How to Write a Feature Article & What Questions to Ask
Features are more detailed than a simple news article, and significantly longer. Feature articles should inform and persuade readers toward a conclusion drawn by the writer. These pieces are not time-sensitive news stories, so deadlines are usually longer, giving writers more time to craft and edit their stories. A feature is really about the subject: writers need to keep their focus on their subjects and must know how to gather enough relevant facts to write an accurate, informative feature.
Research And Interviews
Read up on your subject before your first interview. If your subject is a person, read biographies, other articles or past interviews they have done. If it is a non-human subject, read histories on it and any information you can find. This will help you find out the basics so you don't waste time during your interviews.
Narrow your focus. Even though features are longer than straight news articles, you will have a word count and you will need to focus your story to a specific angle. Use the preliminary research you have already done to find an angle that has not been extensively covered already.
Once you have chosen your focus, you can decide what you need to find out about and from your subject. Write some questions down that ask what you need to know. Always plan a few questions before interviewing a source to start the conversation and to steer it back if it veers off topic. Your preliminary research should cover basic information, so you can skip questions meant to get that information. Focus your questions on your angle: ask about the subject's latest project, his inspiration or an upcoming event.
Set up your interviews. Depending on your subject, you may be able to contact your source directly, or you may have to go through a public relations representative or entire team. You will likely have only a brief window in which to conduct the interview, so be prepared by having your questions ready and be sure to stay on topic. Your interview source should do most of the talking, but it is up to you to steer the direction of the conversation.
Writing Your Article
Open with a scene. Most feature articles open with a brief descriptive scene, either illustrating the setting of an interview and describing the subject, or detailing a specific instant in an event. Your chosen scene is ideally something you witnessed yourself, but failing that, can be something you gleaned enough detail on during your interviews to write an accurate description. It should be relevant to your subject and focus, illustrating the subject's personality or cultural relevance. Afterwards, move on to more basic background information in the form of a brief introduction.
Use accurate quotes from your sources. The majority of the article should be your own words, but quoting sources, especially your subject, is the best way to truly insert them into your story and give your readers a feel for the subject.
End with another scene. This final scene should serve as a conclusion to your article and be an event or description that illustrates and summarizes your main focus in some way. This scene could describe your actual interview and end with a key quote from your subject, something that feels like an ending. You will likely need to edit your article several times to get a suitable ending you are happy with, but it will be worth the work.
- Record your interviews so you can refer to your tapes and make sure your quotes are exact.
- Don't be afraid to call sources back if you have follow-up questions or need something clarified.
- Interview your sources in person wherever possible. You can conduct some interviews over the phone if they are not extremely vital to the story and are not the subject.