Feature writing 2010

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2010 lecture on structuring a news feature according to the DNA of documentary style

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  • Feature stories are not essays or editorials. This means that your ideas and opinions are not important to the story. Writing in the third person (keeping yourself out of the story), will help you maintain the necessary distance. In other words, features stories, while not news reporting, are still journalistic and should not be confused with creative writing or works of fiction.In news stories, you generally make your point, set the tone, and frame the issue in the first paragraph or two. In feature stories however, you can develop the theme of the story and postpone your point until the end, if that suits your style. Try to keep an open mind when interviewing your subjects and sources and avoid the tendency to impose your ideas on them, or try to steer the story. Avoid deciding on the theme of your story until you have gathered enough information that you feel comfortable deciding on a direction, or point of view. When interviewing or observing actions or activities, write down everything you encounter: emotions, passing thoughts or ideas, smells, noises, textures, everything you see including details in the surroundings. These will help bring life to your story.
  • Feature writing 2010

    1. 1. How to enjoy yourself while being serious Double Helix, double the value Bert Flugelman’s sculptural effects Story-telling, sentences, syntax & styleMartin Hirst,August 2009
    2. 2. A news feature has a theme In news stories, you generally make your point, set the tone, and frame the issue in the first paragraph or two. In feature stories you can develop the theme of the story and leave your point until the end, if that suits your style.
    3. 3. Are you ready to write a feature? Have you selected your intended subject topic and carefully planned out your idea? True research and liberal use of factual material gives an original perspective to your feature article and also avoids the possibility of plagiarism.
    4. 4. Beginning, middle and end• the introduction should entice your reader • drama, emotion, quotes, questions, descr iption• keep promises to readers• or answer any questions you pose• maintain an "atmosphere”—style is king• conclusion: help the reader remember the story • use a strong punch lineDo you have a good lead, middle and ending?
    5. 5. Get the details right Choose the right amount of detail to include in your discussion; you dont have to tackle the less important aspects of your topic. Give the most vital pieces of information that you want to get across, and choose the details that go along with it However, be careful that you dont omit so much detail that you end up with a vague outline for an article
    6. 6. Write right. Syntax, all right? Be clear about why you are writing the article. Is it to inform, persuade, observe, ev aluate, or evoke emotion?Write in the active voice.In active writing, people dothings.Passive sentences often havethe person doing the action atthe end of the sentence or thingsbeing done ―by‖ someone.
    7. 7. Avoid clichéd emotions Avoid clichés (cutting edge, world beating, revolutionary ) and sentimental statements - especially at the end of your article Focus on human interest – the feel and emotion you put into the article are critical. Dont think about writing a "science" story - think about writing a "human interest" story
    8. 8. Watch your languageDont subject your reader to the equivalent of linguistictorture.A feature article is supposed to be light, entertaining andinformative-not deathly pedantic like a textbook Tony Harcup
    9. 9. Don‘t get tense over interviewsDecide on the ‗tense of your story at thestart and stick to it. Present tense usuallyworks bestAvoid lengthy, complex paragraphs. Yourarticle will appear in columns, so one ortwo sentences equals a paragraphInterviews for features usually need to be in-depth and in person rather than over thephone - this enables you to add in colour anddetailUse anecdotes and direct quotes to tell thestory – write into them with paraphrase andobservational statements
    10. 10. Status, Detail, Colour and Character Remember you are telling a story That means characters, scenes and action. Who is there? What are they like? What are they doing and saying? What does the place look like? Show your reader instead of telling Why say a person is friendly when you can say how they bounce down the street, smiling at everyone and calling hello to strangers.
    11. 11. Location, location, detailUse concrete and specificwords to get your meaningacross.It was a pearl-grey Siamese– not just a cat.It was a crumbling cementbuilding with broken panes ofglass where windows used tobe — not an abandonedbuilding.Status detail adds colour andweight
    12. 12. Make people earn quote spaceQuotes should be something interesting and compelling,something that the source says better than you could.Do not quote people stating facts:"The school board will hold a hearing next Monday nightto find out what parents think of the school closures.―Save the quotation marks for a persons opinion or theirexperience:"If parents dont turn up for the hearing, then I think weknow that they just dont care about the school system,"says Anne Smith, a school board member.
    13. 13. Where do I come in? Is not easy to do well Consistent? Appropriate tone? Approval? Does it work?Tony Harcup
    14. 14. The DNA of documentary styleNarrative spines Story elementsTimeline SourceIndividual stories DataThematic spine EventRelational ideas Description
    15. 15. Prepare and sort yourmaterial What does it tell you about the story? Does it suggest a structure for the double helix?• Logical sequence• Distinct strands• Useful anecdotes• Beginning, middle, end• Link points• Link phrases• Good quotes• Light & shade• Colour
    16. 16. TimelineIndividual storiesThematic spineRelational ideas How will you tell the story? 1. Chronology – start to finish • Sequence of events 2. Non-chronological timeline • Events, but not in sequence 3. Compare and contrast •People / groups •Themes •Related ideas
    17. 17. Time-shifting You don’t always have to start with the earliest event or moment in your storyA dramatic momentfrom ‘later’ can make agood lead – then you Time-shifting helps toweave in the generate an interestingbackground to explain narrative that is notwhy it happened chronological
    18. 18. Time transitions Two weeks before, … A month later, … At the same time, … Meanwhile, …
    19. 19. Transitions of space Around the corner, … In another part of the hospital, … Across town, … Two blocks away, … A world away, …
    20. 20. Switching characters Dan Brown does not agree, … A similar feeling is expressed by … The opposite viewpoint… Another expression…
    21. 21. Spine(s) Transition pointSentences ParagraphSourceDataEventDescription
    22. 22. The Vertical Flugelmanthe transition pointsthe use of light and shadecontrast and reflectionstructure as a series ofshort pyramids andinverted pyramidsmakes links very obviousrobust, beautiful
    23. 23. HorizontalFlugelmanSculptural Sharp Shiny Solid Stylish
    24. 24. And finally…The main thing to keepin mind when writing a Is it accurate?feature story is to havefun, and enjoy and get Is it interesting?to know the people youare writing about. Is it informative?Let yourself stay opento new experiencesand ideas, and relax. Is it entertaining?
    25. 25. Enjoy the adventureThink of your assignment asan adventure not a writingassignment.You will enjoy yourself muchmore if you do.Your subjects and sourceswill be more comfortablearound you and will open upto you.The more they do, the betteryour story will be.

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