Features about people are always in demand. We are naturally curious, and we love to read about other people who do interesting things.
It’s uncommon to find people who don’t like to talk about themselves, if they have interesting lives. People who do interesting things or who’ve accomplished many things are proud of what they do. They love to share their news.
Artists, musicians, authors, community volunteers, consultants, and scientists are just a handful of the type of people who are newsworthy.
If you’re a good listener, write features about people who are willing to tell their story. Most likely, your interviewees will be flattered that you chose to write about them.
Once you’ve set up a time to meet with the interviewee, tell the person that you plan to take about an hour to visit. Before the interview, get together a list of questions to ask.
Even if you know the person well, always do interviews in person, not over the phone or by email. You gain so much by talking to interviewees in person, not only observation-wise, but they will open up more when they have an interviewer who is taking the time to visit and chat.
Observation is key in people features. You’re observing the demeanor of the interviewees, that is, their personality and their enthusiasm for what they do. This kind of description will greatly contribute to the article.
Questions will get interviewees prepared to talk about themselves. However, you needn’t fire away with all your questions, but they are a starting point for getting an interviewee to open up. And, you can weave your questions into the conversation at certain points.
Perhaps by the end of the interview, the interviewee will have answered all the questions you meant to ask. If this didn’t happen in the course of the interview, at that point, you can pick up with any unanswered questions.
Or, if interviewees digress during the interview, you can get them back on track with some of your questions.
Don’t make the mistake of being so impressed with interviewees, that you’re either intimidated by them or you’re gushing. Besides being courteous, maintain a professional air.
Keep in mind that interviews can last an hour and a half, at most, and this time goes very fast. At the end of the specified time, they’ll be ready to say goodbye, so you will have needed to get the answers to all your questions.
If the interviewee took control of the interview, chances are good, you didn’t get all your questions answered. The point is, always stay in control of the interview. Don’t let interviewees ramble.
Be good at note-taking, too. I prefer pencil and paper, but many interviewers prefer a laptop. Either way, learn to abbreviate words.
Finally, make sure you get your facts correct. You don’t want a reputation for inaccuracy. After the interview, when you’re at home writing your article, call the interviewee if something was unclear or doesn’t make sense. Getting a clarification is necessary.
For more information on interviewing and feature writing, in general, read my book, Beginners’ Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features.
And, if you want to branch out into column writing, read my book, You Can Be A Columnist.
Both books have been Featured Selections of Writer’s Digest Book Club.
Copyright 2016 by Charlotte Digregorio.