Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Feature Writing

Feature Writing
Sam lost his job two years ago due to the economy downturn. Believing it to be only temporary, he actively seeks employment while upgrading his skills through short-term courses. Today, he is still unemployed. Now at the age of 41, he is forced to consider self-employment and entrepreneurship but is hesitant because he has been an employee his entire working life.

The introduction above is an anecdote that kicks off a news feature story on entrepreneurship. When writing a feature, there are usually four components to be considered. These components are: anecdotes, quotes, facts, and statements of theme.

For writers who are new to feature writing, a common mistake is to pen an anecdote from a first or second person's points of view. For example, when writing the story mentioned above using 'I' or 'you':

You have been an employee your entire working life. Two years ago, you lost your job due to the economy downturn. Believing the downturn to be only temporary, you actively seek employment while upgrading your skills through short-term courses. Today, you are still unemployed.
To write an anecdote, the story must be written by a third party or a third person narrator. The purpose is to use content 'pull' technique to attract readers to a sense of reading a novel or a storybook. For a feature story to be successful, at least one anecdote should be included to help readers visualize the 'reality' of a situation or the life of the person being told in the anecdote.

A feature should also include facts and quotes for angles of human interest. Facts may be research finding that quantify the content of the story, official statistical figures, or actual events witnessed by people:

According to official figures from the manpower department, unemployment is now at 4.5 per cent.
Quotes are actual account of events by witnesses or spoken comments of people interviewed. Quotes can be direct or indirect. For a feature story to be credible and interesting, both direct and indirect quotes will be necessary.

A direct quote is the actual spoken words by persons interviewed:

"I have been an employee my entire working life," said Sam Doe, 41, a retrenched worker.
An indirect quote is a paraphrased or rephrased writing of actual words spoken by persons interviewed:

Sam Doe, 41, said he has been an employee his entire working life.
Statements of theme are sentences that links original theme of the story to various parts of the feature. This is especially useful when there are multiple sections or story points that need to be expanded in different areas of the feature. The objective of statements of theme is to draw the readers back to the main theme of the story.

The feature story is usually written with each paragraph pulling the readers forward to read on to the point of closure or a conclusion or instructions to proceed further. It is usual to end the story by drawing the readers' attention back to the points being told at the lead paragraph, but with added knowledge on the subject.

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