Arts & Entertainment, Writing


Malcolm Gladwell

Lesson time 15:27 min

The interview is the critical foundation for developing character in nonfiction. Malcolm teaches you how to conduct an interview to uncover what is uniquely interesting about your subject.

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Topics include: Find Your Subject's Authentic Self • Show Your Subjects Why They’re Interesting • Make Your Subject Slow Down • Use Humility as a Tactic • Make Interviews Short and Unscripted • Get Help With Your Weaknesses


I've never thought I was a great interviewer because I'm not capable of getting someone to tell me something they don't want to tell me. So there's one class of epic, "60 Minutes" interviewer, or who is like a prosecutor, who will extract some truth from an unwilling subject. I can't do that. Not even close. In fact, when I do get something that I sense they didn't want to tell me, my first impulse is to say to them, I'm not going to report that. Or are you sure you want to tell me that? I had an interview. I interviewed this guy last month for my book. And he's an old counterintelligence officer, who was involved in a very famous spy case. And at the end of the interview, he told me something that he should not have told me! It was something that would get him and put him in jail. And I was like, please stop! And I know that is the anti-journalistic impulse. But I don't want to put you in harm's way in the course of some dumb story. You will get in trouble. It was fascinating, what he told me. And I wish I could say that now. So I'm another kind of interviewer. Which is that I'm trying to get you to be yourself. I want to draw out your best self. The central problem that all people have, and particularly interesting people, is that they're not always aware of why they're interesting. So the job of the writer is not to supply the ideas in any kind of encounter. It is to be patient enough to find the ideas in any encounter. So you just have to know where to look, and know how to listen, and know how to push people in the right direction. And make sure they don't go off on a tangent. When I was describing the guy who did the study about, should you arrest the husband in a domestic disturbance? I don't know whether he realizes how profoundly interesting that insight was. And nor is he aware of how-- I mean, he might be aware in some ways of-- it's a difficult insight. Because he's saying we should treat people differently according to their level of education. I don't know how you do that. And also, he's saying that your immediate impulse when someone does something wrong is to arrest them. And you should sometimes resist that because of something that might happen a month from now, or two months from now. That's an incredibly fascinating thought. But because he's lived with that, and did the research, and has talked about it 50 times, he may not understand how problematic that is, or how fascinating it is. Or he's in the world of criminologists. And his friend in his little circle, that's the way they think. So my job is to listen and to appreciate what he's saying. And all I have to do is to bring myself to it. And I bring my naive self. My job is not to be a criminologist like him. It's to react as a non-criminologist and to say, wait a minute. I've never heard of this before. That's crazy. How do you do that? What do people say when you went to them and said, don't arrest the poor husbands? So it's abo...

About the Instructor

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.

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Malcolm Gladwell

In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.

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