Before you can learn how to write a feature story for a newspaper, you have to know what a feature story is. A feature story is a story that is a bit more in-depth than a straight news story. In a straight news story, you just want to deliver the facts to your readers as quickly and clearly as possible. You give them the who, what, when, where, why and how, and then you get out. When you write a feature story for a newspaper, you have more time to really explore your subject, and can go beyond the facts. Here are some things to keep in mind when you write a feature story for a newspaper.
- Choose a topic with a strong element of human interest. People don’t read a feature story about a dog show just to know where the show is being held, or the dog breeds that are participating. They want to know what it’s like to sit in the audience, how hectic it is behind the scenes, what some of the dog owners and judges are like, etc. So, when picking a topic for your feature story, pick one with a strong human interest element.
- Talk to people. Feature stories in newspapers are more about the people involved than a straight news story. You should interview several people before you start writing. If you are writing a feature story about some kind of convention, you can just go to the event and find people willing to talk to you. In some cases, you will have to arrange to interview certain people. Make a list of people you want to talk to, and then start making your appointments. Not everyone will want to speak to you (because they are too busy, they are shy, etc.), so try to start with a big list of names, with the folks you would like to talk to the most at the top.
- Record your interviews. Maybe you have visions of doing interviews with a reporter’s notebook clutched in your hand, furiously scribbling down your subject's words of wisdom. But you’d be better off using a tape recorder when you do interviews for your feature story. For one thing, it’s easier to hold actual conversations with people when you aren’t preoccupied with trying to write down everything they say. For another, you can’t be accused of misquoting someone if you have a recording that proves they actually said what you claim they said.
- Write with personality. When you write your human interest story for the newspaper, use plenty of personality. The story doesn’t have to be humorous, especially if the subject is a serious one. But you don’t want your writing to be as cold and dry as a straight news story. Instead, try to write the story as if you were telling it to a friend. If you were telling the story, what would you say to make the story interesting, and to keep a listener’s attention from wandering? Try to do the same sorts of things when writing the story.
Trying to write a feature story for a newspaper can be challenging. It can also be fun, especially if you are interested in the subject and the people involved. And if you can write feature stories that make your readers feel like they were there, you are well on your way to becoming a successful features writer.
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