A feature article is a magazine’s main story and usually discusses a special event, person, or place, offering considerable coverage and detail. Whether creatively focused or of a newsworthy nature, there are numerous types of them. This workshop discusses the many aspects needed to craft them.
Article purposes can be expressed by the word “PAST,” whose letters correspond to “purpose,” “audience,” “setting,” and “type.”
1). Purpose: What is the purpose or end goal of the article?
2). Audience: For whom is the article being written-in other words, what are the interest, understanding, expertise, demographics, and ages of its intended readership? A technical article, for example, may be geared toward engineers, while one concerning flower planting and pruning may be more appropriate for members of a garden club.
3). Scope/breadth: Articles have scopes and breadths and the author should not exceed them, or it will include too many angles and become too general in nature.
4). Topic: Topics run the gambit from psychology to health, construction, computers, biology, and sports.
Articles can incorporate the following six elements.
2). Nut graph
3). Article body
Essentially a hook, the lead serves to grab the reader’s attention and lead or lure him into the article or story. Like bait, it must capture him and deliver on its “unwritten contractual” promise. It can be a single line or a single paragraph, depending upon the length of the article itself, and assume many forms, such as a summary sentence, a question, an insightful comment, or a witty quip, as follows.
1). Summary lead: The summary lead incorporates the standard five “w’s” and one “h” of journalism-that is, who, what, where, when, why, and how.
2). Quotation lead: The quotation lead should, if at all possible, be brief and concise, thresholding what is to follow in the article’s body.
3). Scenario lead: The scenario lead uses a narrative to describe a place and is most appropriate for articles whose settings or locations are important.
4). Narrative lead: The narrative lead often incorporates elements of creative nonfiction, such as allegory or figurative speech.
5). Anecdotal lead: The anecdotal lead begins with a story.
6). Paradoxical lead: The paradoxical lead, as its designation implies, consists of a paradox or contradiction, such as “The world’s wealthiest people are paradoxically the poorest.”
The nut graph is the element sandwiched between the lead and the story’s main body, summarizing what is to follow. It can be equated with the path the reader can expect to follow through the piece. Its length is proportional to the article’s length-that is, a single sentence would suffice for a 300- to 400-word article, while a paragraph would be more appropriate for a feature one.
It justifies the story be relating to readers why they should care about what is being written. It provides the transition from the lead and explains how and why it is connected to what is to follow. It may tell the reader why the story is timely. Finally, it often includes supporting material that emphasizes why the article is important.
As its designation implies, the article body, for which the nut graph provides its foundation, is the longest section and includes the writer’s main points, facts, discussions, and supporting quotes.
The angle is the article’s emphasis. Tantamount to it is support provided by research, expert quotes, data, and analysis. Because most topics are too extensive to be adequately covered in a 1,000-word piece, angles reduce their focus. An article about education, for example, would merit a full-length book, but a story focusing on the college freshman population of private institutions in the northeast would limit its scope.
“Most good stories have one goal or purpose, and the angle of the story helps the writer achieve this goal,” according to Naweed Saleh in his book, “The Complete Guide to Article Writing: How to Write Successful Articles for Online and Print Markets” (Writers Digest Books, 2013, p. 193.) “From the beginning, a writer transitions toward an ending that is always in sight. If a reader becomes lost and the promise of this ending is obfuscated, then the writer has failed.”
Although not necessarily a mandatory article element, a header can subdivide stories into shorter, specifically-focused sections, especially longer ones. Almost like chapter titles, they advise the reader of what will be discussed in the respective section. In the case of the education article, for example, its headers may include “The College Freshman Population,” “Northeast Colleges,” “Private versus Public Institutions,” “Freshmen Requirements,” and “Private School Tuition.”
“When readers sit with your piece, they’re forming a relationship with it-even if it’s a short relationship,” according to Saleh (ibid, p. 133). “If they have read it to the end, then they’re willing to see this relationship through and expect closure. Consequently, the good writer will continue to deliver quality writing all the way to the end of the piece.
“You may conclude your article by expanding (its) perspective… , looking toward the future, revisiting the introduction, or inserting a relevant quotation.