Feature basics • Personality profiles, stories of the unusual, sort of like non-fiction short stories. • Some of the most fun stories to do, yet also some of the most challenging. • Lots of decisions related to what to put in, how to organize the story, etc. • Feature writers find story topics by being curious and observant.
Types of features • Personality or profile – a story on an interesting person. • Quite popular, and used quite often. See these almost every day. • Every single person has something that is interesting about them and worthy of a feature story.
Historical and seasonal • Historical features – story done in remembrance of a milestone event.- Typically done on fifth, 10th, 25th, 50th, etc.- EX. 100 years since first traffic accident • Seasonal – features related to a holiday or annual event.- Haunted sites on campus
Adventure features • Describes unusual and exciting experiences.- Person who sailed around the world- Girl who had visited all 50 states by age 12 • Quotes and personal descriptions of the story’s subject are particularly important in this type of feature. Recreate the scenes and emotions through their words.
Explanatory features • Detailed look at organizations, activities, trends or ideas in the news. • Give people more insight into a current hot topic and help them interpret what is going on. • Current example – economic meltdown. Many stories on how did we get here, how can we get out, etc.
How to do it features • Describe how to do a certain task. • For example – build a deck, plant a garden, train a puppy. • In these stories, let the sources be the star. Let them explain things, describe how to do what the story topic is. • Don’t try to be too clever in your writing. Clear, concise, specific.
Unusual occupation or hobby • Stories about occupations that are dangerous, highly specialized, glamorous. Or hobbies of which the average person may be unaware. • Often involve colorful characters, people who are eccentric, quotable and entertaining. • EX. Free Press series on strange jobs. There’s a TV show on the same subject.
Personal experience • Reporter does something and then writes a story about what the experience was like. • EX. Skydiving, police academy, unusual illness. • Often written in first person. Reporter may blend first person with interviews from other participants to provide a more full report.
Behind the scenes feature • Take readers backstage for some event. • Police ride along, emergency room, late-night taxi ride along, concert backstage. • Stories need rich, detailed description. Can sometimes rely less on dialogue and quotes than some other features, more on description of what is seen, what sounds one hears. • Experience the event in the place of your viewers or readers – paint a picture.
Medical features • Unusual situation? Can make for an interesting or compelling human interest feature. EX. Pregnant woman who is a cancer survivor. • Illness, health stories are life and death stories – interesting to all, since we’ll all deal with these issues.
Business features • Highlight a particular person or aspect of commerce. • New businesses attract interest. Also, longtime businesses closing attract interest. • Can be good stories to pair with colorful graphics and informational charts in addition to photos, video.
Feature story basics • Structure – more creative, with a strong lead, good use of quotes, description, details. • Story moves easily from one paragraph to the next. • Keeps reader engaged. Even if it’s long, it doesn’t “feel” long. It’s compelling. • Nothing unnecessary included. Make sure everything you put in is important to the story and the central theme. If it’s not, leave it out.
The lead • Extremely important. If you blow it here, the rest of your hard work on the story may be pointless. • Describe a scene. Paint a picture in our minds with your words. • A compelling start. Think about movies. How do good movies start?
The body of the feature • Narrative structure. • Good features illustrate character and personality through details. Use specific, concrete examples. • Quotes to reveal character, give us a sense of what it is like to talk to the person, let us know some compelling information.
Other details • How does a person carry him or herself? Do they have any unusual habits? • Setting – what sorts of things do these people surround themselves with? EX. Behind the scenes in a high-stress work environment. What objects are there in their person workspaces? • Details can help your reader/viewer understand the subject better, provide context, makes a 3-D person.
And in the end … • Strong finish to give the reader or viewer a sense of completeness. We are “full.” • Anecdote, quote, revisit a key idea. • No summary statements. Stay away from opinion. • We’re not done yet …
Visuals, other elements • Pictures/video • Multimedia content. What can we put on our Web site to enhance the story?- In-depth examination of some aspect of the story.- An excerpt or look at the feature subject’s work, with a link to more in-depth stuff. • Go, do and purchase information. • What else?
Summary • Good feature writers are curious and observant. • Features allow the writer more freedom and creativity than some other types of stories. • Story has a strong lead, structure that keeps reader interested, strong details, compelling dialogue. Write “visual.” • What other types of content can I think of that will enhance this story online?