Skip to content

Photolisting narrative-writing tips and sample questions

A well-written public narrative makes the best impression possible while including only accurate information. Remember: public profiles are a place for truth, but not the whole truth.

Read more about writing children’s narrative in our guide Creating Effective Narratives for Children Waiting to Be Adopted.

Learn from others

One of the best ways to improve your skills is to seek out good examples and learn from them. Take a look at the narratives on the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange for examples of creatively written profiles, and see a few examples of well-written narratives we’ve gathered or modified.
If you have a colleague who does a good job writing narratives, ask them to review your work and provide feedback. You’ll learn as you see how your narratives are edited, and you’ll keep getting better and better.

Have a game plan

Make a list of the items you like and want to include in your narratives—details, stories, adjectives, quotes—and make a plan for how you can get them. Use and adapt the sample interview questions we provide to gather more information.

Keep it real—but positive

Think about ways you can reframe information to make it more positive and strengths-based. And if you can’t come up with positive reframing, leave it out.

Quick tip: Keep an eye out for the word “but”—it’s often a sign that something negative has or will be introduced. Rewriting with a positive spin and using the word “and” can make a powerful difference.

Mix it up!

Vary the structure and length of your sentences. Play around with ways to change your sentences so that each one doesn’t start with the child’s name.
Keep some sentences short and simple and have others with more detail and complexity.

Proofread and review

Whenever possible, have at least one person read the narrative to make sure everything is clear, communicates what you wanted it to say, and has enough detail to be interesting and generate emotion.

Try to view the narrative through the eyes of the featured child. Is it something they would be proud of? Would they feel it gives a sense of who they are and what’s important to them? Is there anything in the profile that a schoolmate might make fun of?

Add the details that will make a difference!

One of the best ways to improve a child’s narrative is to add details, adjectives, and quotes that present a strengths-based picture and emphasize the child’s personality and unique qualities.

Use the sample interview questions below to get information that makes a narrative come alive.

Questions to ask children and teens

What’s your favorite thing to do outdoors?

What do you like to do in your free time?

What activities do you participate in (choirs, plays, clubs)? What activities would like to try in the future?

Do you have a favorite author or book? What types of books do you like best?

What type of movies do you like? Is there a TV show you watch regularly?

What games (board, card, video, etc.) do you like to play?

Do you like to draw or do other arts and crafts? What are your favorite types and subjects?

What sports do you enjoy playing? Are there others you like to watch? Do you have a favorite team?

Do you sing, dance, or play an instrument?

Who are your favorite musicians or groups to listen to? Do you have a favorite song?

What is your favorite food? What was the best meal you ever had?

Do you cook or bake? What are your specialties?

What would you like people to know about you?

If you had three wishes, what would they be?

What makes you laugh? Who makes you laugh the most?

If you could visit any place on earth, where would you go? Why?

What do you do during vacations from school? What things would you like to do if you had the chance?

What school trips or vacations have you gone on and especially enjoyed? What places do you dream of visiting?

If the child has siblings: What do you like most about your brothers/sisters? What do you like to do when you’re together?

What are you really good at? What would you like to become really good at?

What are you most proud of? What is one thing you work very hard to do? (For example, learning to do a cartwheel or helping your sister with her homework.)
What do you like learning about (in school or out of school)?

What is your favorite class at school? Why?

Are you involved in clubs, community groups, religious, or other organizations? What do you like about them?

Are there ways you like to help others?

What holidays do you celebrate? What do you do for them? What’s your favorite?
What would you like to do or be when you grow up? Do you know anyone who has this job already?

Do you plan to go to college? What would you like to study?

Who are your friends and why do you like them?

What do you do when you are with your friends?

Who are the important people in your life that you want to stay connected to?

Who helps you when you have a problem? Is there someone you wish could be there to help you?

What do you like best about yourself?

What is your favorite thing about where you are living right now?

What are some things you think you might to do with an adoptive family? (For example, would they help with homework? What would you do together for fun?)

What is your dream day like?

Read more about writing children’s narratives in our guide, Creating Effective Narratives for Children Waiting to Be Adopted (1 MB PDF).