They're everywhere: Finding great stories off the beaten path

By Lane DeGregory
Features Writer
St. Petersburg Times

Finding folks

1). Talk to strangers

Be a nosey neighbor. Sit by the old woman on the swing. Everyone has a story.

2). Play hookie

Roam aimlessly, let someone else drive, ride the bus, walk the docks, look around.

3). Read the walls

Check bulletin boards at libraries and Laundromats. Buy bad papers. Scour the classifieds

4). Sit the bench

Be a fly on the wall. Eavesdrop at beauty parlors. Eat lunch alone.

5). Make freaky friends

Opposites attract. Befriend photographers. Use your friends for ideas and contacts.

6). Get a life

Eat dirt at the drag strip. Join bowling leagues -- not junior leagues. Go to festivals.

7). Ignore important people

See who is in their shadows, who is holding their coattails. Write around celebrities.

8). Celebrate losers

Dreams don't always come true. Ask people about their failures and lessons learned.

9). Wonder: Who would ever?

Here's to you, Mr. golf ball picker-upper. Someone has to do it; why is it that?

10). Hang out at bars

Check out different dives. Try a martini. Always come back to Cheers/

Getting the goods

11). Give everyone your phone number

Keep in touch. Don't dis PR people; ask what else is going on.

12). Be late

Old news is good news. It's easier to talk after the arrest. Whatever happened to

13). Work holidays

Relish rituals. Find faith. Be with others who can't celebrate.

14). Take stories no one else wants

Make people care. Write for other sections. Find a way it hasn't been done.

15). Look for the bruise on the apple

Ask uncomfortable questions. Celebrate conflict.

Cracking the nuts

16). Lie on the floor, climb on the cabinets

See stories from a new angle. Write from a different perspective. Seek other stakeholders.

17). Listen to the quiet

The sound of silence. What doesn't happen? Questions not answered.

18). Go along for the ride

Invite yourself over. Scan the bookshelves. Ask for photo albums. Vacuum the scene.

19). Play dumb

Repeat the important questions. Why don't I get this? Find the crux of the biscuit.

20). Don't be afraid of yourself

Share your life. Open up. Tell stories. Take risks. Wherever you go, there you are.

Lane DeGregory