Central High School
Little Rock, Arkansas
The learner will be able to:
•Describe the special characteristics of a feature story.
•List ideas that could be developed into a feature story.
•Explain the importance of organization in the writing process
•Write a polished feature story for publication.
What is feature writing?
Think of the feature story as a news story written like
a piece of short fiction. You must combine the rigors
of factual reporting with the creative freedom of
short-story writing. The feature story’s form must be
more fluid than that of a news story; the inverted
pyramid style won’t work here because the story
needs a definite beginning, middle and end. The
readers won’t be able to scan a few paragraphs; they
will have to read the whole story to understand it.
What Is A Feature Story?
A feature story is a prominent
news story written like a piece of
short fiction. The story is usually
not related to a current event, but
it could be.
Features Evoke More Emotion Than News
Feature stories place a greater emphasis on facts
that have human interest.
Features put people in the story; they make the
reader think and care.
You can write a feature story about anyone if you
find an unusual angle that captures the interest of
Two General Types
Generally feature stories are of two types:
•News features, which are usually written as a
follow-up or as a sidebar story that is linked
to a breaking news event
•Timeless story, which does not have to be
used immediately. The information in this
story will be just as relevant if saved for a
rather than things
•Students who win an
award or do
such as scoring 1600
on SAT or qualifying
for Olympic Games
•What it’s like to be a
•Usually done with prominent
•Can be informational or
personal profile feature
•Informational interviews deal
with an authority whose
opinions are of significant value
•Personality interviews are
interesting because of the
individual rather than the subject
•Of historical, social,
•Basic purpose is not to
entertain but to inform.
•History of the school
•How-to features such as
“how to buy a good stereo”
or “what to do if you’re
arrested or in an auto
• Develops a total picture of the person
• Attempts to reveal personality through anecdotes
• Looks at mannerisms, actions, dress, experiences.
• Facts readers will want to know:
4. Physical appearance
7. Influence on others
8. Anecdotes, observation
•Also called mini-features
•Events usually told in
•Conclusion is often a surprise
A sidebar is an article that accompanies
and appears beside the main news story.
Additionally, many features are
developed around what is called a news
peg. A news peg is the relationship of a
feature to, or how a feature is pegged on,
something in the news.
In either type of feature story, good
reporting is essential. You collect as
many details as possible. You describe
people, settings and feelings, the
elements of storytelling. When all the
details are added together, the reader is
placed in the scene you are describing.
Finding Subjects that Matter
There are no restrictions on subject
matter. You are limited only by your
imagination. Often a feature story is a
simple story about a common person in an
uncommon circumstance. The feature’s
job is to find a fresh angle—to find the
story behind the person.
Topics that deal with the ordinary
Foreign exchange students Eating disorders
Part-time jobs Unusual hobbies
Teacher features Favorite movies
Favorite celebrities Fast-food
Fashion trends Top Ten Lists
Off-beat feature story ideas
Talk radio Weird cravings
The truth about goat cheese The best books not to read
Crazy answering machine messages
Beepers, cell phones Coincidences
Psychotherapy Tattoos, body piercings
One of the more popular types of feature story is the profile.
A profile is a short, vivid character sketch.
Too many profiles turn into a tedious recounting of
biographical facts or are unrelated anecdotes sandwiched
A good profile includes impressions, explanations and
points of view. It should emphasize what is unique about
the person. You can use a flashback technique or highlight
the individual’s many roles.
Preparing to Write
As you prepare for your feature story, you will
gather a large amount of information through
interviews and background research. Before you
begin writing, you will focus on the main idea
you want to get across, and organize your
information, eliminating that which does not go
along with your focus.
Focusing is narrowing your topic—reducing a
large amount of information to a usable amount.
The Feature Lead
The beginning of the story must pull
the reader in. The first sentence must
make the reader want to read the
second sentence. The lead may or
may not contain a hook, a detail that
draws in the reader’s attention.
Types of Feature Leads
Some good feature leads include:
Punch or astonisher
Finding the right voice
You have many voices. You speak to your friends
differently than you do your parents or your teachers. If
you have a job, you have a voice for your boss. When
you write a story, you take on a persona, or character.
You must choose a voice that best imparts the
information in that story.
The choice you make becomes the tone, or mood of the
story, and it should always match the content. For
instance, you would not use humor to write about a
tragic auto accident.
More Information On Feature Leads
The best rule in feature writing is to observe no
rules, aside those of basic journalistic style and
The best lead for a feature story is a natural
extension of the story—nothing forced or contrived
without consideration to the tone or subject of a
The best lead is the lead that’s relevant, grabs the
reader’s attention and fits the mood of the story.
Following are feature leads, also called novelty
leads. They should be used with caution, should
never be forced or sound artificial. They should
sound natural and fit the mood of the story.
When a novelty lead serves the purpose of
grabbing the reader’s attention and holding it so
that he/she wants to read the rest of the story, it
should be used without reservation.
Literary allusion: Relates a person or
event to some character or event in
To have been ordered into battle to attack a group
of windmills with horse and lance would have
seemed to Joe Robinson no more strange an
assignment than the one given to him Thursday
by his journalism teacher, Renee Robinson.
(The literary allusion is to Don Quixote.
Historical Allusion: Relates a person or
event to some character or event in history.
Napoleon had his Waterloo. George
Custer had his Little Big Horn.
Fortunately Custer and Napoleon
faced defeat only once. For Bjorn
Borg, the finals of the U.S. Tennis
Open have become a stumbling
block of titanic proportions.
Contrast Lead: Compares extremes, the big with the
little, the comedy with the tragedy, age with youth,
rich with poor—if such comparison is applicable to
the news event.
His wealth is estimated at $60 million. He controls
a handful of corporations, operating in more than
20 nations. Yet he carries his lunch to work in a
brown paper bag and wears the latest from Sears
and Roebuck’s bargain basement.
Miscellaneous Freak Leads: These employ ingenious
novelty to attract the reader’s eye. This list can be extended
indefinitely, to the extent of the reporter’s writing ability and
imagination (tempered only by accuracy and relevance.)
For sale: one elephant.
The City Park Commission is thinking about inserting that ad
in the newspaper. A curtailed budget makes it impossible to
care for “BoBo”, a half-grown elephant lodged in special
quarters at the Little Rock Zoo.
Pun: A novelty lead that uses a pun to
quirk the reader’s attention.
After you have written the lead, you need a
structure in which to place the information.
A structure is an organizational pattern the
writer uses to synthesize, that is to establish
relationships between relevant pieces of
Continue alternating quotes and transitions
all the way through the story.
End your story on the second best quote
you have, to leave your reader with
something to think about.