Feature Writing Compiled by Dianne Smith, MJE Alief Hastings High School Houston, Texas
Objectives • The learner will be able to: • Describe the special characteristics of a feature story. • List ideas that could be developed into a feature story. • Explain the importance of organization in the writing process • Write a polished feature story for publication.
Key Terms Feature Sidebar News peg Profile Hook Focusing Structure Persona Tone
What is feature writing? Think of the feature story as a news story written like a piece of short fiction. You must combine the rigors of factual reporting with the creative freedom of short-story writing. The feature story’s form must be more fluid than that of a news story; the inverted pyramid style won’t work here because the story needs a definite beginning, middle and end. The readers won’t be able to scan a few paragraphs; they will have to read the whole story to understand it.
A feature story is a prominent news story written like a piece of short fiction. The story is usually not related to a current event, but it could be.
Feature stories place a greater emphasis on facts that have human interest. Features put people in the story; they make the reader think and care. You can write a feature story about anyone if you find an unusual angle that captures the interest of your readers.
Generally feature stories are of two types: • News features, which are usually written as a follow-up or as a sidebar story that is linked to a breaking news event • Timeless story, which does not have to be used immediately. The information in this story will be just as relevant if saved for a future issue
A sidebar is an article that accompanies and appears beside the main news story. Additionally, many features are develped around what is called a news peg. A news peg is the relationship of a feature to, or how a feature is pegged on, something in the news.
In either type of feature story, good reporting is essential. You collect as many details as possible. You describe people, settings and feelings, the elements of storytelling. When all the details are added together, the reader is placed in the scene you are describing.
Finding Subjects that Matter There are no restrictions on subject matter. You are limited only by your imagination. Often a feature story is a simple story about a common person in an uncommon circumstance. The feature’s job is to find a fresh angle—to find the story behind the person.
Topics that deal with the ordinary Foreign exchange students Eating disorders Part-time jobs Unusual hobbies Teacher features Favorite movies Favorite celebrities Fast-food restaurants Fashion trends Top Ten Lists
Offbeat feature story ideas Talk radio Weird cravings The truth about goat cheese The best books not to read Cell phones Coincidences Psychotherapy Tattoos, body piercings Individualism Stupid human tricks Crazy answering machine messages
Profiles One of the more popular types of feature story is the profile. A profile is a short, vivid character sketch. Too many profiles turn into a tedious recounting of biographical facts or are unrelated anecdotes sandwiched between quotations. A good profile includes impressions, explanations and points of view. It should emphasize what is unique about the person. You can use a flashback technique or highlight the individual’s many roles.
The Lead The beginning of the story must pull the reader in. The first sentence must make the reader want to read the second sentence. The lead may or may not contain a hook, a detail that draws in the reader’s attention.
Some good feature leads include: Narrative Descriptive Striking statement Punch or astonisher
As you prepare for your feature story, you will gather a large amount of information through interviews and background research. Before you begin writing, you will focus on the main idea you want to get across, and organize your information, eliminating that which does not go along with your focus. Focusing is narrowing your topic—reducing a large amount of informaton to a usable amount.
Structure After you have written the lead, you need a structure in which to place the information. A structure is an organizational pattern the writer uses to synthesize, that is to establish relationships between relevant pieces of information.
The structure that the “Bare Facts” uses is: Lead Quote (Use your most dynamic quote here) Transition or fact Quote Transition Quote Transition Quote
Continue alternating quotes and transitions all the way through the story. End your story on the second best quote you have, to leave your reader with something to think about.
Finding the right voice You have many voices. You speak to your friends differently than you do your parents or your teachers. If you have a job, you have a voice for your boss. When you write a story, you take on a persona, or character. You must choose a voice that best imparts the information in that story. The choice you make becomes the tone, or mood of the story, and it should always match the content. For instance, you would not use humor to write about a tragic auto accident.