Writing feature stories is one of the most interesting jobs on a newspaper. Features include everything from interviews with celebrities to stories and columns about entertainment, hobbies, leisure, special events and cultural activities.
Features often are called “human-interest stories.” They are usually people-oriented and provide a relief from the sometimes disturbing “breaking news.”
Features can be written in different styles. Sometimes, they have offbeat “leads” that are meant to draw in readers. Classic leads are an art form of journalism.The first time human beings landed on the moon in 1969, millions watched the spaceship on television for hours, waiting for the astronauts to get into their spacesuits before emerging. The lead on a news service story read:“The whole world waited while they dressed to go out.”
Of course, the basic rules of good journalism that apply to news stories also apply to feature stories.They must be fair and accurate. They also need to answer the basic questions of all journalism:
1. Who is involved?
2. What happened?
3. When did it happen?
4. Where did it take place?
5. Why is this newsworthy? Why is it important or interesting?
6. How did it happen? How will it affect a reader?
Like other reporters, good feature reporters tend to be people with a curiosity about life.They are sincerely interested in what other people are doing and what they have to say. They have to be good listeners who can take notes or record interviews so they can quote people correctly. Like other reporters, feature writers often study courses like journalism and liberal arts in college. Almost all journalists advise students to get experience by working on their school or college newspaper and volunteering or interning at a local newspaper office or a radio or TV station.
Study the Pros
Feature stories are often defined by what they are not.They are not breaking news, they are not editorials and they are not reviews.They are timely and interesting stories that are relevant to readers’ lives.
1. Analyzing Feature Stories
- Select a headline from a feature story in the newspaper. Do not read the story.
- Write 10 questions that you would expect to have answered in the story.
- Read the story.Write the answers to your questions.
- If any of your questions were not answered, where could you look to find the answers? Be specific.
- Why do you think this story is running now?
- What readers would find this story important in their lives? Why?
2. Creating Interest
- Select and read a feature story that is interesting to you.
- Examine the opening sentences of the story. How did the writer get your attention?
- Make a list of the words or phrases the writer used to describe the person, item or event featured in the story.
- Look at the ending of the story. What did the writer use to create an effective closing?
Writer’s Planning Sheet
A good feature writer uses descriptive words and many details so readers will want to know more about the subject of the story. Use this planning sheet to prepare your feature story:
1. Identify the person, item or event you will write about.
2. List at least seven descriptive words you will use in the story.
3. List interesting quotes from the person or people involved in the story.
4. List five interesting pieces of information about the subject ranking them from most to least important.
5. Write an introduction that will get the reader’s attention.
6. Finish your story. Be sure your ending makes a connection to your readers.