Written by Idea File Staff
There is always an appetite for profiles because readers are always hungry to know about other people. This is different from gossip in that it is an insight into someone’s life that is different, unique, exotic. When it is reported professionally, this story seasoned with flavor and vivid descriptions is called a personality profile!
In order to find just the right “main dish” to report on–search and then dig. Find a subject that is EXTRAordinary. The following kinds of people may have a story to tell and may tell it in an exotic way. Find those with unusual talents and hobbies, occupations and artistic bents. Or look for someone “ordinary” that works behind the scenes and isn’t widely recognized. Jaded janitors, wacky local waitresses, multi-talented math teachers. Other times it’s the unsung hero that makes the best profile. These people are a little harder to find-they require deeper digging. Look for the support players, the sidekicks, the people who wash the muddy uniforms and set up the class officer election chairs, who stuff the paper napkins in the chicken wire for Homecoming floats, who design the candidacy posters and string the variety show lights, who layout pages and crawl into the orchestra pit for a dramatic camera angle.
When you set up the interview, ask to have it take place in the setting where the person performs the activity you are profiling (work station, shop, basement, art studio/costume dressing room or locker room). Also, set up a photo opportunity at that time.
During the interview take notes on both what the person is saying, but also how he says it. Write down details about the person’s appearance (clothing, make-up, accessories), mannerisms, facial expressions, regional phrases/accents, gestures, tone of voice. Be sure to note descriptive, sensory details of the setting. What “vibes” do you get from this atmosphere?
When you begin to write the profile, remember that the reader doesn’t care how you felt, so keep yourself out of the story. You are the unseen, but competent hand that stirs all the ingredients – colorful character, vivid phrases and animate gestures. Sprinkle vibrant quotes into the story, but turn mundane material into your own words, keeping them short and concise. Fold into this delicious recipe background information, biographical data and explanatory paragraphs as transitions. End with a vivid quote that leads back to the focus and theme of the profile.
By writing about people outside the norm, you will add depth and sophistication to your publication, avoiding the one-dimensional reporting on the average teenager at your school; you will also attract a different reading audience.
PSSSST…. Here’s another useful tip
Ask the person for a one-page resume or summary of basic facts about their early background, education and work experience.