Elevating stories #3: Heather Hansman

January 27, 2020 by

When the central character in your story is a 730-mile river, that means swimming at sea level, flying at 10,000 feet, and zooming out across states to capture all perspectives. In our third installment of Elevating Stories, we followed Heather Hansman down a natural storytelling path where she explained the secret to weaving together many points of view.

As part of the research for her book, Down River: Into the Future of Water in the West, Heather paddled 700 miles of the Green River in a solo pack raft from source to confluence, getting a firsthand look at the ongoing fight over water rights on the largest tributary of the Colorado River. Along the way she interviewed stakeholders such as ranchers, farmers, conservationists, and city officials while learning about the river itself at water level. Her book expertly bridges science, adventure, and conservationism, bringing together information from different camps to enlighten the reader.

Heather makes it look easy to build multiple perspectives and storylines into one narrative. Here are three tips we learned for making sure the big picture captures it all and keeps your audience engaged:

  • Take a journalistic approach. Do extensive background research to understand the subject matter and build a comprehensive story. Once you speak the language of a topic you can write accurately and authentically.
  • Don’t act like an expert if you’re not one. You need a solid foundation to ask the right questions, but then let the experts do the talking. This allows you to listen and discern the most salient points.
  • Make your narrative action oriented. Weaving in some adventure keeps the audience hooked. The tricky part is to stay true to your thesis and main points.

Heather reminded us that solid storytelling starts with asking the right questions and a having willingness to go on a journey to learn more.

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