Choose a Character

What famous character or action hero do you want to be?

To help with crafting a good About page, do this fun thought experiment: Vote in the Week 3 poll—and feel free to comment about the characters (fictional or real) you’d like to emulate.

Keep in mind what you want (and need) to promote about yourself in a public venue. For instance, I may have wanted to be Patti Smith or another female rocker when I was a teenager, but that’s not who I am in my professional life. There, I lean toward real-life characters such as Joan Didion or Anna Wintour—or Miranda Hobbes in Sex in the City—or Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery.

By the way: In a 2019 profile of Vice President Kamala Harris in the New York Times, a colleague referred to her as “fierce…the 1999 version of Olivia Pope” in Scandal. Do you think this was a problem for Harris in her failed campaign to be a presidential candidate?

Okay, I enjoyed choosing a character—but how do I turn that into a story about myself?

This is where choosing the right details comes in. There are many ways to craft a personal description for an About page, but start by thinking of it as an action-packed, 200-word “story of my life.” You don’t need to use the following formula, but if you’re feeling stuck, give it a try.

Be an Action Hero
Your Story in Three Paragraphs

(1) I love to...

…do what? Leap tall buildings? Solve gnarly software problems? Cook fabulous 20-minute meals? Make a crying baby smile?

Use active verbs, such as leap, solve, cook, make.

(2) Here’s why I love to do what I do…

Tell a funny story from your childhood, include a quote from a friend, describe a mistake you made that pushed you in a new direction.

One vivid example conveys more than a list of accomplishments.

(3) Here’s what I’ll do for you…

How—exactly—will you help users/readers of this website? Will you organize their lives (or at least their financial systems)? Write killer copy that helps a brand go viral?

Action heroes don’t talk in abstracts—they show what they can do.

Image: Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) and William Shatner (Captain Kirk), Star Trek, 1968; public domain (from a press release).


Martha Nichols

Martha Nichols is a faculty instructor in the journalism program at the Harvard Extension School. She’s also the co-founder and editor of Talking Writing, a digital magazine and nonprofit organization based in the Boston area. She’s published work in Utne Reader, Harvard Business Review, Christian Science Monitor, and many other outlets—and recently edited the anthology Into Sanity: Essays About Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Living in Between (Talking Writing Books, 2019).

Vote - how much star power?

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