Distilled Insight: Writing Powerful Stories – Pride and Prejudice

What makes our stories pull on the reader’s mind and heart?

“Which do you mean?” and turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

In Pride and Prejudice, this is our first  introduction to Mr. Darcy as the prideful man of higher social class.  His words sear a lasting impression into the mind of the reader, and Elizabeth, our protagonist.  These words plant a seed of contention between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.  It is such a surprise to a new reader, then, when it is learned that the two are destined to love each other.

The story excels because it creates the ground for an arc from bad, that goes to worse, and then finally, when tension is at its highest, it goes to wonderful.  The reader realizes that this man is actually perfectly suited to Elizabeth and the two are meant for each other. What was once loathing for a character has transitioned into love. Jane Austen takes you from one end of the spectrum to the other.  Lesson: the further the contrast, the better the payoff.


Starting a Podcast

ImagePodcasting is a new and exciting creative exercise for me.  I’m now doing a podcast called Firsts in Fiction with Aaron Gansky, a long-time friend and fellow writer.  In the podcast, I’m the “aspiring” writer, and he’s a published author.  We discuss topics that include character development, starting your book, and rules for writing good fiction.

After ten episodes we’re just now starting to hit our stride and feeling more comfortable with the content we’re producing.  Sitting down and talking to listeners unseen is a challenge.  You need to orient yourself to be comfortable speaking to somebody that isn’t there.  Having a co-host helps that awkward feel, but it still took some getting used to.

We record our episodes in batch, because we’re both busy guys and don’t have the time to meet once a week and record.  With kids, full time jobs, and a long list of standard commitments, we found that batching was a really effective way to do this.

Episode 10 just aired on Monday, which brings to a close the poor quality audio recordings we did a few weeks ago.  We just got together again, this last weekend, and recorded episodes 11 through 14 with new microphones and sat in my car to get superior sound dampening (pro-tip).

We had a guest, Nathan Bodell of Wednesday Comics, sit in with us to learn the ropes of podcasting.  I was glad to have him along for this latest batch because I’d say it was a good representation of how to do a good podcast.  Our old methods wouldn’t have taught good habits.  It was a lot of fun.

However, late in Episode 11, while we were busily discussing how to understand editors, an echo developed and proceeded to get progressively worse until the end.  Our microphones were picking up all our voices and creating the echo.  To make matters even worse, I didn’t catch the problem until we finished recording all four episodes.  (We were in a hurry to get through recording each episode because an hour was wasted at the beginning resolving technical difficulties.) This was because of our close proximity, and without any barriers between us to block out the additional sounds from each other’s voices, all the mics were picking up all our voices at the same time.

Episode 11 is passable and will air, but the rest are not.  We’re going to try to get the additional recording done during an already busy coming weekend.  These kinds of issues can be very discouraging, but we all maintained a positive attitude–I think we were able to stay upbeat because we have such a passion for it.

On the bright side, I feel like a real podcaster now, having encountered the dreaded lost episode problem.  Losing three out of four episodes is a pretty big blow, but having had so much fun doing them in the first place, we’re happy to revisit the same content and do it again.  I’d wager it’ll even be better content now that we’ve fleshed out some of our thoughts once already.

If you’re thinking of starting your own podcast, I have a few pointers:

If you’re on a budget, buy Audio Technica ATR2100s and your audio will sound fantastic.

Want incredible, vocal-booth quality audio? Record in your car.  Your car is built to dampen sound.  I like to say that I have a $17,000 vocal booth. Be careful with multiple people though, as we learned.

We use Audacity to record and edit our audio.  It’s free, open source, multi-platform, and works well.

If you need to record more than one person in a room and don’t have the money to buy a mixer (which we didn’t), invest a more reasonable $35 and buy VAC (Virtual Audio Cable). The program is not well-known, because it’s not well publicized, but it does the trick.  You can download the trial to see if it works for you, but you’ll quickly want to upgrade because it announces that it’s a trial into your audio stream every ten seconds.  YouTube will guide you through setup and use. We used it and it worked great.

I can’t recommend Dave Jackson’s show School of Podcasting enough.  He’s provided a ton of great insights into how to do a good podcast. There are plenty of other great shows out there too, and to find them, I recommend checking out Podcaster’s Roundtable.  All the greats are on this show and you can go listen to all their individual shows.

If you’re a fiction writer and would like to learn more about writing great fiction, I recommend listening to our podcast.  Please excuse the poor audio in our first batch of episodes, but I hope you enjoy the content.

Click Firsts in Fiction Podcast to go to all the episodes.

Click HERE to subscribe on iTunes.

Follow us on Twitter HERE.

Thanks for reading and thanks for listening!

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