Interview About Narrative

Due: March 21st

Worth 10 Homework Points


We describe the academic essay as entering a conversation. For this reason, I thought it would be useful for us to begin (and record) a literal conversation with someone outside of the classroom.


For this project, you can work alone or with a partner.

Please choose someone to interview about a narrative that has helped shape his or her identity. This story could be a personal anecdote, news story, narrative from history, or a fictional story. The narrative could have impacted the way this person perceives himself as an individual or how the interviewee understands her identity as a person of a particular religion, race, or social background (i.e. as an American, UNE student, racial minority, young woman, young man, etc.).


I encourage you to choose someone that can offer you a significantly different perspective. For example, find someone outside your age bracket or socioeconomic status. Consider interviewing your grandmother or kid brother. You can take the opportunity to strike up a conversation with a stranger or someone with whom you would not otherwise speak. Note: You should alert your interviewee that you will record the interview with either a microphone or video camera.


Consider sharing the nature of your project with your interviewee ahead of the interview, as to give him or her some time to reflect on a response. Ask your interviewee to recall a story that has helped deepen or shape his identity (personal or otherwise). Important: This story could have had a negative or positive impact on the individual’s self-perception and/or his understanding of the world.


Once your interviewee has identified a narrative they want to share, ask her to recount the story. Ask the person to elaborate on the meaning this narrative has in his or her life. Determine when the story occurred or, in the case of a fictional, news, or historical narrative, ask when the person first encountered the story. Try to understand if the narrative helped to develop, support, or complicate the person’s previous understanding of identity.

Your goal is to ask questions that get to the heart of the narrative’s meaning in your interviewee’s life. You are seeking a balance between detail and reflection. For example, you can ask: What stands out to you about the story.? What emotions do you associate with it? Please also don’t forget the power of “why?” Make sure to ask the person about their personal history with their identity. Ask them how it feels to share this narrative.

After your interview, I want you to edit the recording into a short podcast and or video that is at least 5 minutes in length. Keep in mind that we will share these projects and use them as texts in our final writing project.








 Steps for a successful interview:

  1. Prepare your list of questions, but be open to abandoning script. 

Use the questions above as a starting place, but I strongly encourage you to add your own. Remain open to imagining new questions, in real time, as the conversation proceeds, and remember, even if you don’t stick to your questions, it will be useful to have them on hand.


The following tips come from the StoryCorps “Do-it-Yourself Instruction Guide.”

Find the list here:



  1. Choose your Interview Location Wisely

Pick the quietest place possible. A carpeted room is best. Be sure to turn the volume off on any TV, radio, or stereo. Close the door and listen for anything else that’s making noise: buzzing fluorescent lights, ticking clocks, air conditioners, etc. If possible, turn them off or move them out of the room. Avoid kitchens, which have reflective surfaces and noisy appliances. Listen for noise during the interview as well. If your storyteller fiddles with a necklace, for example, feel free to tell him or her if the microphone picks up the sound. Make the space as peaceful as possible by turning the lights low.

  1. Begin the Conversation with Intent

Start the interview by stating your name, your age, the date, and the location of the interview. For example, “My name is Marissa Martinez. I’m forty years old. The date is November 28, 2016, and I’m sitting with my grandfather, Frank Jackson, in his living room in Hamilton, Missouri.” Then ask your storyteller to do the same.

Remember, the questions you prepared in advance are just suggestions. Trust your instincts and ask questions in whatever order feels right. If something interests you, ask more about it. Sometimes your storyteller may need to know that it’s okay to talk about a certain topic. Grant permission by saying, “Tell me more.” Take breaks if your storyteller needs them. Avoid saying “uh huh” or interrupting. Instead, use visual cues like nodding your head to encourage the storyteller to keep going.

  1. Keep the Conversation Flowing
  • Listen closely.Look your storyteller in the eyes. Nod your head. Smile. Stay engaged.
  • Stick with the good stuff.Try to keep to the topics that move you. If the current topic isn’t what you wanted to put on tape, gently steer the conversation in another direction.
  • Ask emotional questions.Asking‚ “How does this make you feel?” often elicits interesting responses. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Respect your subject.If there is a topic that your interview partner does not want to talk about, respect his or her wishes and move on.
  • Take notes during the interview.Write down questions or stories you might want to return to later.
  • Be curious and honest, and keep an open heart.Great things will happen.
  1. Before you Wrap It Up, Give your Storyteller a Chance to Say One Last Thing

Before you turn off the recorder, ask the storyteller if there is anything else that he or she wants to talk about. Then make sure to thank the person; opening up can be difficult. Express your gratitude, and let him or her know that it was a privilege to listen to the story. Finally, hit STOP on your recorder.


Preparing your final product

The final step will be to prepare your final product.

Please take advantage of the English Department’s new DIGISPACE.

Digispace not only has great audio editing software (Audacity) but tech savvy literacy assistants. Please take advantage of their know-how.

Located in Decary 049 (Daytime)

  • Daytime: 1:00 – 3:00 pm on Monday-Thursday
  • Evening: 5:30 –  9:00 pm Monday-Thursday
  • Weekends: 3:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday