)
As you can see, there's a lot going on in my head. I didn't even mention the half dozen theater performances I've seen or bought tickets for lately--it's going to be a performance-heavy winter. I'm pretty excited about it, actually. Upcoming post for that, I guess!