A feature article is the main news-related article in a magazine that highlights a particular person, place, or event in great detail. Typically, these nonfiction articles dive deeper into a story than regular articles. If you’re in need of some tips on writing a good feature article, get ready to have some fun. You’re going to be developing a human interest story that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.
Like most articles, a feature story follows a specific format and outline. There will always be a title/headline, deck, introduction, body, and conclusion. A good feature article contextualizes the story so it’s relatable and immediately relevant to the reader. Why should they care? What’s the angle? What direction are you taking?
In a way, a notable feature article will resemble a short story. You want tension and plot, a sense of progression, with some sort of payoff toward the conclusion. Who are the “characters” in your story? What is the central conflict? For more on that, check out Get Creative: How to Write a Short Story.
The headline or title of the article should grab the readers’ attention quickly so they’ll keep reading. It needs to highlight the general topic of the story. If you’re featuring a person, don’t just use their name as the headline. Include a unique detail that will be uncovered as they read on. For example:
David Young: The Man Who Restored Faith to the Darkest Village in Nepal
The deck, also known as a subhead or standfirst, is your second chance to entire readers. While the title of the article will pop with a unique angle, the deck consists of one or two short sentences that’ll leave no question in the readers’ minds; they must read this article. It should capture the gist of the story. For example:
For years, the people of Nepal lived under a dark cloud of oppression. That is, until David Young instigated a faith movement that would completely reshape their lives.
Your ability to “hook” readers into the story continues in the introductory, or first, paragraph. The introduction should tell the reader why this story is important or worth their time, but in a sort of oblique way. This is your last chance to “hook” a reader before they flip the page or click away.
Be sure to keep your sentences short. Use this as an opportunity to say something attention-grabbing or something that’ll spark the reader’s interest. Always remember - the WHY is important. You establish the tone of your article in the introduction.
The body of the feature should be broken into sections with several headings for easy organization.
This section contains most of the details of the story. It includes names, places, times, and quotes related to the person, event, or organization. The opinions of the writer, those at the location of the story, and experts are presented in the body of the article. This is also the place to include any pictures that illustrate the story, as well as diagrams, charts, and other visual elements.
The conclusion should leave a lasting impression on the reader and provoke some sort of reaction. It should prompt action on the part of the reader, encourage a change of opinion, or encourage the reader to make a decision.
The leeway an author is given in the style of a feature article is much greater than in other types of news writing. Human interest is key. You want to lure readers into a particular setting and allow them to partake in an experience.
Here are some tips to help you achieve that goal.
A feature article should always be very professional and buttoned-up. However, since this is a human interest story and you want to draw readers into an experience, you don’t have to be overly formal or stiff. Consider things like colloquialisms, first-person narratives, and an authoritative yet conversational tone.
Instead of presenting hard-hitting facts as you might in a typical news story, you’re able to take on a bit of a persuasive bent and pose a few rhetorical questions in features. Avail yourself of the added freedom to write a feature that you would want to read if you were on the other side of the print.
Don’t forget to include all the facts and comment on the location of the story. Facts and statistics will add authority and context to your story. Extensive research is critical! You can also sprinkle in relevant jargon to add authenticity to the facts as well as the opinions of those interviewed. The use of quotes from people involved makes your story more personal and real, eliciting an emotional response in the reader.
To enhance the relationship with your audience, make use of creative descriptions that will draw on the reader's imagination. Really paint the scene and work to contextualize what you’re trying to say.
If you’re interviewing a person, describe the setting. If you’re describing a major event, relay small details like the wispy pink sky and the smell of cotton candy in the air. The imagery that you create will captivate the reader and hold them with you until the end.
Since these articles can highlight a person, place, or event, there are a few different styles of feature articles.
Any time you browse your favorite news outlet, you’re bombarded with news stories. So, how is a news report different from a news feature? News features tend to root out in-depth details, such as the background and history of the people impacted by the story. They may also discuss the potential implications of the event.
For example, when Notre Dame caught on fire in April 2019, every news outlet was littered with stories on the tragedy. But, in the wake of the fire, several news features also appeared. They focused on the artwork and relics inside the cathedral, the repercussions of the fire, and the response from the people in Paris and around the globe.
News features will highlight specific details that are otherwise glossed over in a shorter inverted pyramid article that places tremendous focus on the most important details.
Then, we have the profile. This is where you present an in-depth story about a person, organization, or event. There should be a history section, including their background and upbringing, education, challenges, and life experiences. You’ll also want to offer tantalizing behind-the-scenes details that people can’t get through a cursory Google search.
A trend feature will highlight something new and exciting in modern culture. Your editor might feature this type of feature in the lifestyle, fashion, or entertainment section. It’ll detail things like when this new trend popped up, why people are embracing it, and where they will start to see it.
Live-in features are “day in the life” stories. They detail what it’s like to be someone for a day, or what it’s like to be somewhere for a day. You can cover anything from a county jail, to a posh mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, to a corporate office environment, and more. The topics are endless.
What you’ll do is spend a day interviewing, exploring, and shadowing someone else’s typical day. This is where your short story skills will come into play. You’ll take readers on a journey to some setting they may never personally experience and, in doing so, you’ll expand their horizons.
Feature stories are a joy to write because, again, you can reach a much wider audience. A fantastic article on a modern-day hero or heroine can touch the lives of people from every race, religion, and political affiliation. Take care to paint a vivid scene, relay all the facts, and dabble in an expressive opinion or two.
Another outlet that can impact people from all walks of life is creative writing. Interested in trying your hand in a short story? If so, check out Plot of a Story Examples. It’ll help you shape your tale and allow your internal meanderings to reach out and touch somebody today.