Written by Sarah Yoon (Sneak Peek of FireStarters)

Looking for ways to hone your creativity this year? Give this writing prompt from our upcoming book, FireStarters, a try! FireStarters is all about inspiration, the differing creative types, and how to harness your particular creative energy to generate your best ideas. 

Though interviewing is a skill usually reserved for journalists or academic research, it’s an important tool for creative writers as well. Each conversation forces you to build trust with your interviewee as you examine his or her communication patterns. You learn to prep good questions, listen well, and ditch your plan when something better wanders along. Interviewees’ unpredictability keeps you on alert, fostering both flexibility and curiosity. It might sound overwhelming at first, especially if you’re an introvert, but the experience is definitely worthwhile.

1.  Find an interviewee. If you have a specific research topic in mind, let it guide you to the friend, relative, or co-worker who has personal experience and knowhow.

2.  Contact her to express your interest. Make sure to clearly express why you’re asking so she feels comfortable with the process.

3.  Plan a time and a location. Whether you talk via phone, Skype, or in person, choose a location that is quiet enough for your recorder to catch her words.

4.  Prep interview questions to help direct the conversation. Journalists cover all angles with the complete ‘who, what, when, where, and why’ combo.

5.  Check your batteries. Keep your phone or recorder ready so you can catch every word; you’ll want to review and transcribe it later. Always ask to record before interviewing.

6.  Start with small talk. A stiff interviewee will give you less interesting info; let the atmosphere relax before you start asking specific questions.

7.  Direct the conversation. People love talking about themselves. If she gets completely off topic, wait for a natural break and redirect her through a convenient segue.

Everyone has a story to tell, but too many haven’t been able to share. If they’re willing to divulge, you might as well ask!