Feature Writing

clip-art-of-extra_extra-pic-of-front-page-of-newspaperDiving into a piece of writing is so exciting; analyzing and realizing what the author could mean by a certain word, phrase or line is satisfying. As long as you have the evidence to support your claim, you cannot be wrong. However, you can be well-versed at analysis and yet, completely unaware how to write for a newspaper or Internet news. Feature writing in journalism is a whole other ball game. Learning different writing styles can come in handy to make yourself marketable in the job world.

To show the various parts of a features story I will use a piece I wrote as a features intern for the Vineland Daily Journal in Vineland, New Jersey. The terms to describe the parts of the writing are put in [brackets].

[Title] Artist sees the light

[Subhead] Millville painter innovates to make canvas come alive

Features writing allow you to be more creative than straight news. Try to think of a title that will grab people’s attention. Keep it short and sweet. The subhead allows you to explain more about the story. When you read “artist sees the light” you know the story will be about an artist who has achieved something. The subhead explains that he uses an unusual method on a canvas.

[LEAD] MILLVILLE — Dennis Tawes is trying something new on Millville’s art scene

The well-known “pioneer artist” who helped Millville launch the Glasstown Arts District has been hinting about his latest project for months, and finally will unveil his proud work at the city’s Third Friday festivities this week.

In his small art studio at The Village on High, Tawes has been working on a new technique that he hopes will change the way people view his paintings

The lead tells who, what, when, and where the article is talking about. An ideal first line is short, and should be slightly vague so it hooks the reader and encourages the reader to keep reading. It introduces the topic, without giving away the whole story.

[NUT GRAPH] By using LED lights on a canvas to manipulate color, flower petals change hues, a Ferris wheel moves and a woman’s mask disappears from a painting. The use of bright colors is key in Tawes’ work, which is ironic because the artist says he has difficulty perceiving bright hues.

In a nutshellThe nut graph is a sentence or paragraph that states the focus or the main point of the story. It should tell in a nutshell what the story is about and why it is newsworthy. This nut graph explains the technique used by the artist, and an interesting tidbit that the artist himself may not be able to accurately see the hues he is creating. This topic is newsworthy because it is an unfamiliar art technique, and because of the limitations of the artist.

LEDism, as he calls his latest obsession, started about a year ago.

[LEAD QUOTE] “My son hung up some of my paintings in his room where he happened to have an LED light,” Tawes said. “We noticed some of the colors were transforming. Artists focus light upon the subject (of) the canvas, (so we thought) what about focusing outside light onto the canvas, and it evolved from there. I started experimenting.”

The first quote that backs up the lead is called the lead quote. It is usually the strongest quote in the story and it supports the concept in the lead without repeating the same wording. This quote explains the origins of LEDism. Make sure to attribute quotes to proper sources. Ideally, a news/features story should have at least one quote from three different people (at least three quotes in total, depending on length). Since this story is about one person, quotes from just the artist are acceptable. To expand, I could have included quotes from his wife, son, or peers. My editor did not want that, so we just included the artist.

[IMPACT] Through his experimentation, Tawes realized pure color responds to LED lights.

“It’s a whole new different idea, even with painting, because I cannot think in terms of painting how I normally paint,” he said. “I have to think of how the light is going to affect the painting itself.”

Setting out to change how people view paintings, Tawes said this method “enhances” what the viewer sees and “reinvents” the painting.

“In my artistic career over the past 30 years I have endeavored to achieve something new with my art, something that had not been seen before,” he said.

He was hoping to combine modern technology and capture the movement of everyday life. To this point, he has only shown a handful of people his latest paintings; Tawes said he has received positive reactions.

Impact

The impact shows the readers why they should care. This method could “change how people view paintings” according to Tawes. Therefore, it is significant to the art world, but also to the common reader who views art.

[Elaboration Quote] “I haven’t changed my painting style, so it’s expressionist. (I) dabble a little in abstract, but with LED lights, when I first started thinking about it, it’s like a new level in modern art,” Tawes said. “It makes you question more of what you’re looking at. At one point it’s red, now it’s black or turns purple. How did it do that?”

Quotes can stand alone as added information for the story. Instead of me as the writer explaining the methodology, it’s more impactful when the subject explains in his own words. This elaboration is simply added information for the reader.

[Ending] Tawes can’t imagine a different life for himself.

“You raise the so-called bar to a different level where it’s just a natural growth. I don’t want to be cookie-cutter or paint what I think the market wants. That’s not why I paint,” he said. “It’s just waking up and doing what I do.”

Depending on the subject, the ending will vary. This ending is a wrap-up quote. It explains that Tawes will continue to work on his LEDism. You don’t want to repeat information given previously in the ending. Concluding with a quote is a popular way to end features stories.

Find Your Voice!

Find Your Voice!

Just like an essay, there is a structure to features writing. Following the format above is useful to create a features story. Be sure to add some creativity to the piece, so you can have a “voice” in your features story! If you need help with any kind of writing, please contact us! 🙂

Happy Writing!

By Ally Evans

The Amazing Outline

 

Outlines are like the Skeleton of your Essay!

