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Feature Writing Basics

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FEATURE WRITING
HARD NEWS VS. SOFT NEWS
 Standard fare of
most newspapers
 Objective
 Direct
 Factual
 Usually associated
with human interest
 Subjective
 Featurized
Hard News Soft News
HARD NEWS VS. SOFT NEWS
Hard News
“Hard news is
interesting to
human beings.”
-Frank Luther Mott
“Hard news
concerns important
matters.”
-Gaye Tuchman
Soft News
“Soft news is
interesting because
it deals with the life
of human beings.”
-Frank Luther Mott
“Soft news concerns
interesting matters.”
-Gaye Tuchman
STORY STRUCTURE
Hard News
lead
Details are in
Chronological
Order
Soft News
Logical Order
Narrative Order
Most
important
Least
important
FEATURE WRITING
 Think of the Feature Story as a news story
written like a piece of short fiction
FEATURE WRITING
 You must combine the rigors of factual
reporting with the creative freedom of
short-story writing

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Feature Writing Basics

  • 2. HARD NEWS VS. SOFT NEWS  Standard fare of most newspapers  Objective  Direct  Factual  Usually associated with human interest  Subjective  Featurized Hard News Soft News
  • 3. HARD NEWS VS. SOFT NEWS Hard News “Hard news is interesting to human beings.” -Frank Luther Mott “Hard news concerns important matters.” -Gaye Tuchman Soft News “Soft news is interesting because it deals with the life of human beings.” -Frank Luther Mott “Soft news concerns interesting matters.” -Gaye Tuchman
  • 4. STORY STRUCTURE Hard News lead Details are in Chronological Order Soft News Logical Order Narrative Order Most important Least important
  • 5. FEATURE WRITING  Think of the Feature Story as a news story written like a piece of short fiction
  • 6. FEATURE WRITING  You must combine the rigors of factual reporting with the creative freedom of short-story writing
  • 7. FEATURE WRITING  Readers would have to read the whole story to understand it
  • 8. FEATURE WRITING  Functions to:  humanize  add color  educate  entertain  illuminate
  • 9. FEATURE WRITING  Written to hook the reader and draw him/her into the story  May or may not be tied to a current event  Often longer than a traditional news story  May present an opinionated view
  • 10. FEATURE WRITING  Functions to humanize, to add color, to educate, to entertain, to illuminate  Written to hook the reader and draw him/her into the story  May or may not be tied to a current event  Often longer than a traditional news story  May present an opinionated view
  • 11. FEATURE STORY  Also called Feature Article, or simply Feature  A piece of journalistic writing that covers a selected in-depth issue  Emphasizes on facts of human interest  Its job is to find a fresh angle  Makes the reader think and care
  • 12. TYPES OF FEATURES  Personality Profiles > detailed article on well-known personality  Human Interest Stories > appeals to the emotion, arouses sympathetic interest  Trend Stories > e.g. food/restaurants, jobs, music, fashion, etc.  Analysis Stories > digs deep into the facts and details of a story
  • 13. TYPES OF FEATURES  Interview article  Practical guidance (how-to)  Seasonal or holiday feature  Entertainment article  Travelogue  Personality sketch  Interpretative feature
  • 14. CHOOSING THE THEME  Has the story been done before?  Is the story of interest to the reader?  Does the story have a holding power?  What makes the story worthy to be reported?  The theme answers the question, “so what?”
  • 15. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE FEATURE  Facts  Quotes  Description  Anecdotes  Opinions  Analysis  Pay off/conclusion
  • 16. SAMPLE FEATURE TOPICS  Foreign exchange students  Unusual hobbies  Dirtiest jobs  Fashion trends  Favorite movies  Favorite celebrities  Teacher features  Tattoos  Bizarre Foods
  • 17. FEATURE STORY STRUCTURE  Beginning = lead/lede > start with a premise or a theme  Middle = body/story development > present information and opinions that back your point  End = conclusion > bring the reader to a close
  • 18. FEATURE WRITING : THE LEAD  The most important part  The first paragraph, but may include the second or even the third paragraph  Entices your readers, hooks them in  Uses drama, emotion, quotations, questions, and/or descriptions  Sets the tone
  • 19. FEATURE WRITING : THE LEAD  ATTENTION-GETTING DEVICES  Ask a question or questions  Make an unusual statement  Describe a scene  Present a conversation  Tell a brief story  Present surprising or alarming statistic  Refer to an event , either historical or current
