A RadioPublic embed of the episode, which can also be found here.
Date published: 6/22/2019
Written by: Wil Williams, Katie Youmans
Produced by: Wil Williams
CW: Discussions of burnout, vague discussions of mental health issues
There’s a difference between business and creative work, no matter how fulfilled you feel without a creative endeavor. In our first episode, Wil starts an ambitious project . . . a while ago. Hear what drove her to stop, and what drove her to try again.
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Wil: [0:05] I have always been interested in how fiction can make the impossible feel real—not just in the fiction itself, but how the real feel of those impossibilities happen behind the scenes.
You’re listening to Scoring Magic, a documentary about how we can make impossibilities sound real in audio fiction.
Intro music fades.
Wil: [0:39] My name is Wil Williams. I’m a podcast critic, and it’s probably not surprising to hear that my favorite medium in the podcast scene is fiction. I love hearing creators taking a space that’s limited to just one sense—sound—and building things like the futuristic world of StarTripper!!
[0:59] Startripper!! clip featuring futuristic, spaceship and alien sound effects, and a man saying, “Come on, come on!”
Wil: [1:06] …or the visceral, psychedelic events in What’s the Frequency?
[1:11] What’s the Frequency? clip featuring heavily modulated voices speaking indistinctly.
Wil: [1:21] I’ve worked in sound design before, but only a little. In my undergrad, I worked at my college radio station, where I hosted a book club on air. For passages we wanted to discuss, I’d get my friends to come into the studio and act out all the lines and the narration. I’d stay up until 2AM in the below-zero winter with a thirty minute walk home just to get the sound design on them right.
Don’t get me wrong—they weren’t any good. But I was dedicated, dammit.
Ever since, for the last six-or-so years, I’ve wanted to make something in this space. I’ve written resources on making them and getting them to listeners. I’ve consulted on podcasts. I’ve given tons and tons of advice. But between working my day job, working on my podcast journalism in my quote-unquote off-hours, starting grad school, getting ready for a move, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera— just. Didn’t pan out.
But I’m also me.
Wil: I don’t really know how to not to everything all the time forever. And that’s why I had a brilliant idea—one I wanted to pass by my husband, Zach, and my dear friend, Amber. The idea started with a trilogy of novels I’d mostly written, a story that never leaves me alone, a story that Zach and Amber have both read.
Recording of a previous conversation
Wil: [2:58] so, we’re recording because I’m gonna pitch to you-I’m like-my soul is like leaving my body as I’m saying this. Um. Because I…want to tell you two…an idea I have…for a project. [Laugh] Zach is already putting his head on me. ‘Cause I know I’m doing too much shit, but I also think it would be really fucking cool.
Zach: . . . Go!
(Wil and Amber laugh)
Wil: Half of this will probably come as no surprise.
Amber: Ok . . .
Zach: Please go ahead. I’m not looking at you-please go ahead-it doesn’t mean I can’t listen with my ears.
(Wil and Amber laugh)
Wil: So, I want to try to adapt Stabl as an audio drama.
Wil: Like, I think that that’s like-
Wil: Right? Ok! [Laughs] That’s like a long time coming, right? That’s inevitable?
Wil: We can like, all agree?
Zach: I somehow did not see that.
Amber: I did.
Zach: Well, mostly because you haven’t finished it.
Wil: Well, that’s also-ok but that’s because-go ahead, go ahead.
Amber: You have the first book–
Wil: Yes, yes.
Amber: And that’s an important start . . .
Wil: Right! And part of the reason why I’m doing it as an audio drama now instead of finishing the third book is because I don’t wanna be tied to that ending that I originally had planned. When you adapt something and it can change so much in the iterations and I would want to have feedback from the cast and get to know the cast and think about their ideas of the character’s directions forward. So much can change in that that I don’t want to close the end.
Zach: But don’t you still want to have them completed, though, or–
Wil: I don’t know. Yeah. We’ll see. Um, I don’t know if it’s gonna work in audio at all. I don’t how the fuck I’m gonna do it. Um. [Laughs] like, at all…
Wil: [4:58] Hey. No spoilers, chump. You’re just gonna have to wait for the actual audio drama for that.
But let’s talk a little about the story itself. I’ll go into as much detail as I can for right now.
Stabl is an urban fantasy trilogy with some magic, some political intrigue, and lots of hijinks. It’s called Stabl for a plot-relevant device of the same name, but that’s all secrets for now.
I wrote Stabl for the 2013 National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo–a challenge where participants write 50,000 words in one month. I’ll tell you alllllllll about the nitty gritty of that timeline, though, in episode three.
And you can probably tell that there are a few main characters you’ll need to know. Liam is the protagonist–you’ll hear his name a lot. Finn is . . . a complication. Alex is Liam’s best friend. Sarah and Luis are coworkers. And Reilley is the antagonist. Don’t worry too much about memorizing all those names. We’ll get to them in time.
