For class this week, I got to explore the website Narratively and read countless stories from people of all walks of life in narratives that varied and included some of everything. My favorite section ended up being the “Sex” section for the rawness of the stories there.
One author did an amazing job writing an interview and giving her readers a look into the life of a professional Dom in Den of a Dominatrix. The author grabs the reader’s attention and paints them a picture through this interview, turning the process into more than the expected Q&A session.
“The waitress, the busboy, the wiry haired woman at the table next to us – all at some point pause to stare. If Josie notices, she does not let on or she does not care.”
At the very beginning the interviewee is painted as someone who is powerful in her own way, walks into a room and takes it, which goes well with what we learn very quickly about Josie.
My goal as a writer is to be able to write an interview like this and since this was one of the first things I read for this week, the bar was set high and stories with interviews stuck out to me more.
I found myself comparing two pieces from the “Animals” section, both told with information from wildlife biologists and ecologists. I felt one story worked for me more than the other.
Saving the Snow Leopard, by Learning to Love it took us on a journey to save snow leopards in India. We are immediately thrust into a scene with compelling photos and the words:
“On a bright and sunny summer Thursday, Tsewang Namgail drives his run-down white Jeep through the rough desert terrain of the Indian Himalayas. The Buddhist hymn, “Om Mani Padme Hum…” plays on loop from the CD player as he speeds through the winding, dusty roads. A stuffed toy, with a snow leopard’s head and a long, snake-like body, dangles from Namgail’s rear-view mirror.”
Our scene is set and from here on we go through Namgail describing the way the people in the area live giving an understanding to why they hate snow leopards, making his conservation efforts hard. Through out the piece we also hear from a villager who works to protect snow leopards by recording when livestock is attacked by snow leopards so that government conservations groups can compensate the people for their loss of income, making them feel more secure.
This is a story being told with science and conservation project information being fitted in around the lives of the people and around the words of the story. The flow works well and the reader is never overwhelmed with facts and the facts never take away from the picture painted by the narrative, but instead they add to it.
The same can not be said for Tracking the Great Coyote Invasion of NYC , an article like story that I think is good, but I think it could have been better and its interview and flow did not quite compare to others, specifically Saving the Snow Leopard, by Learning to Love it.
The narrative about coyotes moving themselves into the densely populated New York City and surrounding areas was full of information that was not delivered in a reader friendly way. Large blocks of text read like a text book on ecology and the city’s relationship with coyotes. Interactions between the author and the team of ecologists while they worked together to in the field, where lost in the mass of factual information. The ecologist’s field work, which had enough detail to paint a picture, seemed clinical.
A little rearranging would make the piece more reader friendly as well. One specific area seemed odd, divided by a picture of a mother coyote and her pups a line tucked into the beginning,
“Eventually Toomey left to work in the United Kingdom, leaving the coyotes behind.”
This would have worked well several sentences or a paragraph before when the author was talking about Toomey’s involvement with the coyote project but it is instead tucked into a mass of information about the other ecologists studying the coyotes.
I think there is a certain something to being able to write an interview and build a person’s character and profile up in a way other than a series of questions. I love the way that research can be put into a piece to supplement it instead of being the focus and this is something I would like to work on as a writer.