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The Personality Sketch

We all like to read about prominent and successful people. We want to know more about the men and women who figure in the day's news, and even about interesting persons whose success has not been great enough to be heralded in the press.

We all like to read about prominent and successful people. We want to know more about the men and women who figure in the day's news, and even about interesting persons whose success has not been great enough to be heralded in the press. What appeals to us most about these individuals is, not mere biographical facts such as appear in Who's Who, but the more intimate details of character and personality that give us the key to their success. We want to see them as living men and women. It is the writer's problem to present them so vividly that we shall feel as if we had actually met them face to face.

The purpose of the personality sketch may be (1) to give interesting information concerning either prominent or little known persons, (2) to furnish readers inspiration that may bear fruit in their own lives, (3) to give practical guidance by showing how one individual has accomplished a certain thing. Whether the aim is to afford food for thought, inspiration to action, or guidance in practical matters, the treatment is essentially the same.

The recognized methods of describing characters in fiction may be used to advantage in portraying real persons. These are (1) using general descriptive terms, (2) describing personal appearance, (3) telling of characteristic actions, (4) quoting their words, (5) giving biographical facts, (6) citing opinions of others about them, (7) showing how others react to them. By a judicious combination of several of these methods, a writer can make his readers visualize the person, hear him speak, watch him in characteristic actions, and understand his past life, as well as realize what others think of him and how they act toward him.

Material for a personality sketch may be obtained in one of three ways: (1) from a more or less intimate acquaintance with the person to be described; (2) from an interview with the person, supplemented by conversation with others about him; (3) from printed sketches of him combined with information secured from others. It is easier to write personality sketches about men and women whom we know well than it is about those whom we have never met, or with whom we have had only a short interview. Inexperienced writers should not attempt to prepare sketches of persons whom they know but slightly. In a single interview a writer who is observant, and who is a keen judge of human nature, may be able to get an impression sufficiently strong to serve as the basis of a satisfactory article, especially if the material obtained in the interview is supplemented by printed sketches and by conversations with others. Personality sketches sometimes include long interviews giving the person's opinions on the subject on which he is an authority. In such articles the sketch usually precedes the interview.

Examples of the Personality Sketch. The first of the following sketches appeared, with a half-tone portrait, in the department of "Interesting People" in the American Magazine; the second was sent out by the Newspaper Enterprise Association, Cleveland, Ohio, which supplies several hundred daily newspapers with special features.

Reference book: How To Write Special Feature Articles

Tags: writing, articles, magazine, Reading,

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