The typical news story is usually hard news, chronicling as concisely as possible the who, what, where, when, why and how of an event. Hard news events--such as the death of a famous public figure or the plans of the city council to raise taxes--affect many people, and the primary job of the media is to report them as they happen.
Soft news or features are not meant to deliver the news firsthand. They do contain elements of news, but their main function is to humanize, to add color, to educate, to entertain, to illuminate. They often recap major news that was reported in a previous news cycle.
What features do
Profile people who make the news
Explain events that move or shape the news
Analyze what is happening in the world, nation or community
Teach an audience how to do something
Types of features
Personality profiles : A personality profile is written to bring an audience closer to a person in or out of the news. Interviews and observations, as well as creative writing, are used to paint a vivid picture of the person. (Variant: interviews)
Human interest stories: A human interest story is written to show a subject’s oddity or its practical, emotional, or entertainment value.
Types of features
Backgrounders: A backgrounder--also called an analysis piece--adds meaning to current issues in the news by explaining them further. These articles bring an audience up-to-date, explaining how this country, this organization, this person happens to be where it is now.
Types of features
Trend stories: A trend story examines people, things or organizations that are having an impact on society. Trend stories are popular because people are excited to read or hear about the latest fads.
Service features: These features teach readers how to do certain things (eg how to cut your power consumption, how to cook special recipes, etc)
Test your idea. Ask yourself: What’s been done on the topic before? What am I trying to achieve with this story? What are my chances of getting the key facts that will make my feature project work?
Ask for help: Consult editors. Work with photographers and graphic artists.
Choose the theme. The theme provides unity and coherence to the piece. It should not be too broad or too narrow. Several factors come into play when choosing a theme: Has the story been done before? Is the story of interest to the audience? Does the story have holding power (emotional appeal)? What makes the story worthy of being reported?
Cover all your bases. Get as many sources as you can. Make sure you use a balanced sample----get all possible viewpoints, not just the one that appeals to you most.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Break up the data-gathering into smaller, manageable tasks. A good feature project requires planning and patience.
Use an outline. Follow this outline when you transfer your notes. Writing is not the same as emptying the contents of your notebooks.
Don’t mess around with the facts.
Using your outline, write the story.
Strive for focus. Are you conveying one dominant meaning? If you still feel fuzzy, ask: What’s my point? What do I want to say with this story?
Don’t forget your “nut graf.” This is the paragraph, usually introduced early in the feature, which will tell your reader why this story is worth his/her time and attention. The nut graph should be high in the story. Do not make readers wait until the 10th or 11th paragraph before telling them what the story is about.
Remember your reader. Will h/she understand? Will h/she keep reading?
Use details. Help the reader see the people and actions you are writing about.
Step away from your material. Rest. Then read it again and look for holes. Rewriting will not help when you have insufficient material to rewrite with.
Keep it short. Weed out irrelevant information---including the bits that were difficult to get.
Write clear, concise sentences.
Use a thread. Connect the beginning, body and conclusion of the story.
Use dialogue when possible. Of course, feature writers cannot make up dialogue; they listen for it during the reporting process.