Man writing a feature

What is feature writing?

In graduate school for journalism, I was obsessed with feature writing. Telling true stories in a way that conveys truth with feeling and verve was a fascinating challenge.

I’m planning to document some of the things I’ve learned about feature writing here, in a series of related posts. I thought I’d start by asking an AI bot what it thinks feature writing is. Here’s what it told me:

Journalistic feature writing is a form of writing that focuses on telling stories in a way that captures the attention of readers and provides them with a deeper understanding of the subject. Features are typically longer articles that go beyond the basic who, what, when, and where of a news story to explore the why and how.

Unlike hard news reporting, which is typically focused on providing the most important information as quickly and accurately as possible, feature writing is more about using literary techniques to engage readers and create a vivid picture of the subject. Journalistic features can cover a wide range of topics, from human interest stories to in-depth analyses of complex issues.

Some common elements of journalistic feature writing include strong characters, detailed descriptions of settings, and compelling storytelling techniques such as narrative arcs and dialogue. Features may also include expert analysis, data and research, and quotes from sources to support the story’s premise.

Overall, the goal of journalistic feature writing is to provide readers with a more nuanced understanding of a subject than they might get from a traditional news report. By engaging readers with compelling storytelling techniques and providing them with valuable information and insights, journalists can help them develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Not bad. Guessing it spun that answer up from a few different sources it found out in the wild. The reason I initially turned to the AI was to see what it knew about feature writing structure. I’m guessing a lot. For instance, I was curious if it could codify the types of leads used for features. A couple come to mind — my human mind.

Anecdotal leads are one category, where you start telling the story with a story. In fact, there are many subcategories of anecdotal leads. Anyway, I have long meant to sit down and catalog the various types of anecdotal leads myself, but it occurred to me that this is just the kind of job AI is good at. So here we go:

  1. Anecdotal lead: This type of lead uses a brief story or anecdote to introduce the main topic of the story. The story should be engaging and relevant to the overall topic of the article.
  2. Descriptive lead: A descriptive lead sets the scene and provides a vivid description of the setting or the main character of the story. This type of lead is often used to create a strong visual image in the reader’s mind.
  3. Shocking or provocative lead: A shocking or provocative lead grabs the reader’s attention by starting with a surprising fact or statement. This type of lead is effective for stories that deal with controversial or emotionally charged topics.
  4. Question lead: A question lead asks a question that is directly related to the main topic of the story. This type of lead can be effective for engaging the reader and creating a sense of curiosity.
  5. Quotation lead: A quotation lead uses a quote from a source or expert to introduce the main topic of the story. This type of lead can be effective for stories that deal with issues or events that are highly relevant to the source’s expertise.

Seems like a good start. And that’s where I’m going to leave it for now.

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