Recorded conversation resumes, fading back in
Amber: . . . a behind the scenes of making Stabl.
Amber: And it’s called–
Wil: I also–
Wil: Ok, that’s real cute. So, I also have problems with the name, Stabl, for two reasons: One. I wrote my story before this happened and I want, I want this to be on the record that I wrote this YEARS before this happened. There is a podcast service–I don’t know what it provides because I have avoided it–and it is called Stable, MISSING THE E.
Wil: It’s literally–I’m looking it up right now.
Amber: That is–that’s weird. I didn’t know that was a thing.
Wil: I know! It’s fucked up! Ok, so it’s branded con–it’s fucking branded content. Also “coming soon”, fuck you. It–their website just says SOMETHING.
Amber: Oh my god, are you sure that Finn didn’t make this website?
Wil: It just says SOMETHING!
Zach: It–and the website’s literally just called “We are Stabl.”
Wil: I’m so pissed off. But all-oh fuck you, their logo’s CUTE. Goddammit.
Zach: [reading] “We are a complete p-”
Wil: “-podcast agency.” I mean, hey, it’s got that Reilley vibe real-real on lockdown. But yeah, so it’s an app. It looks like, so I obviously can’t use that. And I can’t use Stable with the “e” because that would be so bad for SEO. Like, I wouldn’t show–like nobody would be able to find it. Um, so I don’t know what I’m gonna call it.
Zach: I just know you also don’t have a lot of time.
Wil: I don’t, that’s very true. And I would want help on it. Like, on all fronts.
Zach: Yeah, sorry, that’s why I was trying to think of things to help with.
Amber: Definitely here to help!
Zach: ‘Cause, if you try to do this alone, it will not-
Wil: Well, it wouldn’t be good.
Zach: No, it would also just-well, I mean, alone besides like, casting and stuff. It’s just–it’s-it’s difficult.
Wil: Yeah. So that’s what my October project is going to be, if I even have the time between…my fucking life, um, is, I want to try to get one script done. I don’t think that that’s too much.
Zach: One script?
Wil: One episode.
Zach: Oh, ok.
Wil: I think that that’s doable, in a month. I think that that’s like–and I also realize that, uh, a lack of creative endeavors is slowly killing me, and by slowly I mean quickly. Um. So, that’s only–oh, also, brainstorm on what does magic sound like? How do I a magic sound??
(Wil and Amber make silly noises)
Zach: I haven’t listened, but does Kalila’s-
Wil: No, Kalila’s all narration.
Zach: Ok. Sorry, I haven’t listened yet–
Wil: No, you’re good–you’re good!
Amber: I think that each magic would sound different–
Wil: –different? Agreed.
Amber: Since you had different colors for each magic–
Wil: That’s what I was thinking.
Amber: I was thinking would be–like, um, Luis?
Wil: Luis, yeah.
Amber: Yes, ‘cause he was more jovial and–
Amber: -like, colorful person that wasn’t scared of things and I think it’s almost like…chimes? Would be his?
Wil: Yeah! And like, Liam’s would have to be like, electricity crackle. And Finn’s maybe would be something a little whistle-y? Um…
Amber: [laughs] Sorry!
Wil: Finn’s is the sound of a garbage truck-
Amber: I just imagined his being, like, the–you know in Brooklyn 99? When he’s playing the guitar? And then he just WAILS?
Wil: Just screeching!
Amber: That’s Finn–
Amber: –’s magic sound.
Wil: Accurate. Wait, ok, so! That’s only half of my idea, though.
Wil: So the other half is…what we’re doing right now. I kind of want to make a sort of documentary-style podcast going–
Zach: About making a fiction podcast?
Wil: Yup. Going through every single step of the process. Going through the writing, going through the conceptualization, going through the casting process, going through, um, editing, going through literally all of it until when it comes out. I think it would be such a useful guide for people for what to expect–whether it’s, like, hey, writing in a script format is really fucking weird, here’s what I’ve learned. Or if it’s like, hey, actually I hate being creative and here’s imposter syndrome and I’m upset. Or if it’s like, here’s how to run auditions or here’s my experience with auditions–you know, things like that.
Which I know–I know that these two projects are a lot. But I think it would be good.
Amber: They coincide.
Wil: I think so!
Wil: [10:45] So I started writing. And in that month, October 2018, I did it.
I got my script done.
And then, I started writing for a pretty big publication for podcasts. And then another. And then I was writing for one of them weekly. And also writing my standard reviews. And doing a weekly newsletter. And doing weekly roundups of everything I listened to. And grad classes. And writing for the sites I’d already been writing for. And producing another podcast. And helping curate a conference. And—
And then, something else happened.
