Rarely, if ever, do I listen to talk radio. Like most college students, I like dancing to music in the car more than I like trying to understand NPR. It takes A LOT for a story to grab my attention on the radio, so when it does happen I know the story’s important. According to J. Carl Ganter and Eileen Ganter’s “Sound in the Story,” producing great audio stories and interviews involve a few major steps.
The subject won’t say anything important if they don’t trust you. Be honest with them. Respect them. Make the interview intimate by giving it meaning. You have to invest yourself in their story through research and interest in order for them to respond with the same energy. To be authentic, you also have to be ethical. Don’t twist their story or words because the audience will view the interview as factual proof.
If the subject doesn’t believe in the interviewer, they won’t give them any meaningful information; just like if I don’t trust my friend, I won’t tell them my deepest darkest secrets.
Listening is the most important skill an interviewer has. Stories are personal, and if the interviewer talks too much, the story won’t be as genuine. The more the subject talks, the deeper the story will get. The subject will begin to feel comfortable and will start to be more natural. Pay attention to everything they say. Find what they’re passionate about because that will create a fresh and exciting angle that will make a difference in someone’s life.
You know when someone asks you about a pet or hobby and you keep talking forever about anything and everything you can think of? Try to find that.
Let your reader drive the story. Be flexible and open-minded to new information or a new angle. Think of yourself as an explorer who has to act quickly if something unexpected happens. There’s only so much you can prepare for something. Use force to capture the mind and heart of the story. Yes, technique is important but the key is practice.
“Try. Fail. Try Again. Fail Harder.” Listen to others; practice again and again; and don’t be afraid to be wrong. Analyze what you hear. When I was in 11th Grade, my teacher had us read and do the exercises in “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott. Not only do I still do these exercises, but that practice taught me to love writing. I found my passion and I followed it. Passion is what makes me stay on that NPR story. Passion is what we should all strive for in our stories.
For inspiration to strive for a unique and passionate story, listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk on the “Danger of a Single Story.”