Unique Third Person POV Activity

Guesstimate: How much cash do you think you’re carrying? $______

Empty your pocketbook, tote bag, wallet.

man-with-big-bagFrom the third person point of view (he/she, his/her) write assumptions a stranger might make about the person who carries the items in that pocketbook, tote bag, wallet. For example, what would someone assume about the person’s:

  • Free time
  • Hobbies
  • Habits
  • Work
  • Family
  • Fears
  • Health
  • Values/morals
  • Worldview
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Idiosyncrasies

How much cash are you REALLY carrying? How close was your guess – within $5, $10…?

Now that you’ve considered the contents:

  1. What Bible verse, adage, popular title or idiom best describes your findings?
  2. What can you throw away right now?
  3. What surprised you?
  4. What do you want to stop carrying around?
  5. What do you want to start carrying with you?
  6. What do you hope to carry with you always?

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.


Turn Interviews into Wow-Worthy Articles

How to Write Interview-based Articles

 We’re picking up the interviewing process at the point where you have all your information together and you’re ready to write the article. Later in this blog, you’ll find a link to a magazine that consists soley of interviews, and a link to a video that reveals a “secret” method to construct wow-worthy personality profiles based on interviews.

In your article, depict body language, gestures, mannerisms and surroundings to portray a person. This example is from an article by Angela Lambert: “In a light-filled, graceful room tumbled with cushions, rugs and sofas, Doris Lessing is talking. Even though her conversation flits and strays there is – as there is in her writing – an immense concentration of energy in every word.”

To prevent articles from becoming impersonal, add personalizing details, even if (especially if) you never met the person face to face. How did the interviewee sound during phone conversation? “Helen’s voice spiraled angrily when she talked about milk-fed veal.” What has the interviewee done, seen, thought? “Dave gazed out his office window toward the capitol, most likely wondering, ‘Can I win the next election?'”

Before composing your article, study your targeted magazine for style preferences. Do published articles use past or present tense (said or says)? Does the magazine present people in a flattering or controversial vein? Do articles cover one view or several sides of an issue? What percent of each article contains quotations versus narrative? Who is the audience and how does that affect your article’s slant? Does the editor require written releases from interviewees? Model releases for photographs?

Read and learn from world-class writers whose articles based on interviews are published in Interview Magazine.

Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_AQuGgqCtc for a winning process to construct the article.


The Novel Ken’s War stands out for its appeal to young adult and adult readers, males and females. With a blend of restrained pathos and quiet humor, the tale follows a boy forced to live in Japan with his stern, pre-occupied father.

The novel by Beth Fowler is slated for publication later this year by Melange Books.

The Art of Interviewing by Cindy Kalinoski

Cindy Kalinoski

Cindy Kalinoski

Guest blogger Cindy Kalinoski edited the non-fiction book Leg Up The Courage to Dream, a 2013 Award-Winning Finalist of the USA Best Book Awards, sponsored by USA Book News. Cindy provides writing, editing, copywriting and proofreading services as The Word Helper. She also created. The English Makeover Cindy has written for National Geographic,  Dale Carnegie, YORK International, Penn State University, and Susquehanna Style magazine, among others.

The Art of Interviewing

Journalism—whether it’s for news or for a company piece—is about getting the real story. The story behind the story. What we writers call “back story”.  That, along with good writing, is what makes reading an article interesting…or not.

Suppose you are writing a profile about someone. How do you know what to ask? How do you find out what really drives him? How do you get her really talking? First, consider that the art of interviewing is about more than just the interview; it’s also about research. It’s about asking questions and listening and recording, but research will take you a long way toward an article people can’t put down.

So research your subject. Google her. Find out everything you can from the person who asked you to write the article. If your subject is less than forthcoming, tell her thank you and that you’ll call her back with more questions in a day or two and maybe a third time. She may become more responsive and will have thought about what she can share with you. Meanwhile, ask for the name of a friend or colleague and get some quotes about your subject from that person, and ask him or her what topics you should raise.

Next, you’ll want to generate questions, some of which will surface from your research. If he has done something extraordinary, like invented an app that made him millions, learn what you can online. If she has volunteered at a homeless shelter, look up the shelter and find out whether their rules make volunteering there challenging. Look at where the shelter is located and check out Google maps’ street view to see if she’s putting herself in danger every time she goes. Come up with some open-ended questions. Ask, for instance, what or who has influenced her. What are his favorite life experiences? What does she do when she gets off work?

This will lead naturally to passion. What really drives a profile article is communicating a person’s passion, and first you have to find out what it is. When you go after this, use different words. We’ve all heard people say, “It’s my passion”. Get creative. Ask if she thinks it’s her calling. Her purpose. Ask why he likes doing it. Prompt him to express it in new ways. That goes for every answer you get; try to encourage the person to say something quotable by rephrasing what they say and asking if that’s what they mean. Ask questions in fresh ways. If you’re lucky, you can feed her a quote and she’ll repeat it.

