When writing a news story there are guidelines in place to ensure your story is straight to the point, structured and accurate.
All good journalism students are aware that the perfect lead should include the ‘what’ first, unless the ‘who’ is more important, the ‘where’ should also feature and the ‘when’ is usually incorporated at the end of the sentence. The lead should only be one sentence, two at the most, in order to state the main facts as simply as possible. The ‘why’ and the ‘how’ should be discussed high up in the story and the rest of the facts should follow in a set inverted pyramid structure. Three quotes is a good number and the first should preferably be in the third paragraph. There are exceptions, of course, but generally if you follow the rules you are onto a winner.
However, feature writing seems to me to be a little more difficult. It is the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ which often take centre stage. Following a large event or news story, features can provide the detail that readers want to know about. A writer can immerse themselves in the depth of the story rather than simply stating facts. They can even include their own opinions but supporting themselves using the solid groundings of primary reportage.
A journalist has much more creative freedom in which to entice the reader with. Firstly they must choose the type of feature which will best fit the information they wish to share. Lifestyle, backgrounder, profile, interview, how-to-do-it, opinion column… the list continues.
Then the style can be chosen. Do you wish to write in first person or third person? Perhaps in second person, including the reader at all times. Do you want your feature to read like a fictional book, full of description and painting a vivid image in the reader’s mind? Or would you prefer a more simple approach, colourful and engaging, yet an easy read?
Another question that you must ask yourself is how are you going to grab the attention of your reader? Just like a news story, the lead is vital in hooking the reader. The difference is that you can take as many sentences as you like to do so.
You may wish to explain the topic straight away by asking a simple question, or you may use a delayed lead where you can take several paragraphs to get to the point, perhaps by using an anecdote to ease the reader in. How about a shocking, horrific or emotional introduction? Have you considered a contrast lead, comparing an idealistic beautiful image with a graphic and horrible reality? The latter seems rather depressing to me but the choice is yours.
In my opinion, more freedom = more fun!
Picture: google images