Feature stories, which are told in third person, merge the factual side of news writing and the artistic side of storytelling. Feature stories can include personal profiles and human interest stories and get at the heart of the subject by seeking to move beyond the who, what, where, when and how. Depending on the subject, the stories can tug at the heart-strings or make a reader laugh. In essence, feature stories paint pictures in words that aim to move the reader.
The Art of the Feature Story
Choosing a topic or subject for a feature is about keeping your eyes and ears open and finding subjects of interest to you. You don't have to be an expert, but you have to have a natural curiosity that will help you delve into a subject. Subjects can range from people who are doing interesting things to an in-depth look at a events that impact our lives.
All feature stories begin with research and interviews. It is best to take notes in interviews even if you are using a recorder. Interviews can also be done over the phone, but that will make it more difficult to use a recorder. Of course, the interview should reveal the who, what, why, where, when and how, but the idea is to get the subject to tell his or her story and not simply answer questions.
The lede is the opening of a news story. While a hard news story provides the who, what, why, where, when and how in the lede, the objective of the feature story lede is to draw the read into the story. A good lede sets the scene, essentially painting the picture for the reader.
A feature story is longer than a news story, often around 1,000 words. The body of the feature is where there subject's story is revealed. A good feature story details the subject, painting a picture, giving a sense of the subject's history as well as the subject or subjects' struggles and joys that make him or her or them transcend all of it.
Use quotes throughout the body to give the subject voice, if your subject is a person. If not, people are involved in the development and maintenance of such things as historic buildings or new businesses that can be subjects of features. Giving voice to these people underscores the importance of these types of subjects or events to a community. Quotes are meant to be similar to sound bites. They enhance the narrative.
While the lede should grab a reader, the conclusion should impact the reader. A feature writer can do this by ending with a thought-provoking element of the story or by ending with a similarly thought-provoking quote. Whatever the choice, the idea is to make the story to resonate.