The Value Of A Sympathetic Character

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My favorite quote from my interview with Ann Heppermann is this: “I think simplicity, in terms of character, is the enemy.”

Ann was the Senior Producer for the podcast Heaven’s Gate, the series from Pineapple Street Media about the cult of the same name that committed the largest mass suicide in the United States back in 1997.

Just stop and think about that for a moment. The largest mass suicide in the United States — thirty-nine people.

On top of that, the members of Heaven’s Gate took their lives in order to join a UFO traveling in the tail of the Hale Bopp comet. In short, as Ann put it, they were a national freak show.

So, if you’re Ann and the crew that produced the podcast, you have a big problem to solve: how do you produce a ten-part series that a listener can relate to when there is so much in the story that is strange and weird? Focusing entirely on the bizarre behavior of Heaven’s Gate might turn listeners off.

One answer was to avoid simplicity; report fully on the members of the cult by shining a light on the many facets of their lives.

Another approach was to hire a narrator who could be a sympathetic character, someone the audience can relate to. For Heaven’s Gate, that was Glynn Washington of Snap Judgement.

On this episode of HowSound, Ann talks about the value of a sympathetic character in a story and how Glynn fulfilled that role.

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