Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What is a Feature Story?

A feature story is defined as an article that is written about a person or a specific moment in a major event. In a feature story, the writer uses a more personal and individual writing style. These stories can be a publication’s main feature.

The feature story definition is more about the writer’s writing style than the topic being written about. Though feature stories can be written about various topics, they share specific characteristics, including:

  • Lede: The lede is how the feature story begins. In a hard news story, the first paragraph tells the reader the who, what, when, where, and why; however, a feature story may begin with several paragraphs that use anecdotes or descriptions to lead up to and introduce the story. The writer uses traditional storytelling elements such as description, scene-setting, quotes, and background information to help the reader visualize the story.
  • Pace of the story: The pace of a feature story is typically more leisurely than a hard news story, because the writer is trying to tell a story.
  • Length: Because the writer is focused more on storytelling, they take their time to make sure the story is complete, which means the length of a feature story may be longer than a hard news story.
  • Focus on the human element: The focus of a feature story is on the human element. Feature stories are often called people stories, because they focus on the people in the event, whereas hard news stories focus more on a specific event. Hard news stories may mention who was part of the event to explain what happened, but the focus lies more on talking about the event than the people involved. For example, a newspaper may write an article about a fire occurring in a building to tell the community about it. The story may mention the tenants, but the focus would be more on the fire. However, if the newspaper publishes a story about a specific family in the building and how they overcame the fire, that would be a feature story, or a news feature.

Types of Feature Stories

The news feature story focuses on topics in the news; however, they are called ”people stories,” because they tell stories about people featured in the news. They are also called ”behind the news” stories, because they focus on the people involved in the news events.

A profile feature story focuses on an individual such as a politician, celebrity, athlete, or CEO. It includes information about the individual and how they got to where they are now.

A live-in feature story is an in-depth story about a particular place and the people who live there. It can also be about a company or a business and the people who work there. It is called ”live-in,” because the writer has to spend a great deal of time with these people to tell their stories. It is also known as a ”day-in-the-life” or ”week-in-the-life” story, because it often focuses on the individual’s daily life living or working in the featured place. These stories can cover longer periods of time, sometimes spanning weeks or even months. Another name for these stories is ultimate feature story, because the writer follows the individual for days or weeks to get to know them and tell the story in a way that immerses the reader.

A sports feature story is the story behind an athlete. It is not about how the player is performing in the sport but rather who the player is and how they got to where they are. These stories provide a more personal touch about competing. The writer may use statistics to help tell these stories, especially if the athlete broke a record, as well as interview the athlete.

David Randall, author of The Universal Journalist, defines a full-text feature story as an article that features excerpts from books, stories, or interviews. He also defines a how-to feature story as one in which the writer uses research to write an article that helps the reader solve a problem or explains what to do in different situations. In his book, Randall also defines a color piece feature story as one that informs the reader about a specific theme or topic.

Feature Story Examples

  • Sports feature story example: Sky Sports posted an article that discussed the history of the WNBA throughout the past 25 years. This article is an example of a sports feature story, because it tells the story behind the organization.
  • Live-in feature story example: The Guardian posted an article summarizing the top US feature stories of 2017. This article included a feature story titled, ”My month with chemtrails conspiracy theorists,” which is an example of a live-in feature story. The writer applied to be part-time farm hand to learn about why the people who ran the farm believe that the government shares chemtrails.
  • How-to feature story example: The Guardian article in the above example also included a feature story titled, ”America’s midlife crisis: lessons from a survivalist summit,” which is an example of both a live-in and a how-to feature story. The writer attended the Ohio Preppers and Survivalists Summit to learn about what survivalists do.

How to Write a Feature Story

To write a feature story, the writer must first pick what type of feature story they are going to write. Next, the should determine the article’s purpose (e.g., to instruct, to persuade, or to entertain the reader). Knowing what type of feature story is being written will help the writer determine their purpose. The writer should also consider their audience, including age, status, attitude, culture, lifestyle, and what language they speak. Understanding the audience will help the writer determine what information to include in the article and how the article should be written.

Feature Story Organization

A feature story includes the following elements that help with its organization:

  • Headline, which is the title that catches the reader’s attention. The headline is the first element that attracts the reader’s attention.
  • Subheading, which follows the headline and is also known as the ”deck.” This part of the headline provides the writer’s perspective and the article’s main idea.
  • Byline, which is where the author identifies themself and introduces and thanks anyone who helped them write the article. This can be someone they interviewed or someone who provided research for the article.
  • Hook, which is part of the introduction. The hook is the initial sentence that catches the reader’s attention. It develops the first paragraph and sets the article’s tone. It can be an example, a metaphor, an antidote, or a rhetorical question.

Part of organizing a feature story is writing using the circular narrative style. It is called a ”circular narrative,” because the story discusses each event of the report at one time, but ends at the first event.

Steps to Writing a Feature Article

  1. Choose a topic that will interest the audience. Consider who the audience is and what issues may engage the audience.
  2. Brainstorm the type of article to be written. Knowing the audience, the type of feature story that is being written, and the purpose will help with brainstorming.
  3. Research the topic to determine what information is needed for the type of feature story that is being written. For example, different information may be needed for a how-to feature story versus a news feature story.
  4. Create a plan. Think about the type of story that is being written and the audience for whom it is being written. The writer should consider the who, what, when, why, and how to help plan out the story.
  5. To write the feature story, use the feature style structure as described below.
    • The feature style structure can be compared to a traditional story, because the beginning is where the person or part of the event is introduced, the middle is where the story is developed, and the conclusion is where the story ends by connecting back to the beginning of the story. However, the beginning, middle, and end of a feature story have specific elements that make it a feature story.
      1. The introduction comprises the lede, the nut graph, and the background introduction.
      2. The lede illustrates the main point you are trying to make in your story. It is a summary before The writer tells the story and delivers the leading end of the story.
      3. The nut graph helps explain the point of the story. It is called the nut graph, because it summarizes the story in a nutshell.
      4. The body has clear, logical sections. Depending on the article’s length, it can be three or more sections. The body develops the story into discrete sections to help keep it organized. Themes can be used to order the story . Sequential or hierarchical order is another way the story can be organized.
      5. The conclusion contains the wrap up and the kicker. The wrap-up restates the main point of the story, while the nut graph introduces the story. The kicker explains the point of the story by connecting it back to the lead in the introduction.

Lesson Summary

Feature stories are often referred to as people stories, because they focus on people who are part of a news event or a specific person, such as a celebrity or athlete. A feature story is defined by how it is written rather than the topic of the story. Feature stories use the circular narrative style to discuss each individual event and end by connecting the last event to the beginning. Feature stories do not use the traditional five-paragraph format, and the length may vary. However, they are longer than hard news stories, because the writer takes their time to make sure the story is complete. There are various types of feature stories such as news, profile, live-in, how-to, sports, and color piece. A feature story is similar to telling a traditional story as it contains a beginning, a middle, and an the end; however, certain elements, such as the lede, nut graph, background introduction, wrap-up, and kicker make it a feature story.

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