Saturday, November 12, 2011

Writing Your Profile

Last week I rejected an article submitted by a talented young writer whose fantasy novels will surely gain a publisher's interest in the future. But her personal profile article was dryer than a grocery shopping list. This is for my self-effacing young friend, and any others who need to put excitement into their personal profiles. -- BWS

Writing Your Personal Profile

What writer couldn't ace an assignment like this: “write a 500-word human interest story about a person you find interesting.” You wouldn't begin with “born on...,” followed by where, and then names of parents and schools attended. That’s boring and encyclopedic, right? Make sure you open your own personal profile—your own human interest story—with more punch than a list of dull facts.

As with any article, you start with facts—in a list, on index cards, connected circles, or whatever method you use to outline. They should include the basics:

  • The focus of the profile. It’s the subject, which in this case is you.
  • Purpose of a profile. Showcase the subject (you) to your readers, or audience.
  • Identify the reader of this particular profile. Several may need your profile: an agent or editor who receives your query, a program chair who will introduce you as a speaker, a committee member putting bios together for an organization's yearbook. Pick one. You can write profiles for the others another day.
  • Describe the reader. In your outline, write a brief description of your audience for the present profile. Be realistic. If your profile's true purpose is to promote your amateur clown act performed at birthday parties, your audience is local, and not New York's party planners.
  • Decide on the slant. To reveal the dominant theme for this particular profile, try this role-playing exercise. Close your eyes. Imagine you are the reader. What prompted you to read this personal profile article? Is there specific information you want?  
  • Examine yourself as the writer. In your mind's eye, step away from yourself, and try to see yourself objectively as the writer of your subject's profile. Why should a publisher hire you to write this profile? Why do you want to write it? Does writing it excite you? As a writer, how can your unique perspective of the subject influence the reader?
Completing the six activities above takes time, but unlike preparation for other articles, you can skip research and interviews.

This final note-making activity may spark a particular memory that jolts your muse to its expressive best. Visualize being interviewed by a journalist who wants to profile you for the audience you chose above. This professional is prepared with a list of questions based on research as well as visits with people who know you.

Next, think like a journalist who will be paid $0.50 per word, and sketch an outline. Concentrate on the body of the profile. Then come back to the hook and close.

Think like a journalist while you write. What is the result of “Name was born on February 3, 1978?” At best the editor’s cut slashes $3.00 from your check. More realistically, the article is not published, and the editor adds your email address to the “delete before reading” or spam list.

But when you ace your self-assignment with a sparkling profile, readers will want to know you better. Your compelling story will pique their interest in your personality and your writing.




1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this lesson in producing a profile. I'm sure the lesson is helpful to many.