Feature stories – more fun than writing straight news!
News stories and feature stories may appear in the same publication, but they serve far different purposes. The lead in a news story reveals everything important about the story right up front; whereas a feature story lead invites the reader into the story without revealing all of the main points.
A feature consistently doles out important and interesting facts and details throughout its course and finishes with a compelling conclusion. As you may know, the news story has an inverted pyramid structure, reporting the least important details at the end with no real conclusion.
Journalists write feature stories to entertain while also informing the reader. Many times features expound and highlight an engaging topic touched upon in a straight news story. For instance, a news story might summarize the events and results of a town hall meeting. A feature might highlight reactions of people present at the meeting, or the reactions of a certain individual who held sway during the proceedings.
Writing a Feature Story
A feature writer has many options when deciding upon the story topic and the angle from which he’ll write the piece. While a straight news journalist must stay entirely within the facts of a story, a feature writer can create a related, but more inventive and creative story by popping in and around the primary group of facts. He can write in a reflective way about the events and facts associated with a straight news story, or can explore and research new avenues and come up with a truly original piece.
You can find an unlimited number of engaging ideas for features simply by keeping yourself updated on current events in the mainstream news. Your biggest difficulty will involve presenting your story in such a way that it invites readers in and keeps them engaged until the conclusion. Ultimately, how well your readers receive your story depends upon the groundwork you lay during this prewriting process and your willingness to fully develop and research the piece while incorporating an imaginative edge.
Developing a plan
Of course, you’ve got to start with a good idea in the first place, but developing the angle from which you’ll approach this idea is equally, if not more, important. The angle represents the writer’s specific approach to the story. If another journalist previously published a piece on the same topic, perhaps you will decide to write a story that views the topic from a different and unique angle. Readers like to see stories presented from a variety of viewpoints.
For example, you may choose to write a feature about equipment by participating athletes in a state-level triathlon event, held locally. You could offer your readers a detailed look at the different types of racing bikes, or competition attire used by athletes at the event. This angle will appeal to a wide variety of readers and not just those who enjoy reading about high-level athletic competitions. In addition, this angle would help you narrow your focus to one aspect of the triathlon.
Like all the types of stories out there, your feature story must compete for and grab the reader’s attention. To make your feature stand out in the sea of choices, you must come up with an attention grabbing, creative headline and lead. Miss the mark on this, and readers will likely pass over your story for one with a more effective hook.
Writing the first draft
After coming up with an original, imaginative lead, you can then begin writing the first draft. Bring the reader into the world of your story by including colorful details, interesting quotes, and your own original ideas. Use colorful wording and imaginative concepts throughout, but guard against becoming cute. Cute won’t make the cut for a wide audience appeal.
Though much different than a straight news story, feature stories must also enlighten and inform the reading audience. If you can, include a couple of anecdotes within the body of the feature – something humorous or amusing.
Your conclusion should provide a definite end to your story. For serious features, you could include a wording to emphasize your story’s significance. For light-hearted feature stories, you can conclude with a humorous parting statement. Regardless of whether you’ve written a serious, hard-hitting feature or a light, amusing piece, make certain your conclusion wraps it all up and leaves no loose ends. Strong closings keep readers thinking long after they’ve finished reading.
Revise and edit
Don’t think of your copy editor as your personal feature stylist and cleaning person. Check your draft for spelling errors, poor word choice, and problems with mechanics before submitting it for review. Look over your headline, leads, and conclusion to verify that they all align with the focus and angle of your story.
Show Your Pro Colors
All journalists, whether writing a straight new story, feature story or something else, have a responsibility to ensure the story is accurate and treats all involved fairly. Make certain it offers real benefit and value to your readers – value that outweighs any potential damage it could cause.
Now get out there and WRITE!
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