But just as there are different kinds of hard-news stories, there are lots of different kinds of features. Here are some of the main types.
A profile is an article about an individual, and the profile article is one of the staples of feature writing. No doubt you've read profiles in newspapers, magazines or websites. Reporters do them on politicians, CEOs, celebrities, athletes, and so on. Profiles can be done on just about anyone who's interesting and newsworthy, whether it's on a local, national or international level.
The idea of the profile is to give readers a behind-the-scenes look at what a person is really like, warts and all, away from their public persona. Profile articles generally provide background on the profile subject - their age, where they grew up and were educated, where they live now, are they married, do they have kids, etc.
Beyond such factual basics, profiles look at who and what influenced the person, their ideas, and their choice of vocation or profession.
If you're doing a profile you'll obviously need to interview your subject, in person if possible, so that in addition to getting quotes you can describe their appearance and mannerisms. You should also watch the person in action, doing what they do, whether it be a mayor, a doctor or a beat cop. Also, talk to people who know the person you're profiling, and if your profile subject is controversial, talk to some of his/her critics.
Remember, your goal is to create a true portrait of your profile subject. No puff pieces allowed.
The News Feature
The news feature is just what it sounds like - a feature article that focuses on a topic of interest in the news. News features often cover the same subjects as deadline hard-news stories, but do so in greater depth and detail.
And since feature articles are "people stories," news features tend to focus on individuals more than deadline news stories, which often focus more on numbers and statistics.
For instance, let's say you're writing about the increase in heart disease. A deadline story on the topic might focus on statistics showing how heart disease is on the rise, and include quotes from experts on the topic.
A news feature, on the other hand, would likely begin by telling the story of one person suffering from heart disease. By describing he struggles of an individual, news feature can tackle big, newsy topics while still telling very human stories.
The Spot Feature
Let's say a tornado hits your town. Your mainbar will focus on the five W's and the H of the story - the number of casualties, the extent of the damage, the rescue efforts involved, and so on.
But with the mainbar you could have any number of sidebars focusing on certain aspects of the event. One story might describe the scene at an emergency shelter where displaced residents are housed. Another might reflect on past tornadoes in your town. Yet another might examine the weather conditions that led to the destructive storm.
Literally dozens of different sidebars could be done in this case, and more often than not they would be written in a feature style.
The Trend Story
Is there a cool new look in women's fall fashions? A website or tech gadget that everyone's going nuts over? An indy band that's attracted a cult following? A show on an obscure cable channel that's suddenly hot? These are the kinds of things that trend stories zero in on.
Trend stories take the pulse of the culture at the moment, looking at what's new, fresh and exciting in the world of art, fashion, film, music, high-technology and so on. The emphasis in trend stories is usually on light, quick, easy-to-read pieces that capture the spirit of whatever new trend is being discussed. In other words, if you're writing a trend story, have fun with it.
The live-in is an in-depth, often magazine-length article that paints a picture of a particular place and the people who work or live there. Live-ins have been done on homeless shelters, emergency rooms, battlefield encampments, cancer hospices, public schools and police precincts, among other locales. The idea is to give readers a look at a place they probably wouldn't normally encounter.
Reporters doing live-ins must spend a fair bit of time in the places they're writing about (thus the name). That's how they get a real sense of the place's rhythm and atmosphere. Reporters have spent days, weeks and even months doing live-ins (some have been turned into books). The live-in is really the ultimate example of the reporter immersing him or herself in the story.