The last episode of John Green’s podcast was about Monopoly and academic decathlons. There’s always two short reviews he gives in each episode and they are rarely related. Often it seems like they are, but that’s – I think – a clever trick where Green sits for a moment to come across a segue in hindsight. In reality, these are just two topics that he wanted to talk about.
The relatedness of the two topics doesn’t matter. The topics in generate range and vary wildly in any real importance. I’ve heard Green himself say how much he enjoys writing these, which I believe to be the key reason to write them. Beyond his charitable efforts, I doubt financial struggle is the motivator for his production. No, I’m willing to put some money down on this being a creative outlet for him which doesn’t rely on others to get it rolling; the natural resources used here are just his voice, his solitary research, and his stories.
His stories are the reason for others to listen to the podcast, though. He’s mentioned previously when talking about reviews – the ranks of which he used to be a part of as a book reviewer – that reviews can often be memoirs in disguise. John could talk about paint drying with as much erudition as any other topic given enough drafts, but it’d be almost empty without a touch of memoir in there too. A story to teach us more about the reviewer.
My first ever public output was a podcast my sister and I made together. I can’t remember how old we were (though at least one of us must have been teenaged) nor even what we talked about. I don’t remember writing scripts we just talked. I found music and slotted it in between our chats. This was well before podcasts, and would have been based around radio. Listening only to commercial radio, and never to talk-based radio at that point, my assumption was that the music was what would bring people in. The exact opposite turned out to be try; people told me they dragged around the progress slider until the music faded (or ended abruptly, more likely) and our voices returned.
That’s a principle that needs to be carried forwards into similar projects. In news reports and one-hundred word book reviews there isn’t the place for it. In all other topics, the narrator needs to be a character and we must learn more about them.
Fine. We have a formula now; a well-researched story to tell of some kind and at least steps towards personalising those stories. There was another all important part of the trifecta we said John Green brings to the table. He speaks well. In the Monopoly episode he mentioned winning awards for it. For everyone else though, I’m curious if, through the typical process of editing and iteration, a script can ever produce Charisma.