How to Write a Personality Feature Story
The world is full of colorful characters, but not all of their faces can be found in magazines or celebrity news shows. A personality feature story is a journalistic article focusing on a single aspect of a person's life. Whether the focus is a career, personal struggle or interesting hobby, the author vividly renders the person's story using descriptions and quotes. Conduct an interview and use the data to craft a detailed, captivating personality feature.
Choosing a Subject
Personality feature stories don't have to be about somebody famous or even well-known. In fact, some of the best articles focus on the everyday stories of regular people. When choosing your subject, personality feature writer Lori Russell suggests brainstorming with interesting people you know and asking yourself why readers might find their stories compelling. You can also think about your personal interests and career goals when choosing a subject. For example, if you want to work for the fire department, you might contact them and see if a firefighter would be willing to let you interview him.
You can prepare for the interview by making a list of questions that invite specific answers, not just yes or no responses. To enhance the detail of your essay, try to meet at a meaningful place for the subject. For example, if you're interviewing a person who restores vintage cars, you might meet in his garage. Throughout the interview, write down details about the person and setting as well as significant quotes. The writing advice website "How to Write English" suggests getting a large number of quotes so you have a variety to choose from when you begin writing.
Finding the Story
A personality feature article needs to reveal why readers should care about the subject, states the composition department at Colorado State University. As you review your interview notes, think about what is most compelling about this person. For example, the firefighter may have chosen his profession because he lost a close friend in an accidental house fire, or the car enthusiast's favorite piece is his father's Mustang convertible that he painstakingly restored. Finding a defining trait, such as a desire to serve others or a love of family traditions, can provide the key to helping readers relate to the subject.
Show, Don't Tell
The Air University Defense Information School's basic writing program writes that detail is crucial for bringing both the setting of your interview and the subject to life. Try writing descriptions with the most specific language possible. For example, it's easy to say "Tom seemed young in spite of his age," but those words conjure up only a generic picture. Instead, you might write, "Tom stroked his white beard, his eyes glinting off the red convertible's freshly polished surface." To brainstorm details, you might try writing a description of the subject, including his most notable physical traits and mannerisms.
A personality feature story isn't an interview transcript. As you write, resist the temptation to use the phrases "I asked" and "he responded." This can make the article repetitive and cause the reader to lose interest. Instead, write in third-person, knitting background information, descriptions and quotations together. While traditional essays contain conclusions that tie their main ideas together, Charlton advises writers to save a significant quotation for the final paragraph. Ending with the subject's voice can leave readers reflecting on the importance of the person's story.
- Writers on the Rise: The Scoop on Writing Profile Articles: Anatomy of a Profile
- Colorado State University Composition: Writing and Style: Sample Profile Assignment
- Sarah Charlton: Profile Feature Articles
- How to Write English: Writing Personality Profiles: A Few Tips
- Air University Defense Information School: Personality Feature
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.