How to interview complete strangers

Jerry Bellune

Mar 1, 2022


“For a good journalist, every encounter is an interview,” a magazine editor once told me.

My wife kids me about interviewing strangers.

“I love it,” I tell her, “and those you call strangers do, too.”

My wife is a more private person than her nosy husband.

We were having lunch at one of our favorite restaurants the other day.

We have known the owner and his family for more than 30 years.

Our server was another story.

Most servers are attractive young women — high school or college students who need the money.

Our server was an older male, probably in his 50s.

“What attracted you to this business?” I asked.

“I’d never done it before,” he said. “I’m giving it a try.”

“What did you do before this,” I asked.

“Lots of things,” he said, warming up. “Jack of all trades.”

“What’s the most interesting work you’ve done?”

“I read books for movie producers,” he said and began telling us about writing reports on what parts of books they should consider turning into a movie.

I let him go at that point because he had other customers, but I will go back.

I’d like to hear the rest of his story.

Most people you encounter love to talk about their experiences and their lives. They receive little attention at home, work or elsewhere. They will welcome your attentive ears.

What will I do with what I learn from strangers?

You can see that I’ve already turned it into a writing tip for you.

Next: Turn experiences into stories.

To discover more about interviewing, dip into Jerry's book, The Art of Compelling Writing, available for $9.99 on Amazon com at

Jerry Bellune is a writing coach and author of “The Art of Compelling Writing, Volume 1.” For a personally autographed copy, send your check to him at PO Box 1500, Lexington SC 29071-1500.