Feature Writing: What Should Features Contain?

Like news, a feature must contain the who, what, why, when, where, and how. Make sure to offer readers something they will want to read: don’t write something only you enjoy.

You need a peg: a reason to be writing your feature. This is usually based on time or location such as; ‘new salon opening this week’, ‘new research discovered this month’, ‘pig farm opening in New York’.

Next is your angle: deciding the main slant or way to interpret your information allows you to develop the direction your feature will take.

Never assume that reader knows the background (facts): when writing your feature be sure to explain things, inform as well as entertain and ensure you use true facts just as you would in a news story. Facts should be weaved into the fabric of the story.

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Quotes: These can add an authenticity to a piece but must be selected carefully and not overused. Quoting too much can make a feature boring. Pick quotes that add weight, colour and/or humour.

Direct Quote

  • The speaker’s words are used and attributed to them.
  • Introduced with a colon and placed within quote marks. 
  • Introduces the speaker the first time they are quoted.

Indirect Quote

  • The speaker’s words are used and attributed to them. 
  • Not placed in quote marks. 
  • e.g. ‘Jane spent days agonising whether or not to go ahead with the treatment’ instead of quoting Jane as she spoke about how she agonised etc. 

Partial Quote

  • Shorter sections of a longer quote. 
  • Useful, but too many can ruin the flow of a piece and irritate the reader. 
  • They must be attributed and accurate. 
  • Placed within quote marks. 

Statement of Fact

  • Information given to you by a speaker. 
  • Known to be true and uncontested.
  • It can be used as a fact without attributing to a speaker or using quote marks. 

In features, the writer does not have to be objective. They are allowed to show their opinions and their own voice. Some feature writers are sarcastic, while others subtly mention their point of view.

‘Rather than merely reporting facts, you respond to them with your thoughts and feelings’. 

Be careful though, there is a difference between being a balanced, thoughtful, considered interpreter and ‘a self-opinionated bore’.

Adding colour: add detail and description to help explain the facts, paint a picture with your words.

Images, panels, sidebars and boxes: these help to break up the page and make your feature more readable and less daunting. Graphics can sometimes illustrate points that words alone cannot. Go with your photographer and take photos that match your angle.

STYLE

Writer’s own style: something that develops overtime, it is best for beginners to keep it simple; clear and concise with plain language.

Newspaper’s style: your feature must match the style of the publication it’s being written for. This includes your writing and the presentation. ‘It is worth checking if there is a house style book that details the fundamentals’ like quotes, abbreviations, names, ages, titles and even swear words.

The style of your feature: question and answer, profile, specialist or background are all styles of features. Judge the best style for your piece.

‘TONE refers to how you say something, while VOICE relates to the worlds you use’.

There are three categories of feature writing voice, these are expert, knowledgeable friend and gossip.

Expert 

  • Language is direct and uncluttered.
  • Little use of colour and imagery. 
  • The reader knows what he/she should think, or should do (depending on the subject matter).

Knowledgeable Friend

  • Most common feature voice. 
  • Writer shares information, experience and opinions in a friendly, non-threatening way. 
  • Language tends to be colloquial, sometimes jocular, descriptive and colourful. 

Gossip

  • Titbits of information without any assessment or analysis of quality. 
  • Little context or background employed.
NOTES IN THIS POST ARE FROM: SUSAN PAPE AND SUE FEATHERSTONE, 2006, FEATURE WRITING: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION, LONDON: SAGE. P42 – 55 (CHAPTER 4)
I DO NOT OWN THE ABOVE IMAGE, IT IS FROM: http://paulettejiles.com/writers-and-writing-42316/
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