Improvisation And Structure

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Where the devil do story ideas come from? A couple of years ago, science reporter Ari Daniel had what I thought was a ludicrous idea for a story — copepod mating. I mean, really, what editor would ever accept a pitch about crustacean sex? Well, the editors at Here and Now, apparently. Why? Because Ari tied the story to Valentine’s Day. He gave the story a “date peg” connecting it to an anniversary or a time of year or, in this case, a holiday. Date pegs are a pretty common way to spark and frame story ideas.

Another frequent approach to generating story ideas are “news hooks.” Look at what’s happening in the news and find a unique angle. For instance, in May, the NOAA released a report predicting another above average hurricane season in 2017. Use that as a reason to write your local station’s news director and pitch a story about hurricane preparedness.

All of this is pretty tried and true. Date pegs and news hooks are familiar approaches for dreaming up stories. But then there’s Sleepover. Where the devil did the idea for the CBC’s Sleepover podcast come from?!

On the show, Sook-Yin Lee, the host, invites three complete strangers to spend 24 hours together to work out personal problems. No date peg or news hook. None. Instead, Sook-Yin drew from her personal experience with a performance that involved some sleep deprivation…

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. . .the internet. . .

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. . . and the magic of interviewing strangers.

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Who in their right mind would think those three disparate experiences would work in tandem to inspire a hit podcast?! And how does it all work? The answer to that on this episode of HowSound.

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