ZeePedia
Journalistic Writing

WRITING FEATURES:GENERATING FEATURE STORY IDEAS

<< EDITORIAL WRITING:WRITING AN EDITORIAL:STRUCTURING AN EDITORIAL
WRITING COLUMNS:Column and a news report, Purpose, Audience >>
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
LECTURE 37
WRITING FEATURES
WHAT'S A FEATURE? THE BASIC SCOOP:
A news feature goes way deeper than the headlines ­ it explores an issue thoroughly. To write one requires
plenty of research and interviewing. Yes, it takes some honest toil to create something worthwhile, but it's fun
­ especially once you see the result of all that hard work.
TYPES OF FEATURES:
·  Human interest features
·
News features
·
Personality profiles
·
Personal experience narratives
·
How-to-Stories
·
Historical features
·
Brites
EXAMPLE OF BRITES:
Ready, aim, bake!
Joe Carle of Westland called police Sunday night after he heard gunshots hitting his house. He told
police someone was shooting from outside.
But police found Carle, 31, had placed a loaded semiautomatic handgun in his oven that night, forgot it
was there, then turned on the oven. The gun warmed up and fired bullets through the oven into the kitchen
walls. No one was hurt.
Police didn't know why Carle put the gun in the oven.
WHAT TO FEATURE IN A FEATURE?
Features can run up to 10,000 words in length. Even if your story is only one tenth as long (YPP features tend
to be from 1000-1500 words in length), it's important to have a clear idea of what you are going to write about
­ and what specific angle you will explore ­ as you get started.
GENERATING FEATURE STORY IDEAS
1. Start with your own experience
2. Community you are part of
3. Read the papers and listen to newscast
4. Clip saving
5. Fact files: who, what, where, etc
6. History
7. Hobbies
8. Dreams: nearly everyone wants to be rich.
9. How and why behind a news event
Story mapping can keep you from wasting a lot of time doing research that you won't be able to use. Here's
an example of how to focus a feature by using the technique of story mapping. We'll look at raves once again:
You love raves, and want to do a story on them. OK, cool, you've got your initial idea. But what exactly are
you going to write about? For every general story idea, there are many angles, or ways the story can be
141
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
handled. For instance, a story about raves could address the drugs, the venues, the music, the dangers, the
police, parents, the rave culture, clothing, trends...the list goes on and on. If you try to cover everything, you
will have zero focus. Without a clear angle, the likely result after lots of hard work will be one big mush!
Narrow your idea down to a few main sub-topics. Choose sub-topics that relate logically, and you will find
it easier to focus your story. For example, to write a feature on raves, you might choose to focus on drugs,
recent trends and music.
Your next step is to brainstorm as many angles as you can within each sub-topic, the same way you did
the main story idea. What possible details are there to touch upon?
Break down drugs: The physical effects, the peer pressure, the prices, the quality, the testing process, bad trips,
the potential for dying, for getting busted.
Break down trends: What's cool in the scene and what's not? What's the future? Are raves becoming too
trendy? Is there a dominant style? How do trends relate to the kinds of drugs people take?
Break down music: What's hot? What's not? What are the different styles and scenes? What kind of equipment
is used? Who are famous DJs? What is house? Techno? Happy Hardcore? Trance...
Based on the angles you come up with, decide what the main angle for your story is. Suddenly, you have
an interesting story about raves waiting to happen. It's straightforward, and will be relatively easy to write
because you know where you want to go, and what types of information you need to take you there.
What's next?
As always, you need to become an expert in your subject. Go out and get the information. You will need to do
some research on the net or in a library, talk to people on the phone and set up your key face-to-face
interviews.
A reporter has to hustle to get their facts straight. Find a DJ to profile and set up an interview. Go to some
raves, check out the trends; what are people wearing and taking? Take notes. Go to rave wear stores and get
prices. Figure out how to talk to some designers. What are the latest rumours about drugs? Who's doing what
and why? Make sure you interview some ravers so you can ground your story through their first-hand voices.
Youth journalists should strive to represent youth perspectives as often as possible.
The entire time you are doing your research, REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR FOCUS. Keep asking yourself
what information you really need. When you get extra information (which you most certainly will), don't get
bogged down and distracted by it. If you stay true to your focus, you will spend your time and energy doing
research efficiently. Once you've got all the information you need to cover your chosen angles, and then
transcribe your tapes (if you record interviews) and notebooks.
