How to Write Compelling Stories from Masterful Interviews
My April issue focused on discovering how the interviewee feels. Regardless of
who you're interviewing, your overall goal is to find the heart of the story.
In this issue we go for the fascinating details of the story. [It may help to
review the April Premier issue; link located right after the end of this article.]
masterful interview tip:
With each answer the interviewee gives, drill down at least
two levels and preferably three or four. This not only reveals the stronger
emotions I talked
about last month, but it also reveals vital details to give a story depth.
People tend to give "surface" answers. We don't naturally
go into the depth with our answers that a good non-fiction writer
does, for example.
these details and deep feelings are the priceless critical elements of
a compelling story.
So, in Part 1 we probed for deep inspiring emotion.
In Part 2 we dig
for gems of information. Both tips are used simultaneously. The facts
captivating depth. And you weave powerful emotions in between to create
a compelling story.
Each situation is unique. However, the basic style
and order of the questions could follow this format:
- Tell me
about (e.g., your typical day).
- What's the most difficult
thing you face?
- Why is getting water for your family so hard?
- How do you feel when
you finish hauling the water?
- What if there was a water well
in the center of your village?
- Besides not hauling water up
from the river, in what other ways would life be better with
a water well?
- I'd love to hear more about that. (Explore answers
for specifics essential to painting a powerful
picture with words;
you may repeat this cycle a number
Another sequence of questions might be:
- Why are you so
much happier now?
- How does that make you feel?
- Why is it so important to feel this
way rather than how you felt before?
- How is what you're doing
now so different?
- What is it you like best about your new experience?
let them tell their story and make notes. Then select specific
points that caught your attention. Now start to drill down. Again,
you'll repeat this "drill down" technique several times to
uncover all the gems.
As you ask questions and drill down at least two
every answer, you may need to vary your questions. A lot depends
on the flow of the conversation.
But if you don't, it can be too repetitious for the interviewee. By the
way, it's not uncommon for me to drill down four or five levels.
skill of discovering the deep emotion and captivating details
of a story takes time to develop. However, it pays tremendous
Including powerful stories from masterful interviews
in your fundraising campaigns will raise greater donations so
your mission growth accelerates.
is that you'll be able to reach out to even more people who need your
After you finish reading my newsletter, I invite you
to follow this link:
you'll find an example illustrating the use of both masterful
tips taken from an actual direct mail letter.
Note: To read Part
1 from the Premier April 2006 issue, please click