Outlines are like the Skeleton of your Essay!

Maybe you’re in the middle of your semester finals, or maybe you’re just starting to work on those final papers for the semester. Either way, it’s that time of year when all of the information that you’ve been jamming in your head for months needs to get organized and come out as a beautifully crafted and sometimes terribly long paper. So where to begin…

For me, outlining is one of the most underrated steps in writing. An outline is like a skeleton of your essay. Before you go to write full sentences, you can plan the general ideas and what evidence you will use in each paragraph. Then when you sit down to write your first draft, all you will need to do is fill in the extra words that connect your thoughts and make your essay more fluent than a list. In high school, I NEVER made outlines and I was ok. Then, I got to university and did terribly on my first paper. My teacher told me to go back, make an outline and pay attention to whether everything was connected to my thesis. My grades went WAY UP and I was sold as an outliner forevermore.

It’s easy to jump ahead to the first draft writing stage based on the following arguments:

  • I’ve already thought about what I want to say
  • I’ve been organizing my notes already all semester long
  • I don’t have time

If you are thinking any of these things right now, take a moment to reconsider. Making an outline is a great way to organize your thoughts on paper and make the actual writing process WAY easier later on.

Outlines can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. Also, there are many different formats you can use. Really, it doesn’t matter as long as you are feeling organized. Each line in your outline typically stands for a sentence or source used in your paragraph. You can have as many supporting detail sentences or “evidence” as you need to support your topic sentence and ultimately your thesis!  Here are some different options for your body paragraphs (Notice the Paragraph Sandwiches 🙂 ):

The numbers and letters format:

image1

Or you can use the Roman numerals format:

image2

Or if that’s really just too fancy, you can always just use bullet points/dashes:

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The more you write in your outline, the less you will have to write when you go to write your final draft. So, if you actually write out your thesis and topic sentences in your outline, all you have to do is plug them in and then expand on them when you write your essay. Even if you don’t do this though, just jotting down the notes you will use in each paragraph will make your thoughts come across clearer when you actually go to write out your paper. Here’s an outlined paragraph of the example we looked at of a Paragraph Sandwich in the previous post!

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Here’s a final skeleton you can use when you go to write your paper. Just copy, plug in your information, organize and then start drafting. Happy writing!

P1: Introduction

  • Hook/Opening Sentence
    • Support/Evidence
    • Support
    • Support
  • Thesis!!

P2: Body Paragraph Topic 1*

  • Topic Sentence
    • Support**
    • Support
    • Support
  • Concluding Sentence

P3: Body Paragraph Topic 2

  • Topic Sentence
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
  • Concluding Sentence

P4: Conclusion

  • Restatement of Thesis
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
  • General concluding sentence

*You can have as many body paragraphs as you would like.

**You can have as much support or amounts of evidence as you need.

Compare and Contrast Essays

Comparing and contrasting can be tricky and can often sound a bit redundant. Your two keywords for any compare and contrast essay are “SIMILARITIES” and “DIFFERENCES.”

Compare=Find SIMILARITIES

Contrast=Find DIFFERENCES

Brainstorm

When you are assigned this type of essay, your best friend for brainstorming is something called the Venn Diagram. You can make a VENN DIAGRAM for any number of things to compare or contrast. All you must do are draw overlapping circles– one circle for each item that you are asked to compare/contrast. Label each circle with one item.  In the outer parts of the circle, write the things that are unique to that item (the differences). In the overlapping part, write the things that are similarities.

Venn Diagram

Now let’s do an example. Let’s pretend you are given an assignment to compare and contrast two modern fantasy films. You choose Superman and Harry Potter. Here is a very basic example of how your Venn Diagram brainstorm for this essay might look:

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.23.07 PM

Outline

Now that you’ve organized your thoughts a bit, you can move on to outline what your essay will look like. While it may seem silly to map out your essay before writing it, this really helpful to keep your essay together and it will make it easier to put your basic ideas into full essay sentences. If you are writing your essay in English– brainstorm and outline your essay in English so that way you get the tedious translation process out of the way before going to write. Here’s a basic outline of a compare and contrast essay:

Paragraph (P) 1: Introduction

***Your thesis statement should state your larger conclusion about the differences and similarities of your compare/contrast items***

P2: DIFFERENCES Item A (Harry Potter circles)

P3: DIFFERENCES Item B (Superman circles), drawing connections to what you mentioned in P2.

P4: SIMILARITIES Items A and B (Overlapping circle)

P5: Conclusion– reinforce your ***thesis*** are there more similarities or differences?

Another version of a compare and contrast essay outline might look like this:

P1: Introduction

P2: SIMILARITIES Items A and B (Overlapping circle)

P3: DIFFERENCES Items A and B (Harry Potter and Superman Outside circles)

P4: Conclusion

Which essay outline you choose will have mainly to do with whether you have more similarities or differences between the items. Choose whichever feels right based on your brainstorm research and information.

Write!

There are a lot of keywords, phrases and transitions that are particularly awesome for writing compare and contrast essays in English! Here are just a few:

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 11.28.17 AM

Can you think of any others? Leave a comment below with your suggestions 🙂

Happy writing!