IT'S TIME TO WRITE!
Are you ready to get funky? Features are the crown jewel of news stories, where you can use colourful language
and have some freedom to express yourself. Whereas hard news stories concentrate on the facts ­ just the facts
­ news features blast past those limitations. This is where you get to show off and be creative as a writer. Test
your limits; push your use of language and your ability to set a scene. You are the Storyteller now.
There's no one right way to write, and there's no single best way for you to tell your story, so trust
yourself...insist on coming up with an original and effective approach. The more work you put into story
development and research, the more you can go with the flow of your notes when you actually sit down and
write the feature.
Try to make your reader feel like they are there. Your writing can trigger all five senses!
You can think of a feature story as a series of mental images, presented one after the other. If these scenes are
developed thoughtfully, creatively and skilfully, they can come together in extraordinary ways to create a
142
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
beautiful montage.
Consider the story about raves. A great feature will put the reader INSIDE the club, next to the DJ (what does
s/he looks like, smell like, sound like...does s/he wear their headphones crooked on their head, or around
their neck), in the mind of a 17 year-old taking "E," make them feel the music washing over the swaying crowd,
connect the trends they learned about with the outfits of the dancers gyrating by.
What's the point of your story?
In a feature, you have some room to develop your ideas and your characters (much like in a play or a short
story). You don't have to start with a lead that summarizes the whole piece.
If you create a vivid atmosphere for your readers, it can be very effective to have your characters narrate the
story from within that scene.
Say the rave story starts off right in the heart of a club: the lights, the beats, the gear, the heat, and the
turntables. The description ends with the turntables, and the DJ takes over telling the story in one's own words.
By sharing some details about other aspects of the club, and quoting other ravers and DJs, the whole feature
can unfold within the atmosphere of the party. Just be sure that whatever approach you use allows you to
stay with the initial idea and main sub-topics.
Your role as a feature writer is that of narrator. You take all the pieces of information that you've assembled
and decide how to put them together. Build a complete jigsaw puzzle, using your own perspective to envision
and then assess the final result.
Remember that your opinions shouldn't enter a feature story. You are there to fairly and accurately
represent different people, and to let the reader draw their own conclusions about who and what to believe.
FEATURE LEADS:
1. Question lead:
­  Is it better to buy new or used textbooks?
­
Should the death penalty be abolished?
­
Do birds aim?
2. Direct address:
­  Would you like free season football tickets ­ and a ride to the stadium?
­
Tired of smoky cafes, sleazy pickup lines and stale pretzels? Then try the newest single scene:
cyberspace
3. Quotations:
At the end it was Cassie who told her mother not to cry.
"I had started to cry," Angela said, "and Cassie looked at me and said, `Don't cry, Mother, even when I
die, don't cry,' and then she went quietly to sleep."
-Lexington Herald-Leader
4. Anecdotes:
Gretchen Brown, president and chief executive officer of Hospice of the Bluegrass, remembers the
well-intentioned but confused college student who called her one day. "I asked him, `Do you know
what hospice is?' and he said, `Oh, that's where they kill people.'"
5. Allusion:
At the Berks County jail, crime doesn't pay. The inmates do: $ 10 a day for room and board ­ no credit
cards accepted. -Wall Street Journal
143
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
6. Contrast:
Richard Roy Grant was, by all appearance, a life insurgence agent, a beloved husband and stepfather, a
kind neighbour, a caring friend.
He was also a burglar, whose speciality was breaking into the homes of high school athletes while their
families were away, watching their sons play football.
Associated Press
7. Descriptive leads:
Every day the factory whistle bellowed forth its shrill, roaring, trembling noises into the smoke-
begrimed and greasy atmosphere of the workingmen's suburb; and obedient to the summons of the
power of steam, people poured out of little grey houses into the street. With sombre faces they
hastened forward like frightened roaches, their muscles stiff from insufficient sleep. In the chill
morning twilight, they walked through the narrow, unpaved street to the tall stone cage that waited for
them to welcome the people with deafening sounds floated about--the heavy whir of machinery, the
dissatisfied snort of steam. Stern and sombre, the black chimneys stretched their huge, thick sticks high
above the village. No mercy!
