Since I freelance for a regional newspaper, quite a few of my pieces fall under the 'profile' umbrella. Sometimes, the information is easily molded into a non-fiction creation that presents the facts: introduce person, explain why he / she is important or why he / she is an interesting profile, conclude with a call to action or at the very least, a memorable quote.
But sometimes, profiles written in that manner tend to become boring and the writing seems stilted. Here are some ideas to break out of the auto-pilot profile mode and create memorable stories.
- Research, Research, Research: Don't simply interview the profile subject. Interview others who interact with her on a regular basis. By interviewing more than one source, writers gain a new perspective that can show the many nuances of a person's character, work ethic, emotions, etc. Thorough research results in a well-crafted article. An sometimes, the research can lead itself to an article for a new market.
- Cut the Chronology: Great profiles don't begin at a person's birth and end with what the person is currently involved in. Great profiles alternate between the past and present and build the bridge of importance between the two.
- Honesty is the Best Policy: Be polite, but be honest. While the world is everyone's stage, not everyone always shows his or her true self. Sometimes, showing someone's downfall(s)makes a subject appear more human than he or otherwise would have.
- Find a Common Bond: Create an emotional bond between the subject and the reader by discovering and showing the common bond. It's there. Just simply a matter of finding it. :)
There are also several writing habits to avoid when writing a profile.
- Avoid inserting too much about yourself into the profile. It's not about you. It's about someone else.
- Avoid flowery descriptions that don't add to the storytelling.
- Avoid using large segments of quotations from the subject. Set the mood by weaving minimal description and paraphrasing.
- Avoid not focusing on a point or revealing something about the subject. If there isn't a point, who will read it? Show why this person is interesting!
If you use these techniques the next time you pen a profile, you'll take the basic profile form from ordinary to outrageous! Plus, you'll give a balanced, well-rounded glimpse into a person's life.