25 July 2018
Read our easy guide on putting together a feature article
Writers – good writers – all have storytelling skills, and feature writers are nothing without them, so feel free to use any tool in your writer’s arsenal to serve the story as best you can. There are, though, a few technical points to bear in mind.
Always remember you will be writing your feature within a word count
Typical word counts are 350-500 words (column), 800 (one page), 1,200-1,500 (DPS), 2,000 (3-page feature). Your editor will give you a word count and if you are writing for money you will stick to it unless you don’t want another commission.
Your feature, whatever its length, will have a basic structure of:
• Introduction. Set the scene. Bring it to life. You might start with a question, a narrative or a description, but however you do it, you need to seduce readers into your story via the first paragraph. A quick tip here is that it’s often a good idea to write the opening paragraph last of all, once you’ve written everything else. Or write it and then go back to it when you’ve finished the rest of the feature. A lot of the time, the first paragraph that we write will turn out to be drivel, and either we’ll look at it in horror and cut it ourselves, or the editor will do it for us.
Your first or in most cases, second, paragraph will ideally explain the feature in a nutshell, so that the reader knows what they are reading about and why they are reading it.
• Body text. Having got your readers hooked at the start, keep them reading. This is where your writer’s skill in creating a logically progressed narrative comes into play. Each paragraph will move your story along, and add to the reader’s information. Embed facts into scenes, so that something new is revealed with each paragraph.
If you have interviewed people, let them reveal their parts of the story via direct quotes – you are telling a story with characters in it so let them speak. Their voices will bring your feature story to life.
Don’t info-dump. Space out your information so that everything necessary is included without disrupting your narrative flow.
If you haven’t enough space to get in all the facts, cut your prose rather than sacrifice information that will add to a reader’s knowledge.
• Conclusion. Create a satisfactory ending so that the reader understands that the story has reached a conclusion. Don’t spoil a good feature by letting it tail off, or make it bottom-heavy by cramming in information that should have been woven in higher up. Be careful too not to sound pat or – heaven forbid – press-releasey. Feature writing is about real life stories, and real life is complex, and does not always wrap up into a neat conclusion. One-liners can be a nice way to end a piece, or if you have it, a good quote that underlines everything that you’ve been saying throughout the feature.
Intrigued to learn more? Try our online course; Article Writing and Freelance Journalism and receive expert guidance from a professional tutor.
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