How to Write a Feature Article


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How to Write a Feature Article

  1. 1. How To Write a Feature ArticleFormulating IdeasHaving a good idea, and having lots of good ideas is difficult, but awriter has to rely on a constant stream of good ideas, which theygenerate themselves. A good tip is to keep ideas jotted down onpostcards, filed away for future use, so that the cupboard is neverbare.Collecting and Filing CuttingsOne way of generating ideas is to constantly scan sources -magazines, papers, journals - for the germ of an idea. Anything youcome across can be filed away for future use.Subject ResearchOnce you have a clear idea of what you are going to write then, andonly then, do you start the legwork. This may take the form at first ofbackground research and reading. Whether you use all the materialyou find or not, it may help to lead you to other sources or to potentialinterviewees.InterviewingMost articles will carry some interview material. It is this which makesthe article fresh and live, and which gives it authenticity. Too manywriters see features as a platform for their own opinions. The very bestarticles listen to others talking.Writing, Drafting and EditingThe process of drafting and polishing your article is a very personalone. Some people say they never plan first, some never rewrite, othersdo both. The computer has made it much easier to do planning,writing and editing all in one. But make no mistake - editing,sharpening, polishing your article, however you do it, is a veryimportant stage. Feature Articles by Lizzie R. SantosThere are many types of feature articles. Here are some of them.Informative FeaturesPerhaps the most written, an informative feature presentsinformation. It can include figures, graphs, charts, photos and anyother valuable source/s of information related to the topic beingwritten about. An informative feature article may be written in a 1
  2. 2. serious as well as a light tone. The writer can make use of speciallanguage (jargon) depending on his target readers. Examples ofinformative features are: an article on the latest findings about humancloning, an article about the results of a survey conducted on aparticular topic, a piece on how to organize a stress-free party.How-To FeaturesThis is another common type of feature article. It is a practical guideto doing something or achieving a goal. This type is best written in alight tone for easier understanding. It should be direct to the pointand written in easy-to-understand language. Examples include: Howto hurdle your first job interview, one week to quit smoking, quicktricks to earn extra cash.Entertainment FeaturesMore commonly written in a light tone, this type aims to entertain; toprovide comic relief. Entertainment pieces are great space fillers andare usually shorter than the informative pieces. It may be writtenusing a first person point-of-view. It can be satirical in tone. Someexamples are: Wacky ways to meet your possible better half, a satireon the political candidates running for a forthcoming election, howyou trained your lazy cat to hunt for mice.Human Interest FeaturesThis type targets the emotions of the readers. The subject matter issimple but the writer elicits reaction from the readers through the useof language, tone and style. Examples are: a feature article on anadopted child’s colorful journey to trace his biological parents, how apoverty-stricken family started a community project that changed thelives of the whole neighborhood, a day in a shelter for the elderly.News Supplemental FeaturesAs the name states, this type of feature article supplements a newsitem. It should merely enhance and complement but not replace anews item. News supplementals stem from news articles. Examplesare: a piece on how to detect a terrorist to supplement a news itemabout the latest terrorist attack, a supplement on the first successfulheart transplant to complement a news item about the latest findingson heart surgery.Seasonal FeaturesThis type is dependent on the season. Examples are: an article onchoosing budget-friendly gifts for Christmas season, Halloweensurprises for kids, Valentine’s on a budget.Personal Account FeaturesThis type talks about a particular or unusual experience orachievement of the writer or somebody else as narrated to him. It isbest written using a first person point-of-view by the person who 2
  3. 3. actually had the experience. Examples are: a piece on the writer’sunusual collection, how the writer survived a natural calamity, acancer survivor’s account focusing on her spiritual transformation.Personality SketchesAlso known as the "Profile," this type of feature article brings out thesubject matter’s distinct personality. It may be written in either aserious or light tone. While the personal account deals with anachievement or an experience of the subject, the personality sketchfocuses on the person himself. Examples are: A celebrity as anordinary parent, most cover stories of magazines, a write-up on a CEOcelebrating his 90th birthday.Interview PiecesInterviews are conducted for different reasons. The writer mayinterview a person who is an authority on a subject matter to getinformation from him. An interview may be conducted to clarify anissue or even just to find out more about the interviewee himself as anindividual. Thus, there are different kinds of interview articlesdepending on why an interview was conducted. Examples are: Aninterview piece on somebody who served as a celebrity’s bodyguardfocusing on his experiences with the celebrity, an interview on thecelebrity himself focusing on his latest project.Historical FeaturesThis type focuses on a historical event. The writer should ensure thatthe facts and figures he presents are accurate. Examples are: a pieceon the September 11 World Trade Center bombing, an research pieceon the atomic bombing of Japan during the second world war, afeature article on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.TraveloguesUsually written as advertorials, travelogues focus on destinations.Travelogues are best written using descriptive language to make thedestination come alive in the readers’ minds. Examples are: Featurearticles on mountain resorts, shrines and other tourist attractions.Interpretative FeaturesThis kind of feature is a writer’s interpretation of or opinion on a topicthat may be social, economic, political, and controversial or evenordinary but relevant issue. Examples are: a writer’s opinion on pre-marital sex, a writer’s evaluation of a movie, an opinion piece on acontroversial bill being passed in congress.Feature articles may fall under one, two or even more categories. Forinstance, a comic piece on different techniques to find an instant datefor Valentine’s Day may be considered as a practical how-to, aseasonal article, an entertaining piece and a personal account all inone. Now, isn’t that so much fun -- and challenging -- to write? 3
