There are lots of ways to plan for a story. Make a list of characters to interview. Brainstorm questions. Plan scenes to record. Make a list of ambiance to collect.
Ira Glass visited the Transom Story Workshop class back in 2015 and he offered another way to plan: Imagine what someone might say and get them to say it.
Ira didn’t mean to put words in someone’s mouth or to write out an answer and have them read it. Instead, he was suggesting that if you have a good sense as to how you think someone might respond to a question or a situation, then you should make sure to ask questions that prompt that response.
In fact, it was Kolin Pope Ira was talking to in class when he brought up this approach. Kolin was working on a story about his father’s abduction by aliens and Ira wanted to know what Kolin’s sister thinks about the dad’s stories. Kolin said “Well, she’d say it was bullshit.” “Good,” Ira responded, “get her to say that.”
Kolin raised an eyebrow at that idea. Can you actually do that? Can you imagine what you think someone might say then hunt for it in an interview? It seemed like scripting a story before it was reported. That seemed ethically suspect to Kolin. But he tried it and found a way his way through his ethical concerns. Below is an outtake from our conversation about his story that explains his approach.
And, be sure to listen to this episode of HowSound to hear how the story evolved through the editing process. Kolin’s story is called “I Want to Believe.”