Years ago, I was assigned to write a story about a man who’d developed a device that would collect recycled oil and store it, saving local people from having to make a trip to an auto parts store. The article must be no more than 700 words, the editor told me.
So I went and interviewed the guy, five or so questions at hand and explained to him that all I needed were basic answers. We were doing a short article, so we would not be able to run anything more than just the basics.
The man proceeded to talk for about an hour.
His surname was Wildie, and in the other two times I interviewed him, the same thing happened: I’d explain to him about how we had only enough room for the basics. He’d then go on to ramble for an hour or so. The final time I spoke with him, my editor told me not to take too long.
“You do realize whom I’ll be speaking to, right?” I asked. “Even if I try to nudge him forward, he’ll go back and talk on and on and on.”
Occasionally, I still have interview subjects like this. When it happens, I call it “The Wildie Syndrome”.
I’m curious if any other writers have had to deal with this also. One assistant editor I worked with spent three hours doing an interview with a bloviating man, and spent the entire next day just transcribing it with a dictionary at hand…
Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based journalist, columnist, blogger and aspiring fiction writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.