REVISION AND EDITING
Always reread your work. Read it out loud; read it as if you have no knowledge of the subject; pretend you are a
critical editor seeing it for the first time; pretend you are one of your targeted readers. Do your own grammar
and spell check. If possible, let it sit for a couple days and then read it again. This is the beauty of re-
vision: you'll be amazed by all the improvements you can make when you look at it with a fresh perspective.
Also, consider printing it out and reading it as printed text, because things read differently on paper than they
do on screen.
It sucks to have words that you sweated and slaved over deleted with the click of a button, but editing ­ and
cutting in particular ­ almost always has to happen. Though you need to try and edit yourself as ruthlessly as
possible, it's almost impossible to have an editor's perspective when you are the author. It helps to hear
someone else suggest what passages they think aren't crucial, what sentences need to be tightened up, where
there's clutter that can be eliminated.
It can be incredibly hard to see your writing cut up, but that, after all, is why editors exist. The lesson to be
learned when it comes to dealing with editors is to cultivate a thick skin. To master the craft of writing you
have to discipline yourself to hear criticism without construing it as a personal attack. If your piece of writing is
too long (as most are, once you're trying to squeeze into a word count allotted to you by a publication), then
something has to be cut, you may not like it, but you have to accept it.
Of course, you must struggle to find a balance; as the author you are ultimately responsible for keeping the
heart of your story intact...alive...vibrant! So you can't accept every suggested revision, but you also can't stake
your feelings to every sentence you've ever written. Not if you want to be a published writer.
When your piece appears in print, don't be surprised if you find changes have been made to your story that
you've never seen. Again, don't take it personally when your work is revised. Sometimes it's done to better suit
the style of the publication. Sometimes it's minor grammar alterations. And sometimes there's such major
cutting, pasting and rewording that it's hard to recognize your story anymore. When this happens, don't scream
and threaten your editor. Calmly express your concerns at an appropriate time, and if the editor isn't willing to
accommodate you and you don't want it to happen again, don't submit anything else to that publication.
HINT: If you get sick and tired of reading over your own piece during the revision process, show it to a
friend. They will see things that you can't ­ guarantee!
YPP Writer's Guide: A Handbook for Youth Journalists 48
144
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
ACTIVITY: UNDERSTANDING A FEATURE
Find a feature and read it carefully. What is the feature about, in your own words...the main, focused idea?
Cite three major sub-topics, or angles, used to explore aspects of the main idea.
1
2
3
For each of the above three sub-topics, cite one piece of evidence the author includes as support. Hint: look
for facts or quotes.
1
2
3
Cite two sentences where the author uses descriptive, evocative language.
1
2
145
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
List three people that the story quotes, and why they are qualified to serve as appropriate references and
sources of authority.
1
2
3
Cite the sentence that you think is weakest. Hint: Look for something that either reveals the author's personal
opinion, or that is unrelated to the main focus of the story.
1
Comment on something you like about the writer's style.
1
STORY GENERATION: BRAINSTORMING
There are many stages to writing a story for a newspaper, and a good reporter is good at shifting gears as they
tackle the different kinds of work required.
Doing research and conducting interviews calls for a left-brained mind like a steel trap, tracking details and
thinking very rationally. However, before you reach that stage of the game, you should already have tapped into
the right side of your brain and made good use of your creativity.
Story mapping is a great way to generate your own overview of the story you want to write. Try this exercise
in the first steps of story mapping to help get your creative juices flowing.
What are some general ideas for stories that you could write about? List at least three.
146
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
Settle on one of the ideas, and cross out the others. Now, brainstorm sub-topics and ideas or things that relate
to your main idea. Write down as many angles that relate to your story as you can come up with.
List the three or four important related ideas from the above list, and then repeat the brainstorming process: try
to come up with as many sub-topics for each of them as you can.
Write down three people or organizations you could contact in order to get quotes or information that would
address important sub-topics you have brainstormed.
147
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
What is one sub-topic you came up with that you think should not be included in your story because it shifts
the focus to a different angle?
What is the most important sub-topic you have found ­ the one that you think will be a (or the) major theme in
your story.
READING ­ FEATURE (an example)
"Air Carter," by Afrodite Balogh-Tyszko and Anika Jarrett
Mean dunks. Dirty, grimy dunks Blood-curdling, rim-rocking, crowd shocking dunks. Dunks that is completely
unfathomable until you witness one.
