Beyond Interviewing

Here is a published list of helpful tips for interviewing. The credit is:

Jacqui Banaszynski, Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism, March, 2008, Boston, MA

1. Know and state your purpose (for THIS interview)

2. Try to interview in their native habitat

3. Envision the ideal interview beforehand

4. Establish guidelines and negotiate terms early

5. Use props and contrivances as prompts

6. Help your partner – place her in a scene

7. For every question answered ask several more

8. Ask likely questions first – feared ones later

9. Don’t interrogate – be an interested listener

10. Follow up

In applying these general tips to interviews in writing another’s story, I must add that you really need to learn to listen empathically to encourage a deep and detailed interview. Listening is perhaps the most important thing in an interview.

For the purpose of writing another’s story, requiring  much more involved interviewing  than journalism reportage, number 9 just doesn’t quite cut it, I think. “Interest” is simply too superficial. You actually have to be involved. And I mean emotionally.

That’s the key to eliciting the kind of heartfelt emotion that will make your story more than just a travelogue. It also will provide the sort of color that you will need to capture a person’s character. Then  your writing about that person will be truer and more vibrant to your readers–even the ones who know your writing partner personally.

About Richard Haverlack

Richard Haverlack has been writing the memoirs of hospice patients for more than eight years. He has recently written a book, A Memoir of Memoirs - Writing Stories Told at Life's End, which is about the poignant and enlightening experiences he's had in doing this work. Richard is a volunteer for the Good Samaritan Hospice near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also is active in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institution at the University of Pittsburgh where he studies as well as teaches.

Leave a comment