  • 20. FEATURE WRITING : THE LEAD  ATTENTION-GETTING DEVICES  Show a controversy or contradiction  Use a quotation, adage, or proverb  State an unusual opinion  Riddle  Dialogue  Onomatopeia
  • 21. LEAD SAMPLE (PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING EXAMPLE BY ANDREA ELLIOTT OF THE NEW YORK TIMES) The young Egyptian professional could pass for any New York bachelor. Dressed in a crisp polo shirt and swathed in cologne, he races his Nissan Maxima through the rain-slicked streets of Manhattan, late for a date with a tall brunette. At red lights, he fusses with his hair. What sets the bachelor apart from other young men on the make is the chaperon sitting next to him -- a tall, bearded man in a white robe and stiff embroidered hat.
  • 22. LEAD SAMPLE (EDWARD WONG OF THE NEW YORK TIMES' BEIJING BUREAU) The first sign of trouble was powder in the baby’s urine. Then there was blood. By the time the parents took their son to the hospital, he had no urine at all. Kidney stones were the problem, doctors told the parents. The baby died on May 1 in the hospital, just two weeks after the first symptoms appeared. His name was Yi Kaixuan. He was 6 months old. The parents filed a lawsuit on Monday in the arid northwest province of Gansu, where the family lives, asking for compensation from Sanlu Group, the maker of the powdered baby formula that Kaixuan had been drinking. It seemed like a clear-cut liability case; since last month, Sanlu has been at the center of China’s biggest contaminated food crisis in years. But as in two other courts dealing with related lawsuits, judges have so far declined to hear the case.
  • 23. TYPES OF LEADS TO AVOID  Trite dictionary lead > “According to Webster’s Dictionary …”  Dumb declarative lead > “It’s official…”  Mystery “it” lead > “It’s round, it’s red, its juicy . . .yes, it’s a tomato!
  • 24. TYPES OF LEADS TO AVOID  Weird linkage or atypical lead > "What did Boris Karloff, Jane Fonda and Richard Nixon have in common? Ring around the collar." Who cares? > "Jenny Jones looks like a typical college student, but she's really...a world-class wrestler …supermodel…or whatever!”
  • 25. TYPES OF LEADS TO AVOID  The uninformative question lead > Avoid asking questions that might provoke your readers to respond, “Who cares?” > Turn questions into short, informative statements instead
  • 26. COMPARE (THE LEADS) Twenty-one teachers from across Northern Luzon gathered at the University of Baguio February 24-February 28 to learn techniques used to teach writing. Teacher John dela Cruz cried as he composed a poem about his grandmother at the keyboard of a Macintosh computer in the basement of the University of Baguio Liberal Arts building recently.
  • 27. FEATURE WRITING :THE BODY  The “guts” of the story  Longest part . . . so you need to vary the pace and keep it fresh by using: > quotes and anecdotes > description and details > specific examples
  • 28. FEATURE WRITING :THE BODY  IMPORTANT COMPONENTS INCLUDE  Background Information > brings the reader up to date  The “Thread” of the story > connects the introduction, body and conclusion  Dialogue > gives strong mental images; keeps them attached  Voice > the signature or personal style of the writer
  • 29. FEATURE WRITING : CONCLUSION  While the lead draws the reader in, the conclusion should be written to help the reader remember the story  Will wrap up the story and come back to the lead, often with a quotation or a surprising climax  Unlike hard news stories, features need endings
  • 30. FEATURE WRITING : CONCLUSION  THE END CAN BE  A comment  A concluding quote  A question  A summary of the article
  • 31. STEPS TO DEVELOP A FEATURE STORY  Prewriting  Writing  Revising  Proofreading
  • 32. STEPS: PREWRITING  Step 1. FINDING THE STORY  Step 2. GATHERING THE INFORMATION  Step 3. DETERMING THE TYPE OF FEATURE  Step 4. CHOOSING THE SINGLE FOCUS
  • 33. STEPS: WRITING  Step 5. DETERMINING THE ORGANIZATION  Step 6. DRAFTING THE LEAD  Step 7. DRAFTING THE BODY  Step 8. DRAFTING THE CONCLUSION  Step 9. PREPARING THE HEADLINE
  • 34. STEPS: REVISING  Step 10. CHECKING FOR GOOD WRITING TECHNIQUES  Does the article reflect careful complete research?  Do I attract my reader’s attention in the opening paragraph?  Does the article maintain interest throughout?  Did I follow a logical organization to achieve my purpose?  Have I maintained unity?  Have I varied sentence structure in keeping with the tone and purpose?  Are transitions sufficient to guarantee smooth reading?  Does the word choice show freshness and originality?  Have I eliminated wordiness?  Do I use good story-writing techniques?
  • 35. STEPS: PROOFREADING  Step 11. CHECKING THE DETAILS  Be sure to check your copy carefully for correctness