Yes, this is basketball ­ "Air Canada" style. And Raptor fans have rookie sensation Vince Carter to thank for all
the hoop-la.
Carter, 22, has helped lead the struggling expansion team out of the woods and into playoff contention. Each
night, he pulls a new trick out of his well-equipped bag and elevates the game to a new zenith in Toronto.
The former North Carolina Tar Heel is a bona fide crowd pleaser, but his flashiness comes naturally to him.
While he is sometimes referred to as "Air Canada," he is simply incomparable.
High-flying dunks aside, Carter have the makings of a complete player. He is a fierce competitor and inside the
paint, he can make an opposing player look dumb and dumber. Give him the ball and watch things happen! He
can soar over a defender but he has also got the court vision of a guard who will selflessly pass the ball to open
team mates.
Carter says he doesn't have a specific style. "I don't really have a patent move," he remarks. "(Perhaps) the fade
away, I guess. I use that a lot, but eventually good teams will catch on."
One thing is for certain. Once Carter takes flight within the perimeters of the key, he is virtually untouchable.
As much as his on-court athleticism distinguishes him as a prime candidate for Rookie of the Year honours, as
a young pro with a champion's heart and veteran's demeanour Carter is an ambassador of good will and hard
work both on and off the court.
Playing ball, he combines his remarkable basketball skills with a tremendous sense of fair play and modesty ­
qualities which have led to his winning the "Most Sportsmanlike Player" honours for the Central Division. Off
the court, Carter is careful to avoid the trappings of celebrity ­ the fast-paced life of the young, handsome and
wealthy ­ choosing instead to lead a quiet existence between games.
"(The NBA) is tough," says the young superstar. "You have to learn how to take care of your body and to get
rest. A lot of players don't do that."
Despite the tremendous rigors of the NBA schedule, Carter has chosen to volunteer what little free time he has
as a role model and mentor to a select group of Toronto youth, the participants in the "Vince's Hoop Group"
148
img
Journalistic Writing ­ MCM310
VU
program. The program is an extension of his "Embassy of Hope Foundation," based in his hometown of
Daytona Beach, Florida.
"I'm all about putting smiles on young kids' faces," says Carter. "As soon as I got drafted I started the
organization."
Carter selected West view Centennial Secondary School in North York as the home for his program because he
was impressed with the school's unique approach to motivating students and its strong links to the community.
Students who take part in "Vince's Hoop Group" are asked to set and meet challenging goals. The reward for
fulfilling these objectives is silver seats to a Raptor home game at Carter's personal expense and the
opportunity to meet and chat with the young star.
"We had to have regular attendance, raise our marks, and be positive role models in the school," explains
Germaine Brown, 15. "I'm here because I did all that and I'm glad to have been involved."
While meeting with students, Carter emphasizes the importance of a good education and tells the participants
that he is proud of their accomplishments and that they should be too.
The young basketball star's message to these students and to youth in general, is to take school seriously.
"Learn how to study," he asserts. "It will mean a lot later on in college." Carter also encourages youth to get
involved in volunteer work. "It never hurts to go out and do something in your community."
Teachers involved with "Vince's Hoop Group" couldn't be happier with Carter's enthusiasm. "Sometimes
there's only so much we as teachers can do to motivate our students," says West view physical education
teacher Peter Stefaniuk. "I'm especially happy about Vince Carter serving as a role model for this program
because he not only has fantastic basketball skills which scores him pretty high on the `cool' scale with kids, but
he seems to be very well rounded and have a real sense of integrity. Certainly, good footsteps for our students
to follow in"
Spending a few choice moments with Carter could be enough to send some youth back out on to the
basketball court dreaming of the big leagues, but his advice seems to have rubbed off on the starry eyed
youngsters.
"I want to play in the NBA," says 15-year-old Dwight James. "But right now, school comes first and I want to
get into business. Maybe I'll become a bank manager."
James' team mate Brown has similar goals. "If not the NBA," he says, "I want to get into accounting."
Carter practices what he preaches. He is soaring to reach his goals, but has both feet planted firmly on the
ground.
"Basketball means a lot to me," he says, "but it's not everything. If I wasn't doing what I'm doing, I'd probably
be at a (historical) Black college."
The Raptor rookie couldn't be happier with where he is right now. Perhaps his real patent move, both on and
off the court, is his vibrant smile, which has warmed the hearts of millions.
