Profile

From our first narrative effect project, the flash memoir, we now move to the profile (the second narrative effect project). This page will help you understand the nature of profiles and some of the requirements for the project, but you will learn more about this project as you draft, receive feedback, and revise it over the next few weeks.

The Occasion, Audience, and Goals

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In your second major composing project for this class you’ll be creating a profile–a genre of narrative and informative writing that describes and narrates a person’s experience in a focused way, providing a snapshot or portrait of their life with a particular interpretive angle and for a particular occasion.

Profiles use narrative strategies such as description, dialogue, and scene setting; but profiles also typically use sources—often comments that others have made about the profile subject, or background research on issues or projects related to the profile subject. Successful profiles use both storytelling AND information-sharing to illuminate their subject and communicate something meaningful about their issue.

Profiles seek to engage the reader, absorbing the reader with a vivid portrait of a subject—a person—who has matters because of his or her involvement in what’s new or relevant at the moment (or in your case-your local social issue). As the writer of your profile, one of your priorities will be to help the reader see why your portrait and story of this particular local person is meaningful, and why it is meaningful right now when it comes to understanding your local social issue.

Your profile subject should be a local person of your choosing, someone who’s working on, experiencing, or connected to your issue locally in some substantive way. Local experience, local news, and local organizations can inform your choice. Your profile’s subject can be a friend or family member, someone you’ve read about in local news, or an employee/volunteer/client of a local organization you’ve identified as connected to your issue, in addition to anyone else whose connection to your issue is significant or interesting.

Take some time to consider who might be a strong subject for your profile. (It’s probably the most important choice you’ll make for this project) While someone directly connected to your issue might be the most straightforward choice, you could also choose somebody with strong opinions on your issue–someone who can speak about your issue at some length and provide you with material to work with.

Here are some basics on finding someone to focus on (your profiles subject) and conducting interviews. Consider bookmarking this resource to use later!

Text + image drafts should be about 1,200 words (this could be a word-processed document or a web text published on a page of your Wix or Weebly site). You should make graphics and other images yourself. You should only use someone else’s images if absolutely need to. Check with your instructor of record and be sure to credit the image.
Plan to make substantive use of 5-7 sources in this project. Document your sources in such a way that a reader would be able to trace back, find, and examine them. This includes some form of in-text citation for every source, and some form of works cited or references section at the end. MLA

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and APA
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are two academic citation systems you can use if you want to follow a specific guide. Regardless of the citation system you choose, use consistent citation throughout your project and make sure you do not include a list of pasted URLs at the end of your document. If you need more help with citation, check this resource
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provides a basic overview for text-based citations, which can be adapted for multimodal projects.
Try This Out

Try beginning your profile draft with a richly detailed scene, where the profile subject is actively engaged in doing something related to the local issue you’re researching. Give us descriptive details of time and place. Show the profile subject doing something that isn’t particularly focused on the writer/interviewer. Aim to let the reader really see the profile subject, before doing any explaining or set up. Narratives often seek to immerse the reader in a story-world—beginning with a scene is one way to engage the reader without a lot of ‘In this profile I aim to…’ introductory throat-clearing. A well-framed narrative—even just one or two paragraphs at the beginning—arrests the reader with the pleasures of narrative, a much more inviting beginning. Here’s an example:

Mr. Finley’s two-story house in South Los Angeles used to be headquarters for a swimming school but the pool was drained long ago to make way for greener dreams. Potted cactuses, bags of organic fertilizer and gardening equipment cluttered the shallow end. Graffiti emblazoned its once-white walls. Old shopping carts planted with succulents lined the pool’s edge. (from “Urban Gardening: Appleseed with an Attitude” by David Hochman)

Try This, Too

Profiles often zoom in, like a camera, for a closeup: a closeup of the person, through words, actions, description; or a closeup of a scene, through setting, description, time and place markers. But they also step back, giving background, context, other perspectives, and so on. Think of this, again, as a kind of camera move—zooming back out, to show the larger landscape into which the profile subject fits. Try making the zoom in/zoom out dynamic one of the structural moves of your profile. Try the closeup/step back two-step at least a couple of times. Bonus: the zoom out/step back is a perfect opportunity for you to use your research. Here’s another example from same source as above:

His gardens have spirals, color, fragrance and curves, and, to him, soil is sensuous. “How much more sexy can it get than you eating food that you grew?” Mr. Finley asked.

In a city where an elite few fuss over $13 plates of escarole wedges, too many others eat at 98-cent stores and drive-throughs or go hungry altogether. Mr. Finley estimates that the City of Los Angeles owns 26 square miles of vacant lots, an area equivalent to 20 Central Parks, with enough space for 724,838,400 tomato plants.

His radical fix is to take back that land and plant it, even if it’s the skinny strip between concrete and curb. (from “Urban Gardening: Appleseed with an Attitude” by David Hochman)

And here’s another example from a previous semester’s student in this class:

The representative at Section 8 housing told Kaitlynn the wait for housing would be about two years – there were 78 other families who were already on the wait list. “It felt like everywhere I turned, I just ran into another closed door,” Kaitlynn said. The wait was excruciatingly long. According to Affordable Housing Online and the Utah Housing Authority, the average person, once approved for Section 8 housing, will spend 25 months
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on a wait list. That’s a long time to wait, especially when you’re risking homelessness.

It’s not just renters like Kaitlynn looking for low-income housing who are struggling to find a place to live. Utahns everywhere are scrambling to keep a roof over their heads in the midst of the affordable housing crisis. Rent is high, income is low, and people are flooding into the valley from all over the country. Since 2012, the number of households in Utah has increased by over 160,000 people, but the number of available housing units has only gone up by around 111,000
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, leaving almost 50,000 families with nowhere to go. (from “A Families Story” by Kimberly Webb
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)

The examples above come from text-based profiles, but they could easily be adapted for different mediums. In an upcoming discussion you’ll have the chance to explore profiles in other mediums, many of which use these same techniques to connect with their audience.

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