o engaging characters
o interesting settings
o intriguing and coherent plot
o surprising twists and turns
o conflict and resolution
These same story elements also apply to non-fiction works like life stories or memoirs. One of the pitfalls that inexperienced personal historians make is to forget this. Great stories engage the reader or listener.
A narrative that reads, “This happened and then that happened. And then this happened followed by that happening.” is not engaging. It’s simply a recitation of events, places, and details. It’s boring.
Here’s how you can ensure that you get great stories.
As you interview a client, listen carefully and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the story have a strong sense of place?
- Are the characters well drawn?
- Is the story intriguing?
- Am I drawn in?
- Am I delighted?
- Am I surprised?
- Is there a sense of moving forward – a journey?
- Is the storyteller emotionally connected to the story?
- Is this a crucial story in the person’s life? Is it a turning point?
- Does the story seem to have a purpose? That is, is it worth telling?
If your answer is “No” to any one of these, gently redirect the interview. Ask questions that will turn the “No’s” into “Yes’s”.
You’ll be surprised at how much more engaging your client’s stories will be.
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