A bead of sweat falls from Lucy’s brow. It lands on the page, separating ink from paper. The resulting blob reminds Lucy that she is overdue for an eye test. She brushes the water aside, creating a smeared kaleidoscope of blue. Her OCD cannot accept this mess. She has to start again.
But she has run out of time. Where did it all go? If only the seconds were hours, she thinks.
Lucy frantically flips to a fresh page, knocking her coffee over in the process. Her entire notepad is now soaked, like a kid after a day of playing in puddles.
The brown coffee seeping through her binder of ideas makes Lucy think of the rapids of The Amazon River. She wishes she could get swept away by the current. These drowning notes are her only copy.
It’s 7 PM on Friday and Lucy realizes that the weekend is no longer hers. Sarah will be so disappointed. Lucy stands up. Throws away the notepad and empty coffee cup. Wipes the office desk clean. Grabs her purse and puts on her coat. Through the formidable glass doors, she sees the snow crashing down and braces for impact. She makes a mental note of her shopping list before opening the door: 3 new notepads, and an extra-large coffee.
4 Keys to Captivating Writing
Writing fiction podcasts can be an exhilarating process. You have the opportunity to fully flex your creativity. Your only limitation? The depths of your imagination.
Scripting a crazy adventure then immediately pressing the record button may seem like a great idea. But here is something to think about first: Will this adventure captivate your audience?
It’s one thing to be entertained by the inner workings of your own mind. Whether the audience can relate to your thought process is something else entirely.
When I begin any creative writing process, I always follow a simple checklist. This list helps me to structure my content in a way that is engaging for the intended audience. I always have so much to say. But it took me a while to learn that quality writing always outweighs quantity.
We will be using Lucy’s deadline catastrophe as a case study for how to implement this checklist. Once we are done, you should have all you need to make your fiction podcast objectively captivating.
1. Choose the Right Character
Humans are attracted to the stories of other people. We are inherently social beings. True Crime is a popular podcast genre because it’s real people telling real stories. In fiction, the characters aren’t real, but their stories should feel real to the audience.
Having the right characters will entice your audience to want to know more about them. The best characters are those that people can instantly relate to. They’ll think to themselves, “That sounds like my neighbor!” or, “My sister does the same thing!” or, the ultimate prize, “Hey! That sounds just like me!”
Add little quirks that make it easy to distinguish one character from another. In real life, people are layered, so your characters should be too.
With podcasting, we do not have visuals to rely on. Having unique character traits will allow you to segway from one character to another in more interesting ways, without always having to say their names.
In our example, Lucy obviously needs new glasses. I can assure you that either you wear glasses yourself or you know someone who does. So, whoever reads about Lucy immediately compares her with their bespectacled companion.
Try making your characters accessible to a wide array of people. Use hair cuts, fashion, and accessories as tools to connect with different personalities. The location should be broad enough to resonate with many people yet specific against other possible locations. Public spaces are great as locations (the gym, restaurant, office, etc.).
Varying age is also great for having distinctly different characters while connecting to a larger audience.
If you have many characters, make them as different from one another as possible. An assorted group of people will then appreciate your work, each for their own unique reasons. This skill, once mastered, will leave you with a vast fan base that is beautifully diverse.
2. Find the Obstacle
We are faced with new dilemmas every single day of our lives. Obstacles appear, seemingly out of thin air, and we have to find ways to solve them. If this is how we live our lives, shouldn’t that also be how your characters live theirs?
Having an obstacle in your creative writing builds tension. The building of pressure in a story is the cornerstone of entertainment. We, as the audience, know that something has to give. There will be a boiling point and we greedily wait for the inevitable explosion.
From the onset, Lucy is stricken by obstacles. She’s sweating, so she’s either too hot or very nervous (later in the text we are made to believe it’s the latter). She has to deal with eye problems; OCD; a wet notepad; not enough time; pelting snow; and a lost weekend.
