Interviewing for Story

In the world of podcasting, the art of interviewing is undergoing a transformation. It’s not just about gathering information; it’s about using narrative tools to create interviews that are not only compelling but also deeply meaningful. Gregory Warner, the host and creator of NPR’s Rough Translation, understands this better than most.

Warner’s approach to interviewing revolves around the concept of thinking about the story both before and during the interview. It’s about crafting questions that go beyond the surface and delve into the heart of a narrative. 

Here are some key takeaways to conduct better interviews for any podcast format:

Think About the Story

To conduct a meaningful interview, consider the story you want to tell before you even start. What is the plot? Why does it matter? What emotions are involved, and what are the stakes?

Craft Questions for Narrative Flow

Craft questions that create narrative drama and flow. Instead of straightforward inquiries, ask questions that lead to engaging storytelling. Make your subjects reflect on their choices and decisions.

Building Blocks of Story

Warner suggests using an inverted pyramid as the building blocks of your story. Start with “What happened” (the plot), then explore “Why it happened” and “Why it matters” (meaning/themes). Dive into “How do we feel about it” (emotion), and highlight the “Stakes” (choice points), which are decision moments within your story. Asking people about their decisions can help shape the narrative.

“Prep Doc” for Crafting Questions

Before the interview, create a “Prep Doc” that includes background information about the person you’re interviewing. Understand their motivations, what they want, and the obstacles they face—both internal and external. Identify the stakes of their choices. Determine which story elements (plot, meaning, emotion) you need to explore during the conversation.

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