The Interview

Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, you need to approach your interview subjects in an organized manner.  If you are organized and professional, it puts your subject at ease and makes your job easier.  Most people, when someone begins asking questions about their background, their history, accomplishments, their thoughts, they jump from one subject to another as thoughts occur to them.  Later, often too late, you learn there was a nugget of gold to be mined there which they completely skipped over.

How do you go about gaining the maximum information from the person you’re interviewing?  Here is one technique that has served me well, whether I was gaining information for a fiction piece, or documenting an event.  It is called “GOSS”.  You can’t go wrong with it.

First, ask about their (G) goals.  What were they, or are they, attempting to accomplish?  What are the facts and details regarding what they intend to accomplish?

Second, what are the (O) obstacles that get in the way, that keep them from accomplishing their goals in this matter?  There may be a range of obstacles to be solved, involving people, situations, funding, and expertise

Third, what are the (S) solutions they have used to overcome those obstacles, how did they come up with them and how did they implement them.  And if there were a number of different obstacles, you need to ensure they run down the solutions for each one. Did they work?  If not, what’s next?

Fourth and finally, how did they get (S) started?  What led them to this situation, or into this field of endeavor; who or what inspired them?  Everyone likes to talk about themselves, and this is their chance to shine.  Also, do they have any advice for others who may want to get started on goals such as their’s?

In 50+ years of writing, I never ran into a situation where GOSS didn’t turn up fertile ground for writing.  One magazine editor even assigned me to interview an ideal (Leadership), rather than a person.  GOSS gave me a starting point and led me to create a very readable article which the editor happily published.

Do you have a favorite technique you would like to share?  Let’s hear about it.


Editing While the Fire Rages

While the keyboard is still hot, before the muse cools, go back over what you have written.

That’s the advice given me early on, but it never worked for me.   Good advice, I’m sure, just never worked for me.  Waiting until the next morning was always much more efficient for me.  Even the next day the fire was still raging, but the mistakes stood out more clearly.  Plus, by then I could separate myself from the “preciousness” of the writing I had birthed.

You see, the very best editing takes on the form of killing your literary children, slicing and dicing your best purple prose, requiring that you “prove” with facts the suppositions and possibilities the first draft has built like cloud castles in the sky.

Remember that in writing, less is always more, and clearness of thought and description are usually found in simplicity.  Edit, edit, edit.


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