The Ins and Outs of Writing Profiles
"If you're doing an in-person interview," Miller said, "use your powers of observation. Look for interesting details. Rely on all of your senses. What stands out? What's on their desk, in their kitchen, in their living room? What stands out to you when you meet them? What about being in their presence really stands out to you?"
If you're discussing sensitive topics (especially when dealing with clients) give the interviewee the questions in advance to make her more comfortable; ask, but don't press; and ensure she realizes that she has control over the final copy.
If you do the interview and it turns out awful, all is not lost, Miller said. You could always use the content in a roundup, follow up with the interviewee to get more information or have someone else do a new interview.
5. Write the profile
To determine how the story should develop, look to the nut, the central element of the story.
There are three ways to structure the story:
- The obituary model, where the most important information appears in the first paragraph.
- The post-hole digger approach, where you pick a very narrow segment of someone's life and go very deep into detail on that segment. It could be a particular year or hobby or event, for example.
- The three-act play approach, where Act 1 introduces the character, his situation and his goal; Act 2 shows the character facing obstacles as tension mounts; and Act 3 is where the action peaks, the character triumphs and gets his/her payoff. Miller said Act 3 is usually the part in the profile where the nonprofit will come into play to help the person get over a barrier.)
Think about the reader. What does he or she want to know? For most, it boils down to two questions: What makes this person so special (not like me)? And how is this person one of us (just like me)?