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Feature Story: Definition, Format & Examples

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  • 0:00 What's a Feature Story?
  • 1:15 The Beginning
  • 2:10 The Middle
  • 3:30 The End
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

In this lesson, we will learn about feature stories and how to write effective human interest pieces that leave a lasting impression. We'll learn about the elements and structure of a feature story, and then you can test your knowledge of this subject with a quiz.

What's a Feature Story?

When you hear the words 'feature story,' you might think of the main story of a nightly newscast, but forget about the who, what, when, where, and why that is typical of all news stories. A feature story is not about the news; it's about human interest. In essence, we can call features 'people stories,' or narratives about the human element of life.

They can be about almost anything: your Aunt Marissa's famous pecan cookies, your golden retriever Bogey, a vacation you took to Amsterdam, or even your first kiss. However, it's important to note that feature stories aren't all just fluff pieces. In fact, features can be hard-hitting or written to raise awareness about a cause or an issue. A story about the day you meant your spouse on a train to Florence is going to be totally different from a story about genocide in Rwanda; however, they are both still considered feature stories.

A feature story is all about the details: painting a picture of a person, event, or place on the written page so your topic becomes alive to the reader. They allow a writer to be creative. It's not just about facts; feature stories are more about storytelling and weaving an interesting narrative.

The Beginning

Let's take a look at the structure of the feature story, starting with the beginning.

Just like any story or essay, you need to grab your reader in the first paragraph. Start your feature with a bang as a way to draw attention. How are you going to hook your audience? Don't just concentrate on facts in the paragraph; make the reader want to continue reading. The opening paragraph should also set the stage for the rest of the story. What or whom is the feature story going to focus upon? If you're planning to talk about why pizza is your favorite food, then you have to tell your reader up front so they know what to expect.

The opening paragraph also sets the tone for the rest of the piece. Is your feature tongue-in-cheek and light-hearted? For example, if you're writing a humorous story about your love affair with chocolate and the lengths you will go for a cocoa fix, it is obviously going to have a much different tone than if you were writing a feature story on the Charles Manson murders.

The Middle

The middle paragraphs will represent the meat of your feature story. Unless your teacher or editor has given you a word count, there is no set limit on the number of paragraphs for your story. Remember, this is not a news story; features are known to be more elaborate, their pace more leisurely. You should continue to paint a picture for your reader. Your narrative should flow smoothly from paragraph to paragraph, and like all good stories, it should not be dull.

Continue to use interesting facts or anecdotes in these paragraphs to help illustrate your topic. If you're writing about why Peyton Manning is your favorite football player, you should, of course, throw in all the quarterback's impressive stats. However, anyone can look up statistics.

One way to tackle telling a story about Manning would be to weave an interesting tale about one of his impressive victories. Remember, you're painting a picture with words, details matter. How much time was left on the clock? Were there extreme weather conditions? Did he have an injury that he fought through? Conflict and obstacles are vital in telling a story; you will need to build tension throughout your feature, without drama there are no heroics.

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