15 Second Rule in Writing / by Larry Saavedra

 Me (second from right) and Victor Villaseñor standing next to me.

Me (second from right) and Victor Villaseñor standing next to me.

By Larry Saavedra

     "You can know all you need to about someone in the first 15 seconds," a great piece of advice given to me by Best Selling novelist Victor Villaseñor. Understanding what makes the interviewee tick is critical to asking great questions, whether you are writing a short technical manual, or a 700-page memoir.

     I've had interviews that have gone on for hours, and walked away not knowing what this person was really about. A disconnect situation like that can kill a story fast. If the person smiles the moment you meet, then you can assume that this person is friendly and willing to engage. If you get a yawn, a frown, or those shifting eyes, then you know that the person is bored, and not the least bit interested, again a disconnect that will affect the story. If you find yourself in a bad interview, and understand why it's going south...then you might be able to adjust for it before things start to implode.

These two Navajo sisters from northern Arizona were great to interview. One was shy and the other extremely outgoing and lively. I saw that personality difference in seconds.

     Embrace the message of the "15 second" rule. Learn to read a person's attitude and character quickly, and then find a way to make the connection to tell your story. Developing great content comes from having a positive experience during the interview process, whether it's about the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or the man on the street with an incredible story to tell.