So I am sure a lot of you know that we have a couple podcasts. One of them, Castle Rock Historical Society is Hannah Selector and me talking about Stephen King media and other horror type stuff, but we also have Strangeful Things that is about all sorts of messed up shit. For Castle Rock, we have a path to follow because we are talking about specific topics, like a movie or book. But for Strangeful, we have to do research because having the same generic discussion about serial killers or cryptids while we read wikipedia would make us like a lot of OTHER podcasts and that ain’t us!
So I thought it would be good to explain the best way to go about writing a script in case you wanted to start your own podcast and put me out of business you heartless bastards. Here we go!
Don’t do lists!
Unless your show is about lists, then lists stink. It mainly seems like you couldn’t do enough research to do a real episode so you just threw out a bunch of little things to fill up an hour. Like I said, if that is what your show is about, then good on you. And if you are looking for topics to do full shows on, then lists can give you some good ideas for stories you want to dig into with more depth.
If you can, read a book.
Not that the Internet can’t have some good info, but a book is always going to be better. It won’t be infallible but at least you know the odds of nobody else having read it before it was published are pretty low. With the Internet, you can find a good topic and then find literally scores of “articles” on other sites that are pretty much the Wikipedia entry word for word. Reading a book for research is just like you remember it from school, and it takes a while. So if you are going the book route, leave yourself plenty of time to write after you are done reading.
And if you do read one or more books, make sure you credit them on the show – nothing worse than someone stealing info and not giving proper attribution.
If you can’t read a book, get a lot of sources.
Like I mentioned above, don’t take any one source as gospel if you are going to research a topic using Internet sources. Start with Wikipedia, NOT for the main research, but to get an outline of the story and then branch out. Search the names of the key players and see what you find. And get ready for conflicting information. Details will be slightly changed and you will have to try to dig until you find a preponderance of evidence. And if you see an article that is just a rip off of the wiki, blacklist that whole site. You don’t need that in your life!
Another good trick is to check the footnotes of the Wiki article, there can be some good stuff in there, and a lot of it is based on print articles. Remember, if it is in print, someone paid for it and could get sued so it is in their interest to be pretty on target, fact wise. If it is the Internet, any asshole can say whatever they want. Like I am right now. Hmm.
Listen to podcasts
Find other podcasts on the topic and listen to them. Depending on the caliber of the show, you could be getting some amazing info. Don’t steal their angles or gimmicks, but definitely take advantage of the fact that there is NO topic that doesn’t have at least one show done on it. And if you need to search by episode (because nobody’s podcast is called “The Fresno Nightcrawler”, check out Podbean.
Tell the story
Now that the research is done, you need to make sure you tell the story in a cohesive way. Take the parts you find most interesting and important and tell the story. Think of it as giving a report in school. Your goal is to relay the information about the topic to the listener. It sounds basic, but how many shows have you finished wondering what the hell just happened? It also prevents you from getting most of the way through and then having to go: “Oh wait!” and telling an important fact from the beginning. Just get the story down, beginning to end.
You might want to leave this as bullet points because you are good at ad-libbing. If you can do it, you are a better person than me!
Add your flair
Depending on your show, you might have cohosts, you might need jokes and you might tell everything as if you were delivering a hostage video or reciting dialog for a porn. I am not going to judge your gimmick. But that should be put in after you get the story down. It is a good way to check yourself that you actually relayed everything you wanted. Then you can figure out who says what, or leave spots for people to give their own thoughts. It all depends on how your team works best. And if you are doing it by yourself, then you know what you are good at delivering so make sure you make yourself look good.
There are a million things out there telling you how to record your podcast, but you have to have something to say first. So I hope this helped!