As fascinating as reading something about me would be, I’d be kind of embarrassed talking about myself when asked. Earlier today I mentioned everyone likes talking about themselves but no one likes answering questions about themselves.
Which leads to the question- why does anyone answer anything? I’m not the only person who has ever asked this question. In fact, Chuck Klosterman devoted the entire first chapter of his book Eating The Dinosaur to that very question. Klosterman thought about the reason he answers questions and interviewed other professionals who ask questions for a living.
Ira Glass of NPR’s This American Life said that people answer questions and are more willing to talk about themselves when the person asking the questions is legitimately interested in what they have to say. In feature writing, obviously you can’t always write about a subject you’re 100% interested in, but you can at least pretend. Part of being a writer/journalist is making people want to talk to you, and no one will talk if you don’t seem curious and interested in their thoughts. Generally once you get someone started in talking about themselves they won’t stop, and 83% of the time they’ll say something worth writing about.
American director Errol Morris said, “If people were entirely reasonable, they would avoid all interviews, all the time. But they don’t. They think, ‘Maybe this person will present me in a way that will be interesting. Maybe this person will present me in a way that I would like to be seen.’”
Feature writing is all about presenting something that is ordinary in an interesting way. No one will read your story if it’s not interesting. Features aren’t news, you read them because you want to. They don’t inform you of daily news, but you should take away something from a feature story. Part of making something interesting is making it relatable and uncomplicated to read. There is a difference in being easy to read and being uncomplicated to read. Features shouldn’t feel like work when you’re reading them.
To me, feature stories don’t feel like work when I’m writing them either. Fortunately this time I have spent more time than I could ever measure with my subject, which made my feature assignment effortless to write. I have a lot more freedom to expand, describe and show the reader about my feature topic rather than having a cut and dry news story. Keeping up with this blog has certainly allowed me to rekindle my like of writing in general. It’s a lot easier to write something when you know someone will read it and especially when you can say what you need to say without worrying too much about inverted pyramid style.
Originally Published on: Feb 2, 2011 @ 23:41