Music comes in gradually
Wil: I broke. I just kind of . . . broke. I was feeling full-on burnout. And it was bad. It was bad enough that it forced me to look at everything I was doing, evaluate what mattered most to me and what was just making my life difficult, and make some hard decisions.
I found that it wasn’t just that I was doing too many things. It was also that I wasn’t doing some of the RIGHT things. That story, those books I’d written, they still wouldn’t leave me alone. They wanted to be something more than they were. They wanted to be what they were supposed to be. And I’d been ignoring them.
But I was tired, and I was still pretty broken. I was too close to the story to see how it needed to be changed to reach its potential. I felt like I was at a loss, like I’d just be doomed to this frustrating cycle of wanting to create and knowing I couldn’t.
Here’s what’s great about being a professional podcast critic: you listen to a lot of podcasts, and a lot of podcasts are made by really smart people. As if hearing my frustrations and anxieties, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor released an episode of their podcast, Start With This, about collaboration.
Start With This clip
Cranor: [12:54] What is the value of collaboration? I think, for me, it’s-I think some of it is self-confidence, is the idea of needing somebody to-to kind of tell you what’s good and bad, it’s-it’s somebody to kind of help you, y’know, if you’re cooking, it’s nice if you can have somebody there to taste it and make sure it tastes fine, ‘cause you get caught up in your own process. And you feel like, I have one of two gears when I-when I write things, which is “holy god, this is amazing!”
Cranor: “I’m the best writer that ever lived,” and the other is, like, “I’m garbage,” like “I’m an absolute garbage writer and I don’t know what I’m doing.” And so it’s nice having somebody else to temper that, because nobody’s ever going to tell you–like a reasonable person isn’t going to tell you you’re the greatest writer of all time, and a reasonable person will never tell you that you’re a garbage writer, that you’re bad at something. And so there’s-there’s always, like, much closer to those kind of ups and downs and the middle of helping you find the voice. People who are good at collaborating want you to be better all the time.
End of Start With This clip
Wil: [13:57] It made me remember what I’d told Zach and Amber, back in September 2018: I couldn’t make this audio drama alone. And even if I could, I knew I needed some outside help.
Wil: [14:08] Create is feels good, uh, and have friends is good feel.
Katie: All of these are true.
Narration Katie: Hi, I’m Katie Youmans
Anne: You’re not wrong.
Narration Anne: Hi, I’m Anne Baird
Katie: Create IS feels good.
Wil: Create is happen and friends good feel is it. Uhhh…
Wil: [14:35] And I asked them to join me on this, uh, adventure!
We decided to call this podcast, this documentary, Scoring Magic, an ode to us trying to find what magic sounds like, trying to find its score, but it’s also an ode to how scoring dough helps the bread rise, like how we want to help this podcast rise from the page, from the actors, from the collective efforts of everyone involved, to create the right shapes and evoke the right scenery when you listen. And also, like, Score! Like, hey, we’re-we’re doing the dang thing, yeah!
You can hear more about the importance of bringing on creative partners in the next episode of Scoring Magic, and you can hear the whole process of us working together on this unnamed audio drama, start to finish, every other week. We’re going to share with you the highs and lows of creating. We’re going to share our honest fears, alongside our exciting successes. We’re going to share tips, guides, resources, and tools that we use along the way.
Join us every other week as we figure out what magic sounds like, here on Scoring Magic.
[15:50] Credits music
Wil: Scoring Magic is brought to you by Hug House Productions. The music in this episode was “Gold Can Stay” and “The Gold Lining” by Broke for Free. We also used “Thinking Music” and “With a Creation” by Kevin MacLeod. You can find all of those linked in our show notes.
In our show notes, you can also find a link to our Patreon, a link to Start With This by Nightvale Presents, a link to What’s the Frequency, and a link to Startripper!! by the Whisperforge.
Big thank you to all of those podcasts for letting us use excerpts in this.
Credits music fades out
Wil: [16:38] Hey listener! So, here’s something fun. Because collaboration is so fantastic, we uhhhhhh, we’ve gotten a lot done. You’ll hear more about that in the next episodes, but long story short, that unnamed audio drama? It’s got a name. It’s going to be called Valence. Think, like, a covalent bond. And, on top of that, we’re casting. Right now.
We wanted to announce it along with the first episode of Scoring Magic. We thought it’d be really fun and exciting, so, if you are interested in acting for us, these positions are going to be paid, pending on success of crowdfunding, um, and a few other variables.
You can go to ValencePod.com-that’s V-A-L-E-N-C-E-P-O-D… yeah, that’s spelling! .com for our casting announcement. It’s going to be available through July 22nd, 2019. We hope to hear from you soon.
- StarTripper!! by The Whisperforge
- What’s the Frequency?
- Start with This by Night Vale Presents
- “Gold Lining” and “Summer Spliffs” by Broke for Free
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
- Thinking Music Kevin MacLeod
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License