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    From Drab to Glamour: Writing the Feature Story

    Through the feature article, any drab-looking, boring, or dry material can be transformed into an enjoyable and entertaining read without having to sacrifice the idea or the message which needs to be communicated.

    Most "seeds" or germs for the feature article stem from news stories and current events. However, topics for the feature article could also not be hooked to a current event.

    An old topic could be made interesting when given a fresh angle and written in such a way that readers now can relate to it.

    Similarly, a technical paper full of jargon can be made interesting and readable by using different feature devices and techniques.

    It's all in how the subject is treated and given a human interest angle that makes every feature story timely.

    The feature article, compared to the other forms of articles, is the most varied in terms of scope of subject matter. You, the feature writer, could write anything from the most common subject to the bizarre.

    The feature article also allows variety in tone, form and style. Your feature article could be written in a light or fun tone. Or it can be written in a serious tone. This all depends on what your feature subject is and for what purpose you are writing your feature.

    Your feature article should also be well organized. The paragraphs and ideas should show coherence and unity. Even if the feature is written using an informal treatment, there is still a structure to follow.

    The length of the feature is also varied. There is no prescribed length. How interesting your feature subject is to your readers usually determines its length. If you were writing a feature whose main purpose is to teach or inform, then in all probability your story would be lengthy.

    As a feature writer, you should have the ability to write about an ordinary thing in an interesting, entertaining and informative manner. You must possess a liberal amount of creativity and an interest in life.

    You should also have the ability to look and dig deeper in a news story or a particular event. Are you willing to probe beneath the surface of ordinary events? Are you willing to investigate a story or get to the bottom of things? Are you a keen observer?


    Keep 'em glued!

    Short of doing a juggling-act, the feature writer should be able to make his readers read his story from start to finish.

    At the outset, a reader should be interested enough for him to want to read your story.

    If your aim is to amuse, your reader should by no means be amused at the end of the article. If your goal is to make your reader moved or feel sympathetic toward the subject of your feature, then you should be able to achieve that.

    Move your reader. Make him feel something. Make him read your article all throughout. It's not a good sign if your readers end up hating your subject when your goal is to make him feel sympathetic or feel pity.

    Topics for features can be found anywhere. Aside from news and current events, other sources are books, experiences, special events, movies, museums, conversations, familiar places, interesting people, interviews, fashion and imagination.

    How you write about the topic you have chosen and how you treat your topic will determine your reader's interest in it.


    How do you keep your reader's interest?

    First, your subject should be interesting enough. Or if it's been the subject of too many feature articles in the past, try to find a fresh angle, one that hasn't been used. Play this up.

    Next, decide what your purpose is and keep this in mind as you write your story. As you write, your purpose might be to share an experience, write about an exciting story, change your reader's way of thinking or opinion about the subject of your story, warn your reader, motivate or inspire our reader, predict and interpret, portray a personality or share a lesson.

    Always, always be specific in what you are writing. Use vivid words. Make your words, your phrases, your sentences jump off the page. Work in getting your reader involved in the story. This is effectively achieved when you use the "you" approach. This approach gives your reader a feeling of being in the story.

    Use quotes from people you have interviewed. Direct quotes from them make your story more alive. Using quotes also help your story move along. Use analogies and fresh figures of speech, no trite phrases or cliches. They've been used so many times before, don't use them again.


    So how do you begin to write your feature?

    Simple. First, you pick your subject. You might change your mind several times but after you've made the final decision, try to limit your subject to a specific area. Early on at this stage, it's better for you have a tentative title. You can work around this title or later, you can change this into a more apt feature title.

    Next, write down the main things that you want to do in your feature article. Try to pinpoint specific highlights and as much as possible, give specific details. You can use devices and situations you think will hold your reader's interest. Write the first draft of your feature.

    Let your first draft sit on your desk for a few hours or even a few days. Then, go back to it and rewrite. Polish, edit. Edit, polish. Decide on your final title. Print out a copy and you now have a story to submit!

    Copyright © 2001 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

    Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ creates and teaches free e-mail courses for writers at WritingBliss.com. Sign up for a class today.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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