Sunday, September 20, 2015

Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel

book cover
Out on the Wire
by Jessica Abel

ISBN-13: 9780385348430
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books
Released: August 25, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A graphic book that takes readers behind-the-scenes of five of today's most popular narrative radio shows, including "This American Life," "The Moth," "Radiolab," "Planet Money," and "Snap Judgment." Each of these shows has a distinct style, but every one delivers stories that are brilliantly told and produced. Out on the Wire offers a look into this new kind of storytelling--one that literally illustrates the making of a purely auditory medium.

Jessica Abel, a cartoonist and devotee of narrative radio, uncovers just how radio producers construct a narrative. Jad Abumrad of RadioLab talks about chasing moments of awe with scientists, while Planet Money's Robert Smith speaks candidly about his slightly goofy strategy for putting interviewees at ease. And Abel reveals how mad Ira Glass becomes when he receives edits from his colleagues.

My Review:
Out on the Wire is a graphic book that looks at how narrative nonfiction radio shows are created. The author assumed the reader has a certain familiarity with narrative nonfiction radio, and she used examples from shows that have aired. Narrative nonfiction is basically taking a series of interviews and/or narration by an individual and piecing bits together to tell a story--like how a T-shirt is made.

The author interviewed various people involved in producing the five radio shows. She drew this book like she was piecing together bits of video interviews. The person's clothing, hairstyle, and background would change since she mixed together interviews done at different times. Unfortunately, many of the people looked very similar as drawn characters and she'd jump back and forth between people as well as in time. I found it difficult to keep track of who was from what show and what they did. Also, without audio clues, the frequent "ha ha" text sometimes felt out of place as it's not clear why they are laughing.

The book mainly focused on storytelling aspects like coming up with the idea and the focus, getting engaging interviews, how to put the interviews together to form a story, and edits/critiquing. It also talked about sound cues (music, sound effects, ambient sounds) and editing the actual audio of the interviews. But it's not a how-to on the technical aspects of radio shows; it's a collection of useful tips about forming an engaging story.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

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