February 9, 2016

Eight Effective Feature Story Leads – Journalist Juice

journalist leads

Great leads make the difference between adequate and amazing.

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my journalist juice here on Freelance Writing Dreams, so I thought you might like some tips on how to write effective feature story leads. Typically, straight news stories use summary leads, but you’ll want to craft a catchier, more enticing lead for your feature story.

Come up with original, inventive leads to keep your reader engaged in the feature. How do you accomplish that? Practice. Before too long, you’ll write innovative openings for your feature stories like a pro journalist.

Exercise your lead creating muscle by writing an example for each type of lead below. For instructional purposes, let’s assume the feature story is about the Paleo diet – a nutritional lifestyle that has taken hold of the health and fitness community.

Check out these types of original leads to get started:

  1. Quick burst lead – This lead contains a series of terse, direct statements, much like a how-to article: Start with lean proteins. Add antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Get healthy fats from nuts, seeds, fish oil, and grass-fed beef. These are the basics of the Paleo diet – the healthiest way to eat.
  2. Surprise lead – This lead includes an element of surprise: New, compelling evidence shows that cutting saturated fats may actually hurt heart health rather than protect it.
  3. Contrast lead – This type of lead makes a point by opening with differences or opposites: Crash dieters achieve a rapid, yet fleeting change; while Paleo dieters get a quick, lasting change with increased health and energy.
  4. Figurative lead – Use a figure of speech when opening with this lead: The benefits of the Paleo diet present a holy grail that’s eluded nutritionists for decades.
  5. Allusion lead – With this lead, you open your story with a reference to classic literature: She has sent her here to be healed, even as the Jews of old sent their diseased to the troubled pool of Bethesda. Following the Paleo nutrition plan has healed many of symptoms of metabolic syndrome – a multi-pronged disease. (Literary reference: Jane Eyre, 1947, Charlotte Brontë)
  6. Expert lead – Open with a quote from an expert: According to Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Answer, “People lose body fat, gain muscle, strength and endurance, while virtually all indices of health improve.”
  7. Suspense lead – This lead technique uses an open-ended beginning: Peyton Clark had serious doubts about any nutritional plan – especially one with precepts that departed so markedly from traditional diet plans. She needed something that worked, not another fad.
  8. Question lead – Have you been looking for a nutrition plan that’s both easy to implement and provides rapid, lasting results?

Come up with your own feature topic and story angle. Then try crafting inventive opening leads using these techniques. With practice, you’ll transform your openings, leading the reader into the topic with expert skill – like a pro journalist.

My next installment will address the types of feature stories used in both digital and print media. Booyah!

Sparkle with us: Please share your thoughts and even your sparkly, innovative leads in the comments below.

About Samantha Gluck

Not only am I the chief editor of this multi-author online magazine, I'm a content creator and social media marketing strategist with a background in journalism, finance, & healthcare. I began my content marketing agency, All Media Freelance, LLC, in 2010 and lead a well-rounded, talented team of multi-channel content strategists and niche writers. I've developed and managed print and digital content projects for health care, fitness, financial services, mental health, non-profit, and automotive publishers, as well as for biotechnology brands.


  1. Thanks for these great leads and the information on the Paleo Diet. I haven’t heard of this one and will check it out.

    • I’m glad you liked the lead techniques, Amandah. I use each and every technique when writing my feature stories for the various print (and some digital) publications for which I’m a regular contributor. About Paleo: I love the Paleo lifestyle. It’s really a misnomer to call it a diet as that term is commonly understood. It’s really a nutritional lifestyle plan and when followed judiciously, it can and will change your life.

  2. This is great! Lately I’d been wanting this advise for the articles I’m writing on Hub Pages.
    Blessings! Hope you’re doing well!
    Columba Lisa Smith recently posted..The Message of the WhaleMy Profile

    • Hi Lisa! I’ve been thinking about you lately. I think it must be Providence that you stopped by my site and shared your sweet thoughts. I didn’t know you were writing for Hub Pages. Please, leave a link so I can check out your articles. Writing effective leads takes practice and so does learning which techniques work best for certain topics and reading audiences, but if you practice, it will truly transform your writing and how readers perceive your writing authority. XO

  3. Thanks for the refresher Samantha. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a journalism class, so I appreciate the help.
    Wade Finnegan recently posted..Should I Hire a Professional Writer?My Profile

  4. *I tried posting this as a reply – not sure where it went. Sorry if I repeated myself!*

    Thanks so much for asking, Samantha! Here’s my URL: http://collisa.hubpages.com/
    I’ve dabbled with Hub Pages for the past couple years, but just recently decided to put more effort into it. It’s a lot of fun, and I hope to build it during the coming months.
    Hubs – I mean, hugs! ; )
    Columba Lisa Smith recently posted..The Message of the WhaleMy Profile

  5. Incredible. I was just now looking at a new tweep’s Twitter stream and he mentioned the Paleo diet. I’d never heard of it, and then I came here and you had just the link to satisfy my curiosity! What a cowinky-dink!

    And thank you for these leads–into my Evernote swipe file they go!
    Shakirah Dawud recently posted..Personality Doesn’t Just Mean SnarkMy Profile

    • I’m glad you found the dual purpose post helpful. I’ve been a Crossfit enthusiast (Crossfit goes with Paleo) for about 9 months now, but just started the Paleo nutrition lifestyle in earnest a month or so ago. I dabbled in it before. I don’t need to lose weight (on the contrary), but it’s not about that – it’s about lifestyle change and health. A great side effect for those who need it is fat/weight loss.

      So, my leads worked! They got you even more excited about Paleo. #likeaboss

  6. Interesting post. Paleo is definitely a good topic to write about!
    Paleo Suz recently posted..319 Paleo Foods – The Definitive Paleo Food ListMy Profile

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