Before the advent of podcasts, writers had to rely on books, gossip, newspapers, radios and other forms of media for inspiration. But even those were not enough. In our high-tech, fast paced world, it is even more difficult to focus on the things we need to spark off creativity.
Sometimes, the writer is either too tired or busy for books, radio or a simple walk to the neighbourhood bar.
Thankfully, podcasts have revolutionized our world. They have given us control over our lives. We can choose what to listen to and when. And we can do all these from the comfort and privacy of our electronic gadgets. Wow! Getting story ideas has never been easier.
I will list the most inspirational story podcasts for creative minds. Note that my list will feature only fiction and non-fiction podcasts that read and discuss deep and complex real life stories. Some of these stories are so mind-blowing; the human brain couldn’t have spun them. I have omitted writing-related podcasts. I want writers to enjoy the stories for their versatility, depth and originality without worrying about the technicalities of the craft. Sometimes, all you need to write a good story is to enjoy one.
If you’re itching to bid writer’s block goodbye, read my unique list of the ten most inspiring story podcasts every serious writer should subscribe to.
1. BBC Outlook
Believe me when I say that the BBC Outlook features the most extraordinary personal stories from all around the world. From the bizarre, like the story about the baby who was found buried alive to the funny like the tale of the highest paid Donald Trump impersonator, the BBC Outlook contains everything writers needs to engage their creative minds.
This podcast often uses the interview Q&A style. The conversation is often between the journalist and the survivor. It’s very engaging.
If you have been struggling with a writing project, this podcast can inspire you in more ways than you can imagine. In fact, one of the winners of the Outlook Inspirations Awards gave me an idea that helped me revise a story that I had been struggling to write for years.
Subscribe to the Outlook podcast and see if it works for you too.
2. Death In Ice Valley
If you are crime and mystery writer, then you will absolutely love Death In Ice Valley. Produced by the BBC and NRK (Norway’s public radio), this podcast unveils the life of a woman who died in 1970, under very mysterious circumstances. No one knew her name or her family or her origins. She travelled around with different passports and different identities. It’s an intriguing tale of deceit and secrecy.
Two journalists reinvestigated the case: NRK’s Marit Higraff and BBC’s Neil McCarthy. The goal was crack the mystery about surrounding the life and death of the “Isdal woman” as she has been labelled. Forty-eight years ago, she had been found dead with a mouth full of sleeping pills and a badly burned body in a remote mountainside near Bergen.
This podcast is one of the most popular true crime series in the world and hundreds of thousands of people joined the Facebook group to help the journalists crack the mystery.
If you need ideas for a crime or mystery story, Death in Ice Valley will give you a lot of ideas about red herrings, leads, dead ends, suspense and intrigue.
3. Modern Love
In the Modern Love podcast, a popular TV actor or actress is invited to select a story from the New York Times series. The celebrity then reads his/her favorite story in the podcast. In the end, the author gives a one-liner about how they were inspired to write the true story. The Modern Love editor also discloses why a particular story stood out for him and how.
Americans write most of the Modern love stories, but you’ll find that the stories are universal in theme and plot. You’ll also find stories set in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
I love the Modern Love essays not just for the beauty of the prose and language, but for their complex, yet universal themes. You can also send your own true-life stories about love, loss and redemption to the editor of the New York Times Modern Love column. If your story is accepted, you could earn $200. You can listen to the Modern Love podcast HERE.
4. The Talk With Vanessa
In this spanking new exciting podcast, OAP and counsellor, Vanessa Willie interviews people who are dealing with real life problems. This podcast is similar to the BBC Outlook podcast in both format and style.
But it is very sincere. It doesn’t try to confront only politically correct issues. And that’s refreshing. I like the soothing way in which it reveals very shocking truths. If you miss unapologetic confessions, then you want to subscribe to The Talk With Vanessa.
One of the most memorable for me is the episode about the woman who is stuck in a marriage with a closet gay man in a country where homosexuality is illegal and where divorcees are stigmatized. There is also another episode about a girl who was sexually molested by her religious father for six years. Listen to see how these survivors overcame (or are still trying to overcome their trials).
You can join the Facebook group and website so that you can get notifications whenever there is a new episode. The Talk With Vanessa is proudly sponsored by the big lifestyle blogger BellaNaija. Episodes are available on Soundcloud.
5. From Our Own Correspondents
You can add From Our Home Correspondents as well.
I love these news storytelling podcasts because the journalists bring a fresh new human angle to news stories. It’s intriguing to learn about the journalists experiences. What happens when they go to get the news? How do they feel about the victims of war? What do they learn from their firsthand encounters? Their creative non-fiction memoir-style essays address all these and more.
If you are just as curious as I am, you’d want to learn more about these journalists and their escapades. You will find scary stories like the one told by a journalist who found himself interviewing brutal kidnappers in Central America. There is also a funny (and dare I say, incredibly well-written) story of the journalist who went dancing in a Chinese ballet night dance club/school.
