The previous week I was able to complete my first true feature story on a former astronaut now teaching here at MU.
This story sounds like a piece of cake right? A former astronaut (husband too) are now working at MU and sharing their experiences with students. The story almost speaks for itself. But hold up. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
Dr. Godwin was nice enough to sit down with me for a 30 minute interview. Plenty of time to find good story material. One slight problem, Godwin was trained in the science field. She was most comfortable speaking in scientific terms and explaining aspects in advanced technical terms. Not material you want to use in a story.
So after the interview I was stuck. I had this long interview, plenty of quotes, but none that I could really use. So I kept digging. I called her husband and asked him to brag about her a little bit. I sat in on her class the following day to observe. A most valuable technique for a story teller — detailed observation.
After two days, I felt I was finally there. At the point I could construct an entertaining story. Until I was struck with sudden onset writer’s block. I played with about 5 different leads until I had an idea in mind. Here’s where I learned the most. I had a lead with the idea in place, but it wasn’t what my editor was quite looking for. She took the idea from the lead and turned it into what we really wanted. An entertaining lead that truly put you in the classroom with her. I thought I was at the final step, but after this I realized there was one more.
One of the greatest things I’ve learned so far — there is no final step. You can always tweak the story, tighten it up. There’s always room for improvement and I have to get in the habit of looking for room to improve.