  4. 4. Opening a Feature ArticleA new writer often finds himself in a dilemma: "How should I start myfeature article?" Sure, he has a clear idea of what he wants to writeabout. He has decided that he will write an entertaining feature formarried couples. He wants to write it in a very light tone so that it willbe easy to read, will entertain the readers at the same time that it willimpart knowledge. But how shall he start? There are different ways tostart a feature article. The lead (the first sentence or paragraph; alsocalled "introduction") is an important part to consider. Aside from acatchy title, the lead will either hook the readers to continue readingthe article or turn the page to another piece.Question LeadA question (it can be a series of questions) that is related to the maintopic of the article is used to arouse the readers’ interest in the piece.Example:What really happened to the Titanic? What untold stories remainburied with the Titanic?(Lead for a feature article on the Titanic)Direct Address LeadA question or a sentence is addressed to the reader as if the writerwere directly talking to him to encourage him to read and react to thewhole article.Example:Are you losing sleep over uncollected debts? It’s time you collect!(Lead for a piece about collecting payments)News Summary LeadThe article begins with a brief recount of a news item.Example:For six agonizing minutes on July 16 1991, a horrifying 7.5magnitude earthquake shook the mountain city of Baguio,Philippines.(Lead for a personal account of a survivor of that earthquake)Incident LeadThis lead cites an incident to introduce the topic of the article. Theincident may be real or fictitious, unlike the news summary leadwhich should be factual.Example:Susan watched in horror as her four-year old son dashed to the streetafter his rubber ball. In an instant, everything was over! Her son lay ina pool of blood!(Lead for a piece on child safety tips) 4
  5. 5. Sentence LeadA sentence or series of sentences introduces the topic of the article.Example:If garlic is "Nature’s Antibiotic," then onion is "The Third Ingredient."(Lead for a feature on the medicinal uses of onion and garlic)Historical or Literary Allusion LeadAn allusion is made to a historical event or literary phrase to arousecuriosity on the content of the piece.Example:If a face can launch a thousand ships, then a loving wife can make athousand ships sail for home.(Lead for an article on keeping a husband satisfied)Question LeadA quotation is used to introduce the topic or arouse the interest of thereader. The person quoted may or may not be a celebrity, although acelebrity’s words have of course, more weight.Example:"Why me?"(A simple street vendor asks the writer when he is informed that hewill be interviewed for a human interest feature. His question wasused by the writer to start his piece.)Descriptive LeadThis type of lead uses vivid description to hook the reader to finish thearticle. This type is best used for travelogues and personalitysketches.Example:The chapel is like no other. Paintings of angels come alive from themajestic ceiling. The stained windows look like rainbows against themorning sunlight. To the left are statues of saints. They seem so real,you can almost feel them breathing.Punch LeadA short sentence that is set apart as a paragraph. It is dramatic wayto introduce the topic of the article.Example:Let God and let go!(Lead for a piece about faith)Staccato LeadThis type uses a series of phrases or sentences that produce arhythm. It is another dramatic way of introducing the topic of thefeature article.Example:Call it infatuation. Obsession. Illusion. Call it a dream, a nightmare,but call it love!(Lead for an article about teenage love) 5
  6. 6. There are many more ways to begin a feature article. And then again,two or more types of leads may be combined to produce an irresistibleintroduction to a masterpiece. Just remember to match the tone of thearticle and to suit the taste of the target readers. Analysing a Feature Article By Lisa GreevesLead and conclusion: Explain the strategy that the writer is using inthe lead of this feature article. How long is the lead? Is it descriptive?Anecdotal? Setting a scene? What is the reason for using a lead likethis? What does it accomplish? Similarly, examine the conclusion ofthe feature article. Does it connect back to the lead in some way ornot? Is it catchy or dull? Where does the conclusion to the articlebegin and how long is it? Sum up the overall effect and success of thelead and conclusion in this article. What can another writer learnfrom the strategies used here?Content areas: Examine and name the different categories of contentthat the feature article covers. Are there too many content areas(making the article too unwieldy), just enough content areas, or notenough? Are there other content areas that could have beenaddressed but were not?Background: Most features have some kind of backgroundexplanation or an explanation of some history of the topic at hand.Describe the background information featured in this article. Does itprovide enough information or not? Is there anything mentioned inthe article that assumes the reader understands it and itsimportance? What other kinds of background information could havebeen featured?Number and quality of sources: How many different sources are inthis article? How would you categorize these different sources? Howare they authority figures? Are they appropriate or not? Was there toomany of one type of source, or were there any other types of sourcesthat you expected to hear from and didn’t? Is there a certain view orside to the story that you feel should have been represented by asource that wasn’t? Or are all views and sides covered?Quality of quotations: Examine the feature article for the strongestand weakest quotations. Where do you find the strongest, mostmemorable quotation? What kind of source does it come from? Whatdoes it add to the article? Why was it used? Pinpoint what you feel to 6
  7. 7. be the weakest quotation. What kind of source does it come from?Why do you think it was used if it is a weak quote? Discuss also whatthe quotations reveal about the quality of questions asked by thewriter.Lively writing: Keeping in mind that feature articles are designed forinformative pleasure reading, examine this article for uses ofparticularly strong, vivid writing and vocabulary. They may bedescriptive and visual or merely explanatory and technical. They maymake use of unusual vocabulary that captures your attention. But beable to explain to your peers why you think the writing works well inthat section. 7