To write a feature, first you must know when to write one. If your story is not particularly timely – for instance, your story is about a trend, movement or issue – a story structured in inverted pyramid will not work. Instead, your story should be handled as a news feature, which gives you more flexibility. It also, however, requires considerably more reporting than a simple news story.
REPORTING A FEATURE:
- FOCUS/THEME: Know what your story is about. A news feature must be tightly focused around a clear, specific theme. Every idea in the story should develop that theme and include transitions connecting those ideas.
- RESEARCH: A news feature is longer than a regular news story and the reporting should be deep and thorough. You can examine studies and statistics, you can do on-site reporting and interviews. You should have an advanced understanding of the issue before starting to write.
- FOCUS PERSON: Often, but not always, a news feature may have a “central character” or focus person. Often expert sources can help you locate the right candidate.
- SPEND TIME: News features require lots of description, anecdotes and detail. Interviews with your focus person will be longer than normal news interviews, and you should try to spend time watching them do the thing the story is about. Ask open-ended questions to prompt full answers and anecdotes.
- FEATURE LEDE: Choose the most compelling scene or anecdote with the focus person. Write and revise the anecdote or scene until it contains only items that zero in on the story’s theme. It should be no more than four paragraphs, and often shorter.
- NUT GRAF: A feature lede consists of two parts: The first part is the scene or anecdote. The second is the nut graf. This is the part that widens the story to show readers it is not just about the focus person – that others are experiencing whatever the larger issue you’re writing about. Nut grafs are typically longer than normal grafs, though sometimes they can be broken into several grafs. The nut graf serves as a road map for the rest of the story. All the ideas that will be developed graf by graf are summed up here in a few concise sentences.
- BODY: The body of a feature flows logically from the nut graf. Most writers simply address one by one each issue mentioned in the nut graf. It is not uncommon for the body of the story to make no mention of the focus person. Good features are full of description and rich with detail. Feature writing evokes readers’ senses and makes them feel as if they are there.
- CLOSE: Feature stories often close by bringing the reader back, full circle, to the focus person. Write a transition that ties the last informational graf back to that person in some way.
- KICKER: Feature stories often end with a kicker – something that keeps the reader thinking about the story for a moment longer. Often it can be another short anecdote or a quote that provides a little surprise and brings the story to a close.