A note here about listening. Most of us—at least Americans—spend a lot of our time talking or at least me-too’ing when people talk. Resist this with every cell you have. If you insert your own experience, it can knock your subject off his train of thought and stop him from talking. You can insert little sounds of agreement, but do not steal the narrative.

Hand in hand with listening is recording. Don’t depend on your memory. Have a method of recording—heck, have two if possible. Use your cell phone’s voice recorder app, take notes by hand or bring your laptop (or slap some headphones on for a phone interview) and type like a fiend. Don’t worry about spelling, and throw punctuation out the office door. Just close your eyes and type as fast as your poor fingers can fly. Later you’ll be able to piece together what you typed. One advantage to this method is that you won’t have to transcribe your notes, and you’ll have great word-for-word quotes.

One final hint: don’t put your pen down (or stop typing) until you have actually hung up the phone or gotten in your car to leave. People tend to get more quotable when they think the interview is over. Don’t miss these gems.

You’ll get at the heart of the matter best by researching, listening, and asking compelling questions. Best of all, you’ll find that a good interview—or several—will make writing your profile a whole lot easier.

How to Interview Someone for an Article (Part 3 of 3)

Submitting the Manuscript

            Submit the manuscript with a cover letter reminding the editor he or she had expressed an interest in it, on-spec, based on your query. If the article was commissioned, mention that. On a separate page list each source’s name, position or job title, interview date(s), telephone number and email address.

Maintaining objectivity is an interviewer’s primary goal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always help writers win friends, but it does influence people. The minute the newspaper with my article about the previous night’s school board meeting hit the streets, the school principal called me. She objected to the way I had written my brief. Still disgruntled, she complained to my editor. He asked her, “Are the facts as reported correct?” “Yes, they are,” the principal admitted.

That saved me. The editor learned he could trust me to report the facts and that I didn’t succumb to real or perceived pressure.

We all appreciate articles brimming with facts, animated by interesting personalities. Conducting interviews can be your route to writing articles readers crave and editors buy.

If this blog was helpful, then “like” and share with other writers who want to get published.

“Follow” this blog to receive more articles for writers who like getting published.

Ken’s War, a YA novel by B.K. Fowler, is slated for publication in 2014 by Melange Books LLC www.melangebooks.com.

How to Interview Someone for an Article (Part 2)

Putting it all Together

            Organizing research and interview notes can seem daunting, plus it’s tempting to cram in as much data as possible into your article. Following a structure helped me condense facts and figures from four books, two essays, an interview and an outing with a falconer down to a 1000-word article.

In the first or second paragraph use a quote containing a surprising or unusual fact and another quote which captures the essence of the person or topic. Avoid opening with a quote because many magazines print the first letter of the first sentence in fancy fonts and colors. The first set of quotations marks become stylized, enlarged or lost.

Put the subject in context. What is so unusual about this person? What led up to this situation? What bearing does this have on readers? In other words, answer the readers’ unspoken question: So what?

Weave historical facts, background information, statistics and emotions and others’ views in with quotations. Develop a rhythm by alternating pro and con views, or present and past, or direct quotations with description.

Wrap-up with a quote summarizing the article’s theme and with another quote that looks to the future. An article by Annette Spahr in Apprise magazine begins, “Captain Kathryn E. Doutt sits at her desk rolling a glass ball.” The article ends, “Perhaps a crystal ball should be consulted.”

Not only does Spahr’s article end with a reference to the future, it also recalls the image of the crystal ball from the first paragraph. This creates a pleasing literary roundness.

As you write, you’ll decide which quotes to use and which to toss out. Use quotes that only the interviewee could have said. Any weight lifter might say, “I eat lots of protein.” Only the champion weight lifter said, “After I added 33% more lean protein to my diet, I won the regional completion.”

Let the subject’s voice show through. This means quoting their specialized vocabulary, idioms and even incomplete sentences. Your narrative will define unfamiliar jargon. Avoid preaching or moralizing (unless that is your job.) Let the subject’s quotations do that.

Vary repetitious he-said-she-saids with partial direct quotes, as in, Mary described herself as an “optimistic fatalist.” Summarize the conversation: Carlos reviewed his plans for reorganizing the department.

Calling interviewees to verify what they said is standard. When possible, verify information with a second source. If Joe said his dad opened the first hotel in Craver County, check county records.

___ ___ ___

“Follow” to receive more helpful articles written for writers who like getting published. To meet characters a reviewer described as “so real you can actually sense their presence,” get the eco-thriller The Universal Solvent at Amazon.com or at www.xlibris.com.

It’s too soon to say much, but next year you’ll have a chance to get your hands on a good novel and donate to a worthy cause at the same time.