Considering within the last week that I’ve been more active on my YouTube page than I have in months, i’m going to keep this blog pretty short.
Last week in my journalism class we talked to novelist and columnist for New York Times Magazine, Nathaniel Rich. We were trying to talk to him about interviewing and what his processes are for going about it.
He admitted to being a pretty shy guy and that interviewing is still not really his strong suit. I’m all for this because some people are so uncomfortable with talking to others, they lose information and social interaction.
Believe me, I love putting in headphones and walking through life without a care about anything except what you’re doing in that moment. It’s peaceful. But social interaction is unmatched, especially if you get a solid story out of it.
It takes strong abilities and some work to get good at interviewing. But, interviewing shouldn’t be as daunting of a word that people make it out to be. It should be just a very informative conversation.
There were still certain techniques that Rich uses to get the quotes and stories he needs to craft his works, despite being this shy guy.
He said that there should be a script of questions that you must prepare before the interview. Without questions, there is no interview. In conducting the interview, one must focus on the things you want to get, but have an open mind. Sometimes, you get things you didn’t even know you wanted by just peeling the onion and not sticking to that script you prepared.
At the end of the day, you and the person you’re interviewing are just human. Everybody’s got layers to peel and the questions you initially write down might not be the most suitable questions to ask by the time you sit down. So, you have to feel out the situation and relax. Know when and where to ask the cutthroat questions and when to ask the basics.
Regardless of what questions you ask, surprise is the key element to any story. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, the surprise is what’s going to make a piece hard-hitting. It’s what makes the reader stop and say “I didn’t know that.” Plus, by the end of their reading of your story, they get to hold onto a memorable piece of writing.
Rich also covered pressing questions specifically. He talked about the information that’s necessary.
As a writer or journalist, there are circumstances where certain information is vital to keep a story alive. Annoyance with a source can bring out different answers out of people. That’s why it’s important to know that every interview is really at least two interviews and maybe even more.
When accuracy checking your quotes, you should always call your source back if you’re unsure about something they said or you need further explanation for context. If you ask the source specifically the same question or you press them about the matter, they may give you an even better answer than before.
Despite having pressing tactics, the goal for a source/writer relationship is just like any other relationship in life. It’s important to have a good and healthy relationship that can thrive, not to be remembered as that annoying journalist. So, proceed with caution with how you represent yourself during interviews.
To conclude, I must say that despite all the intricacies and non-intricacies of interviewing, the most important thing is to never falter from being the author. It’s your story and you’re getting the supportive benefit from others to make your story legitimate.
You mustn’t get to flustered with the workload and the distractions that constantly try to rip your story and sanity to shreds. Attention to the beauty of words and sentences mustn’t get swallowed by work.
You’re a writer. Write the story the way you know how. Now go get ’em.