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Exercise 4-1.2
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Interviews > Interview practice — a personality profile

The primary goal of this exercise is to give you practice conducting an interview. We'll achieve that by having you pursue a secondary goal: writing a personality profile about a classmate. You may work with a digital or hard copy version of these guidelines for conducting an interview.
Interview Guidelines (27.0K)

A. Preliminary interview: Pair with a classmate and take turns conducting 10-minute interviews of each other. At this stage, your questions aren't really what your story ultimately will be about, but they'll help you find a focus for that story. Find out basic profile information about your subject. Start with the easy, nonthreatening questions: How old is he or she? What courses is he or she taking? After-school or other extracurricular activities? Interests? Sports? Family/home situation? Weekend plans for the next month? What are the best times to reach him or her in case you have follow-up questions when you're writing. An exchange of contact information often is helpful.

B. Finding a focus: Select the one thing you found most interesting about your subject in the preliminary interview. If you knew more about that one thing — say, his or her collection of giant wooden forks — could you write a whole story about it? That should be your goal. You may include secondary information along the way, fine, but stay focused on your objective: a feature story about a person who collects giant wooden forks (or whatever focus you choose for your subject). Develop questions you have (and that readers will have) about that focus.

C. Primary interview: Ask your questions. Take notes. Get quotes!

D. In a perfect world ... you would observe your subject in a setting that is relevant to your focus (say, the garage gallery with the giant forks, the workshop where he or she polishes them) and you would conduct interviews about your subject with other people in his or her life (e.g., coach, priest, parent, teacher, fork supplier). Your instructor may decide this step is beyond the goals of this assignment, but he or she knows well that one-source stories usually are stinkers to write and — even worse — to read.

E. Write your profile: Your story should contain the following elements:

Hook:An eye-catching introduction. The best ones contain concrete details and show-not-tell writing, showing your subject engaged in the activity that will be the focus of your story.
Billboard:Also called the "nut (para)graph"; a paragraph that works as the thesis statement for your story, explicitly stating your focus. It is often introduced explicitly or implicitly by a "one of many" transition.
Body:The development of the billboard in a series of related statements backed by quotes.
Wrap-up:A closing section that returns to your opening focus and addresses it in a fresh way. Your wrap-up should have a sense of conclusion.

Harrower, 1eOnline Learning Center

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