Ask most people what a feature story is, and they'll say something soft and puffy, written for the arts or fashion section of the newspaper or website. But in fact, features can be about any subject, from the fluffiest lifestyle piece to the toughest investigative report. And features aren't just found in the back pages of the paper, the ones that focus on things like home decor and music reviews. In fact, features are found in every section of the paper, from news to business to sports. Feature stories aren't defined so much by subject matter as they are by the style in which they are written. In other words, anything written in a feature-oriented way is a feature story.
When we think of newspapers, we tend to focus on the hard-news stories that fill the front page. But much of the writing found in any newspaper is done in a much more feature-oriented way. Writing ledes for feature stories is a very different craft than writing hard-news ledes. Hard-news ledes need to get all the important points of the story - the who, what, where, when, why and how - into the very first sentence. Feature ledes, sometimes called delayed leads, unfold more slowly. They allow the writer to tell a story in a more traditional, narrative way. The objective, of course, is to draw the reader into the story, to make them want to read more.
Spot features are just what they sound like - feature stories written on a spot-news, or breaking-news deadline. Spot features often involve coverage of happenings that aren't big news and, as such, don't really warrant a hard-news lede. Examples could include small-time athletic events, lectures, community forums and debates. The challenge in writing a spot feature is to incorporate the creativity of feature writing on a tight deadline. Here are some tips for doing spot features.
The personality profile is an article about an individual, and profiles are one of the staples of feature writing. No doubt you've read profiles in newspapers, magazines or websites. Profiles can be done on just about anyone who's interesting and newsworthy, whether it's the local mayor or a rock star. Here are seven tips for producing great profiles, starting with the most important - getting to know your subject. Too many reporters think they can produce quick-hit profiles where they spend a few hours with a subject and then bang out a story. That won't work. To really see what a person is like you need to be with him or her long enough so that they let their guard down and reveal their true selves. That won't happen in an hour or two.
So you want to be a critic? Does a career spent reviewing movies, music, books, TV shows or restaurants seem like Nirvana to you? Then you’re a born critic. But writing great reviews is a real art, one that many have tried but only a few have mastered. Read great critics and you’ll notice something they all have in common – strong opinions. But newbies who aren’t quite confident in their opinions often write wishy-washy reviews. They write sentences like “I sort of enjoyed this” or “that was okay, though not great.” They’re afraid to take a strong stand for fear of being challenged. But there’s nothing more boring than a hemming-and-hawing review. So decide what you think, and don’t be afraid to state it in no uncertain terms.