It shows that he is a young man who is relishing every minute of his exciting life.
Afrodite Balogh-Tyszko, 19, attends St. Martin's Secondary School in Mississauga. Anika
Jarrett, 18, attends Pickering High School in Ajax.
Source:
http://www.ypp.net/
149
Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION TO JOURNALISTIC WRITING:Practical, THINGS TO KNOW
  2. QUALITIES OF GOOD WRITERS
  3. QUALITIES OF GOOD WRITERS
  4. QUALITIES OF GOOD WRITING:Achieve appropriate readability:
  5. QUALITIES OF GOOD WRITING:Be concise, Be creative, Be correct
  6. THE PROCESS OF WRITING:INVENTION, WHEN YOU START TO WRITE
  7. THE PROCESS OF WRITING II:ORGANIZING, DRAFTING, REVISING
  8. ALL ABOUT WORDS:HOW WORDS ARE FORMED?:SUFFIXES
  9. DICTIONARY-A WRITER’S LANGUAGE TOOL:KINDS OF INFORMATION
  10. PARTS OF SPEECH:Noun Gender, Noun Plurals, Countable Nouns
  11. BASIC CLAUSE PATTERNS
  12. ACTIVE AND PASSSIVE VOICE
  13. MODIFIERS AND SENTENCE TYPES:COMPOUND SENTENCES
  14. REPORTED SPEECH:Indirect Questions, Direct commands
  15. GRAMMATICAL SENTENCE – ISSUES:SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT
  16. GRAMMATICAL SENTENCE – ISSUES II:SENTENCE FRAGMENTS
  17. EFFECTIVE SENTENCE:PARALLELISM, NEEDED WORDS, SHIFTS
  18. STYLE: GUIDELINE AND PITFALLS I:COLLOQUIAL VS FORMAL, CIRCUMLOCUTION
  19. STYLE: GUIDELINE AND PITFALLS II:AMBIGUITY, REDUNDANCY, EUPHEMISM:
  20. PARAGRAPH WRITING: TYPES AND TECHNIQUES:STRUCTURE
  21. PARAGRAPH WRITING: TYPES AND TECHNIQUES:Putting on Our Play
  22. ESSAY WRITING:VARIOUS STRATEGIES FOR ESSAYS, PROMPTS
  23. SIGNAL WORDS:Non word Emphasis Signals
  24. EXPOSITORY WRITING:LOGICAL FALLACIES, APPEAL TO EMOTION
  25. THE WRITING STYLES: REPORT and NARRATIVE WRITING, SHORT REPORTS
  26. THE WRITING STYLES: DESCRIPTIVE AND PERSUASIVE WRITINGS, Observation
  27. RESEARCH WRITING AND DOCUMNETING SOURCES:Handling Long Quotations
  28. Summary and Précis Writing:CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD SUMMARY
  29. Punctuation:THE PERIOD, THE COMMA, THE SEMICOLON, THE COLON
  30. MECHANICS:ABBREVIATIONS, NUMBERS, SPELLING, THE HYPHEN
  31. READING SKILLS FOR WRITERS:EDUCATED READING, STEPS
  32. PARTS OF A NEWSPAPER:Box-out, By-line, Caption, Exclusive, Feature
  33. THE LANGUAGE OF THE NEWSPAPERS II:BROADSHEET NEWSPAPER
  34. News Writing and Style I:WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NEWSPAPER
  35. NEWS WRITING II:Accuracy, Clarity, Style, Qualities of Effective Leads
  36. EDITORIAL WRITING:WRITING AN EDITORIAL:STRUCTURING AN EDITORIAL
  37. WRITING FEATURES:GENERATING FEATURE STORY IDEAS
  38. WRITING COLUMNS:Column and a news report, Purpose, Audience
  39. WRITING ARTICLES FOR NEWSPAPERS:The Heading, The Lead
  40. WRITING ANALYSIS:purpose, scope, method, results, recommendations
  41. LETTERS TO EDITORS:Four important aspects about letters, Organizing letters
  42. BROADCAST AND WEB NEWS WRITING:WRITE CONCISELY, BROADCAST STYLE
  43. WRITING PRESS RELEASE, REVIEWS AND OBITUARIES:Summary of Content:
  44. THE ART OF INTERVIEWINGS
  45. FINAL THOUGHTS:Practical, Job-Related, Social, Stimulating, Therapeutic