The story behind the facts: How to get someone to talk

Written on July 2, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

The New York Times Opinionator reminds us that what’s good for writers is good for us all. When you are “seeking the unknown — the story behind the facts,” the secret is is simple.

Lee Gutkind writes (excerpt):
This is the first lesson for writers — or anyone — who conducts interviews: If you want someone to talk, you’ve got to know how to listen. And good listening is a surprisingly active process. The interviewee is your focus of attention; you are there to hear what he says and thinks, exclusively.
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This is a key point to remember. It is fine and often delightfully surprising to permit interviewees to go off on tangents — sometimes they absolutely need to tell you something, and sometimes what they tell you will be valuable material to supplement your story. But you must keep the primary narrative in mind . . . .

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