Writing Personality Profiles – Chapter 10

One type of Feature Story that we will write a lot of is called a Personality Profile. At the bottom page 290 of the text, there’s a great list of ingredients for a successful one.

  • Background information from your preliminary research. [Find out all you can before you go talk to the person. Ask others. Google them. Search old yearbooks, newspapers, etc.]
  • Interview information from subject. [Conduct a recorded interview with the person. Make sure you have a good list of open-ended questions. If you have a good interview, the story will practically write itself.]
  • Specific quotes from subject – your subject’s words reveal [them]. [Quotes from your subject add flavor to the story and let the reader know that you actually spoke to them. They make the story more interesting by giving us the person’s perspective in their own words.]
  • Information provided by others. [Ask other people – students, teachers, administrators, family members – about the person. They may provide some interesting directions for your questions.]
  • Specific quotes from others. [Again, let the person’s voice come through.]
  • Your detailed observations of the subject (physical appearance, mannerisms, or details from their surroundings). [Paint a picture for us in words. Describe the person’s environment, what they’re doing, how it sounds/looks, etc.]
  • A chronology that records their memorable turning points, moves, adventures, and education. [Sometimes this might be a history of the person, or it might be a flashback. Give the reader some context.]
  • Your subject’s plans, goals, and dreams. [Point us to the future. What is next for the person?]

Remember these two crucial parts of your interview:
1. “Tell me more about that.” This is a great way to get the person to talk more about something they’ve said, especially if they don’t offer you more information or if they just give you a short answer to your question.

2. ALWAYS end your interviews with the question, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” This gives the person a chance to talk about something you didn’t ask. Maybe they’re dying to tell you something, but they’re waiting for you to ask them about it.

There’s also some great advice from that page:

“When you interview people for personality profiles, you must cultivate two primary qualities: respect and curiosity. Take a genuine interest in the person you interview.
Strive to find out everything you canabout the things that they are passionate about
Do not be satisfied with surface answers to your questions.
Be insanely curious. Keep digging.
Ask follow-up questions
to get your subject to take about his underlying feelings and motivations.
Wait patiently after you ask a question or give a gentle command. 
‘Tell me about growing up then and there.’ Interviews with the subjects of personality profiles cannot be done effectively in just a few minutes.”