The stories in this podcast will teach you about imagery, theme, setting and perhaps, back-story. It helps to know how stories sound when read aloud. It’s a great way to learn about tone, pacing, structure and rhythm. To download these podcasts, click HERE. Or search for them anywhere you get podcasts.
6. TED Radio Hour
I am a big rosy fan of the TED conglomerate. I really am. In fact, I once wrote a post on the list of must-watch TED talks for writers.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep track of all the TED videos especially when you don’t have free Wifi. The TED Radio Hour simplifies these radio-adapted talks for your listening pleasure. The presenter, Guy Raz, chooses a theme and then compresses five or six related talks into one short show. It’s amazing how he does all that and even manages to squeeze in short interviews with the professionals who delivered the talk.
Some of my favorite episodes include: the meaning of work, the fountain of youth and becoming wise.
Speculative fiction writers will benefit from the fountain of youth. Two scientists discuss a revolutionized world where the human gene is being edited so that people live twice as long as we currently do. Imagine a world where people live till age 200 or more.
You can get more fascinating ideas from the TED radio hour podcasts
7. New Yorker Fiction Podcast
This list can’t possibly be complete without the New Yorker Fiction Podcast.
Most writers have heard about this podcast, and some haven’t. This podcast is one every creative person should listen to very often.
In each episode, an established writer joins the New Yorker fiction editor, Deborah Treisman to read and discuss an outstanding story from the archives. Now this is where it gets interesting: not only will you enjoy an engaging reading, you’ll also hear these experts breakdown the elements of the story. If you are one of those writers who want to learn how to write award-winning stories, then you’ll benefit from this podcast.
Many writers often ask for recommendations. They want to start with the best New Yorker fiction episodes. I totally understand this. Before I share my list of favorites, I’d like to explain that literary tastes are subjective. What might work for one writer might be a total waste of time for another. Pretty much all the episodes have appealed to me.
I particularly loved Antonya Nelson’s reading of When We Were Nearly Young by Mavis Gallant. You might want to listen to it to find out why.
Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff (read and discussed by T.C Boyle) is another New Yorker Fiction all time favorite
I also love every Loorie Moore and Edwidge Dandicat story that has been read and discussed.
If you have any other favorites you think should be listed, please write them in the comments section.
You can get the New Yorker fiction podcasts anywhere you get your podcasts. Alternatively, you can visit the New Yorker Fiction site to get them.
8. The Food Chain
From the title, you can guess that this podcast discusses the science, culture and history of food. If you are a food and travel writer, this podcast will inspire you to write about food from unique angles.
If you have been shying away from food-related contests, maybe you shouldn’t anymore. All you have to do is download a few episodes of BBC’s The Food Chain and voila! You could be inspired to write amazing essays and stories that will win you amazing prizes such as the Mogford Short Story Prize For Food and Drinks.
To listen, visit The Food Chain or click on this link.
9. The Writer’s Voice
The writer’s voice is another spectacular fiction podcast. It also features stories from the New Yorker Magazine. The only differences between the writer’s voice and the New yorker fiction podcast are:
- the stories are more recent. Most of the time, you can hear the story being read before it appears in print.
- the stories are read by the authors, hence the title, The Writer’s Voice.
- the stories are not discussed or explained by any panel of experts.
I like this podcast series because of the surprise. You don’t know what to expect per se; all the listener sees are the story title and the author’s name. The listener just opens themselves to the new world the writer brings. I have discovered many life-changing stories through this podcast series. It is one I will recommend to every writer who needs an antidote for writer’s block. If you’d like to listen to the writer’s voice, click HERE.
10. The Guardian Short Story Podcast
I actually stumbled on this podcast by chance. For some reason, writers rarely talk about this podcast. I think this amazing podcast deserves to be more announced.
As the title suggests, it is produced by The Guardian UK. Presented by the Guardian’s Claire Armitstead and Lisa Allardice, each episode features an engaging interview with a prolific writer. The featured author also reads his or her favorite short story.
This podcast is almost exactly like the New Yorker fiction podcast. The only difference is that the writer’s aren’t restricted to a particular archive. So you’ll find writers choosing stories from different eras and different genres. The stories are more diverse than those read in the New Yorker fiction podcast.
If diversity is your thing, then you’ll want to give this podcast a try. To listen to the stories in this series, search for the Guardian Short Story Podcast wherever you get podcasts, or click HERE.
This list was last updated on the 24th of August, 2018.
How can one get these podcasts?
It depends on what kind of device you’re using. My Nokia Lumia phone has a Windows operating system, and this came with an installed podcast app. For some reason, Microsoft stopped supporting the app and I had to download Castcenter. Castcenter proved to be the best podcast app ever. I haven’t had cause to complain ever since.
If you use an iPhone 10, 9, 8 or lower, I’m sure you can find these podcasts in .your iTunes store. Android phone users might have a bit of a challenge getting their podcasts in one app (and I stand to be corrected). But I have tried to find reliable podcast apps for Android phones and found only PlayerFM. Please tell us know which ones work best in the comments section.
Do you have any favorite inspirational story podcasts? Please share them with us below in the comments section.
Photo Credit: Alice Moore on Unsplash