Here are some pointers, for contributors or would-be contributors, on making viewpoints. They’re only pointers: please feel free to do your own thing. Every contributor is different, and we want every viewpoint to be unique.
If your viewpoint is about a person, consider picking a single remarkable experience or event and build your viewpoint around that. If the person had many stories worth telling, feel free to make viewpoints for each one. The listener connects with living, breathing humans (or places) up close, and the best way to do that is by choosing specific events or experiences. Everyday details make things feel real.
If there are several people involved, pick a main character and, at most, one or two supporting characters. Any more and the story becomes difficult to follow. (“character” and “story” are, in this context, true and historical.)
If your story is about the building itself, pick something specific about the building and build your viewpoint around that. Again, if the building is noteworthy in many ways, you can make viewpoints for each one. Even if the viewpoint is about the architecture, you could humanise it by talking about the person(s) involved and what was remarkable about them.
When it comes to the style, aim for an informal feel. If you’re an academic, avoid academic language, phrasing and tone. If you write out the viewpoint first (as opposed to speaking from notes) you’ll have to consciously override the natural tendency towards formality that emerges in written prose (e.g. phrases like “having been…” are very common in written prose, but almost never heard in conversation). When you read out the text, try to mimic the style of someone speaking spontaneously. Imagine you’re standing at the place in question telling the story to a couple of friends, giving a bit of a performance for fun. Here’s an article on how to ‘write for your own voice’.
If you’re an artist or doing something more experimental or artistic – just go for it. We’re super excited to see what can be done with new artistic format that is the viewpoint.
Overall, what makes a story or other audio experience compelling is when emotion is triggered in the listener: fascination, laughter, suspense, horror, hilarity, fear, anxiety, joy, awe, sorrow. This might be a good yardstick to follow when making a viewpoint: what do I want the listener to feel? How can I intensify the feeling(s)?
Again, the following are just suggestions: take what you like and leave the rest.
Begin with a narrative hook – something startling, surprising, dramatic or ominous that wins the reader’s attention.
Having thus won the listener’s attention, you could continue with a sensuous description of the place the listener is ‘at’: bring it to life through sound, smell, touch and sight. This could be as it is now, or as it was at the time of your narrative.
Then, introduce your main character (i.e. historical person), bringing them to life through detail, building your story slowly, simply, using new names and jargon only sparingly, gathering tension towards the climax of the viewpoint – the central experience or event (or other thing). Finish the viewpoint with a sense of completion.
We’ve found that using a smartphone voice recording app (without even a lapel mic), holding the phone a foot or so away (so that the phone’s mic isn’t impacted by ‘p’ and ‘t’ sounds), surrounded by soft furnishings (or at least away from hard surfaces), works very well. When you then edit using Descript (see below) you’ll end up with a recording that sounds like it was made in a studio.
Speak more slowly than feels normal (it’s harder for the listener to follow a narrative without the benefit of body language, facial expression, etc.) Speak more expressively and musically than feels normal (expressiveness is lost in the recording).
If you make a mistake, or if anything happens during the recording, don’t worry, keep recording and just simply start that sentence or passage again – you can easily delete sections of your audio later in the transcript using Descript (see below).
You might experiment with speaking from notes, or reading out a written text – see what works best for you and what lands best with listeners.
Editing viewpoints using Descript
Descript is a fantastic podcasting software which transforms home-recorded audio into something that sounds as though it was recorded in a professional studio (n.b. we are not affiliated to Descript, we just think it’s superb!). It’s an app that you download onto your laptop or desktop. It’s free for the first 3 hours of recordings – enough for plenty of viewpoints. Rather than give you specific instructions on how to use Descript, we’ll give you just the key things to do, and you can work out how to do them by giving it a go (it’s easy). So the key things to do are:
1) Download Descript onto your computer;
2) either make your audio recording using Descript itself, or make your recording using a voice recorder app on your smartphone, and transfer the audio file (usually easiest to email it to yourself) into Descript. We find that recordings done using smartphones are usually much better than using laptop/desktops;
3) Descript will generate a transcript of your recording, and you can then delete anything in the audio by deleting the corresponding text in the transcript. It’s magic!;
4) Delete any empty space at the beginning and end of the recording, by highlighting and deleting it in the audiowave section;
5) Run “Studio Sound” on the recording – this uses Artificial Intelligence to make the recording sound amazing. Currently the way to do this is to press ‘play’ on the recording, then look to right and press the “Add effect” button, select “Audio repair”, and press “Studio Sound”.
6) Listen to your recording one last time all the way through to make sure you’re happy with it. Make sure you’re using headphones during the whole editing process – you’re listeners will be.
7) Export the recording onto your computer.
Your first viewpoint is a test viewpoint. Simply make a c. 30 second recording of anything (e.g. you reading a newspaper), and edit using Descript as described above. Then build a viewpoint using that recording, and press “Submit”. Once we’re happy with the audio quality we’ll mark you as “vetted” and you’ll be free to publish viewpoints.
From then on, simply go to My Viewpoints, start a new viewpoint, upload your audio recording, build the rest of the viewpoint, and publish.
1) Share your viewpoints with friends and colleagues via email and WhatsApp.
Send your viewpoints to friends and colleagues that you think will enjoy them. These people are likely to be prime Placecloud lovers, and so this small step is very, very powerful. Send them via a group email, or WhatsApp, or however you like. This word-of-mouth virtuous circle is easily the most important growth process.
2) Post viewpoints on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
By posting links to viewpoints on your social media channels regularly you’ll give all of your followers a chance to listen to your wonderful stuff. By posting others’ viewpoints as well you’ll be helping them and you. Placecloud is a wonderful community of fascinating contributors, and we encourage you all to become friends!
3) Tell relevant organisations about your viewpoints
Your viewpoints will be of interest to many cultural organisations, from the larger museums, libraries, archives and other institutions, to smaller societies, groups, forums, etc.