A feature writer should be fond of accuracy, love brevity and be devoted to clarity. He should be a topic-explorer and have the craft of kindling interest in insipid ‘ideas’. A good public pulse reader, a charming discoverer of life in words and a possessor of effective writing skills to spin magic in the content is what all is required from a good writer who is actually, in this case, a presenter of useful knowledge.
Good feature writing is tough but can be made easier if you are able to distinguish the focal point and address it in an appealing way. Delve into the archives because the perceptual skill in writing a feature commands a lot of research and an equal measure of common sense.
You will wonder if there is any difference between an article and a feature. Certainly not. Write-ups are generally called articles by most people and feature is an additional word for it, perhaps, conceived by the media world. Like people outside the media world call a news item an article but journalists refer to it as a story. So don’t rake your brains further.
An extensive version containing various aspects of an issue of a current news is usually called a news feature. Other than the news-based, there are several topics on which features are written which may not necessarily be pompous in style but should carry most information that the reader may like to know. A well written feature with an effective and attractive headline and a brilliant slug guarantees a sound reading.
Hard news is shackled with the five Ws (what, where, when, who and why) and one H (How) while feature stories are not bound by any structural guidelines and are allowed to fascinate you by an intelligent mixture of writer’s creativity and available facts on the subject. It is well said by an Englishman Lord Northcliffe that ‘it is hard news that catches readers. Features hold them’.
Suppose you are writing a feature to highlight the problems of a teenage girl – it is a sensitive issue - all information that you bind together should be close to her expectations. If you fail to deliver her the desired contents, she will possibly anchor on to another feature on similar issue to satisfy herself. You lose a reader and your publication receives a dent. This is why features should touch the issue in detail and the writing style should have a balanced combination of elegance and clarity. The copy should be lucid and the topic should be selected with utmost care.
One million feature stories are awaited to be written while a billion topics are up for grabs. You can pick up any topic and attempt a feature on it. Let’s take the five Ws as the take off point and see if we can manage to write a feature on it.
Jot down the five Ws.
What where, when who and why.
It may look very dull at the first sight. O Gosh. How can these five Ws knit a readable feature, you may think. Can the Ws generate interest as informative feature. No certainly not. Can it be covered under the category of an educational feature. Yes, it can but what information we have on Ws is restricted. Can we theorise a philosophy of the Ws.
Yes. Yes. Yes. We can.
But how. Keep thinking and focus on the Ws.
Not getting further.
Now take each W and figure out. Let’s start with ‘What’. What is your name (a question to get familiar with a person). We hear it often and have been hearing it for ages. What is this, what is that.( This ‘what’ is borne out of curiosity) What will happen. (This ‘what’ has a bit of suspense)
What will you do if you fail in your examinations this year ( in this context ‘what’ refers to an option) See it is becoming visible that ‘what’ plays a major role in our communications and as a student journalist you are discovering that five Ws are not only important in news writing but also in life. Once having done a similar act with other Ws, we can begin the feature story now....