Lucy, then, becomes the underdog. And we as the audience are rooting for her victory. Subconsciously, we are hoping she finds solutions to her problems. We have found a way to relate to Lucy and feel connected to her. We are also hoping that her answers are the ones we’ve been looking for in our own lives.
3. Drama, Drama, Drama!
Ever wondered why we slow down as we’re approaching an accident? Instead of driving past, we slow down to a crawl and even open our windows for a better view. That is because we as humans are obsessed with drama.
We want to see the horror and witness the pain. It’s almost as if dramatic moments help us remember that we’re alive.
If you have identified many obstacles for the characters in your story, then the drama will easily follow. Theatrics is a natural byproduct of overcoming obstacles.
Think of the obstacles that you’ve created for your characters as a mind map. In the middle is your obstacle. Branching out from the middle are the ways your characters can persevere and overcome. Identify the solutions with the most dramatic action for your characters, and use those.
Drama doesn’t always have to be heavy and terrible. In fact, some of the most entertaining moments of tension are created through humor.
Lucy’s coffee fumble is almost comical. We know the stakes are high for Lucy but we’ll still crack a smile at her plight. The main reason is that we can relate. We’ve all been there. The other is the dramatic tension that has been built from her actions. We are left with the feeling that this will not be Lucy’s only blunder.
4. Curiosity Saved the Cat
We’ve all heard the expression “curiosity killed the cat.” My favorite part of that saying is the second half: “Satisfaction brought it back to life.”
People can be so incredibly nosy! Always wanting to find out the latest gossip. Social media has tried its best to feed our cravings. Our thirst for new information, however, is rarely quenched.
The same is true for the stories we want to hear. We want to know all the details and feel as if we were there ourselves. But if we had all the information from the start, the story would lose its intrigue.
As you write your fiction podcast, find ways to tell your story that leaves the audience wanting more. Introduce ideas in the beginning that will only be resolved in the end. You also don’t have to resolve all conflicts at once. And there may be some you deliberately leave unresolved.
In this way, you let your audience imagine what could’ve happened on their own. Much like books, podcasts rely heavily on the use of one’s imagination. Make the most of allowing your audience to let their imaginations run wild.
We know that Lucy is at the office but we don’t know the exact nature of her work. Who is Sarah? What is their relationship? These are answers the audience will be dying to know. What happens when Lucy goes outside?
Leaving things open-ended will keep the audience engaged. They will have no choice but to carry on listening for the resolution to Lucy’s obstacles. It will also allow them to fully engage with their own imaginations. And because we love our audience, that’s exactly what we want for them.
If you’re looking for a deeper understanding of building curiosity, Nicole Bianchi explains it brilliantly as she dives into the “seeds of curiosty.”
I always thought that my daughter was a terrible storyteller. She always starts telling me a story, then runs off to play before the story ends. I have to run after her just to find out what happened to Suzie, the sheep, and her delinquent brother, Rodger.
After analyzing my creative writing techniques, I realized that my daughter is, in fact, a genius. She always left me wanting more. And she knew that she was the only source who had the story. Cheeky little mastermind. The only downside to this epiphany is knowing, for a fact, that she gets her brains from her mother.
A Little Scratch, and a Big Nudge
It is important to make your fiction podcast captivating for your audience. You want to keep your fan base entertained so that they will keep returning for each episode.
There are a few things for you to remember that will help you to make the best creative writing decisions.
Always have your story grounded in well-rounded characters. Make sure that each character is easily distinguishable from the next, with their own quirks and internal motivations.
Give the character obstacles to overcome. These troubles will help to build the dramatic tension necessary to keep your audience captivated. The bigger the drama, the better.
Make sure that your audience comes back for more. Give them just enough information to have them wanting more.
Scratch that itch…but only a little.
Give your audience a big nudge in the right direction, but let them use their imaginations to wander and find their own answers.
With a captivating script that places the needs of the audience first, your fiction podcast will leave people chomping at the bit, desperate to know what happens next.