Interviews are crucial to creating a compelling memoir. They provide the raw data—facts, memories, impressions—that the writer will later translate into story.
At Legacy Prose™ we use three types of interviewing. All are based on an understanding of the characteristics and complexities of memory and the elements of story.
Integrative Interviewing™ is a specialized form of structured reminiscence that, by allowing the storyteller to largely control the direction of the storytelling process, elicits tales that may be forgotten in other interviewing situations. It's a comfortable yet comprehensive process that involves circular and spiraling modes of questioning and makes extensive use of controlled digression. (Our clients love it!)
Expository Interviewing™ is a more direct form of questioning that fills in the blanks in an emerging narrative. The major threads have already been determined; the expository process funnels down to the smaller points and concentrates on extracting half-forgotten details.
The combination of Integrative and Expository Interviewing allows the narrator to explore different facets of his or her past and provides the necessary elements for a richly textured memoir.
Guided Reminiscence relies on asking the narrator a series of "open-ended" questions that are designed to elicit stories rather than simple yes-or-no answers. It is an efficient type of story-gathering, requiring minimal organizing and editing. For this reason, it is used by the majority of personal biographers.
Unfortunately, this type of questioning can be counterproductive. In too many cases, rather than stimulating recall, it creates pressure which causes memory to freeze. It also increases the incidence of "false memories" as the storyteller strives to answer questions that don't pertain directly to his personal experience.
While we use guided reminiscence in certain situations, we use it rarely and reluctantly.