How To Write a Feature Story

Popular content of print, electronic and Internet media
Misty yellow flower
What Are Feature Stories? While journalists reporting late-breaking hard news don't have enough preparation time and copy length to include much background and description, writers of features have the space and time to evoke imagery in their stories and fill in details of the circumstances and atmosphere. Typical types

There are many kinds of feature stories. Here are some popular types: Non-fiction stories

Feature stories are journalistic reports. They are not opinion essays or editorials. They should not be confused with creative writing or works of fiction. Telling stories

Hard news stories report very timely events that have just occurred. Feature stories, on the other hand, are soft news because they are not as timely, not as swiftly reported. Feature writers have the extra time to complete background research, interviews and observation for their stories.

Here are some suggestions for polishing feature writing skills and developing an eye for feature story ideas. Gathering data

Journalists use three tools to gather information for stories: observation, interview and background research.

After completing these, the writer brings the story to life through colorful description, meaningful anecdotes and significant quotes. Story format

The information in a feature is organized differently from hard news stories. Sometimes a writer uses several paragraphs of copy at the outset to engage the reader before getting on with the main elements of the story.

After the title and opening paragraph grab a reader, narrative hooks are used to persuade the reader to continue reading. These hooks are attractive story elements such as action, mystery, drama or appealing characters intended to pull the reader forward through the story. They are complex narratives that come to life through colorful description, meaningful anecdotes and significant quotes. A writer can choose to tell the story out of order to engage the reader's interest. As with any news reporting, feature stories are subject to the journalistic standards of accuracy, fairness and precision. The quality of a story is judged on its content, organization and mechanics.

Features writers use The Associated Press Stylebook for correct journalistic style.

How long are these articles? Illustrations

Every story is illustrated, usually with one or more photographs, but the art can be drawings, paintings, sketches, video or machinima, colorful graphs and charts, or other creative expressions depending on the medium for which the feature is packaged for dissemination.

Is this just for print journalists?

As newspapers and other print media face stiffer competition today from Internet news media, more feature stories are published because they can be more engaging to read. Wire services, such as the Associated Press and reuters, which once distributed mostly hard news, now send feature stories to members.

Public relations professionals frequently write feature articles. For instance, a company newsletter story profiling employees voluntarily helping the local community could benefit employees and their families as well as the firm's stockholders. Or a profile of a corporate CEO could be released to media when the firm makes news.

Broadcast journalists use human interest stories, profiles, historical pieces, seasonal packages, behind the scenes revelations and even how-to descriptions. These can be seen and heard everywhere in television and radio news.

A typical television news package includes an edited set of video clips for a story narrated by a reporter following a written script. Unlike a magazine article, for example, the TV feature story also will have audio, video, graphics and video effects. A news anchor with an over-the-shoulder graphic will be seen reading a lead-in introduction before the package is aired and concluding the story with additional information called a tag.

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© 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke    910.521.6616    e-mail    home page
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