How to Write a Feature Story: Step-By-Step

This article gives a step-by-step process that can be used when writing feature articles. Read more and learn how to write a feature story effectively.

Feature stories are long-form non-fiction news articles that go into detail on a given topic. The most common type of feature stories are human interest stories, interviews and news features.

All of the best feature writers know that their articles live and die on the information that is detailed within the story. However, it requires more than just quality research to create a strong feature article.

You also need to understand how to get the reader’s attention from the first paragraph, as well as how to format the body of the article, and how to write a strong conclusion. It also helps if you have a flair for creative writing, as the style involved isn’t as rigid as traditional news stories.

If all this sounds complex, then don’t fret. There is a step-by-step process that can be used when writing feature articles.

Before we share that template, let us first take a quick look at a few of the different genres of this type of story format.

10 Different Types of Feature Articles

1. Human Interest

As the title suggests, when writing human interest stories, the focus is on people. There is usually a strong emphasis on emotion within these stories.

These feature stories can involve a personal goal, achievement, or a dramatic event within someone’s (or a group of people’s) life.

It can also just be a general story about the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Examples: ‘The leather jacket I bought in my 20s represents a different woman. I just can’t let it go’, ‘I wish I had Rami Malek as a role model growing up – I was stuck with the Mummy’.

2. News Features

News features are probably the most common type of feature article. Within these, there is a strong emphasis on a current event, with the story explaining the reasons behind these events.

They may also go on to examine the implications behind the news stories.

Examples: ‘Eastern Europe’s business schools rise to meet western counterparts’, MBA by numbers: Mobility of UK graduates’.

3. Lifestyle Features

How to Write a Feature Story: Lifestyle Features
Lifestyle features are common within magazines

Lifestyle features usually centre around life and how it can be lived better. For instance, an example of a lifestyle feature would be ‘Six Workouts You Have to Try This Summer’, or ‘Why You Need To Try Meditation’.

Lifestyle features are common within magazines.

Example: Six ways with Asian greens: ‘They’re almost like a cross between spinach and broccoli’.

4. Seasonal Features

These feature articles are specific to certain times of year.

If you work within a newsroom, it is likely that they will have a calendar that schedules the times when certain types of features are due to be written.

One of of the advantages of these types of features is that you can plan them in a way you can’t with typical news stories.

Examples: 5 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays With The New York Times’, The Start of Summer.

5. Interview Pieces

Interview features have commonalities with other types of features, but are set apart as they are centred around a single interview.

A good way to strengthen this type of article is to share background information within the it. This information can be either on the interviewee, or the subject that is being discussed.

Examples: Mark Rylance on ‘Jerusalem’ and the Golf Comedy ‘Phantom of the Open’, ‘I Deserve to Be Here’: Riding His First Professional Gig to Broadway

6. Color Stories

This is a feature that breaks down the feel and atmosphere of a hard news story.

They often accompany news writing.

Good feature writing here will help the reader imagine what it was like to be a at a certain event, or help them gain further understanding of the issues and implications involved of a story.

Examples: Why the Central African Republic adopted Bitcoin’, ‘Admissions teams innovate to find ideal candidates’.

7. Profile Features

A profile feature is like a mini-biography.

It tries to paint a picture of a person by revealing not only facts relating to their life, but also elements of their personality.

It can be framed around a certain time, or event within a person’s life, It can also simply be a profile detailing a person’s journey through life.

Examples: Why Ray Liotta was so much more than Goodfellas, Sabotage and pistols – was Ellen Willmott gardening’s ‘bad girl’?

8. Behind The Scenes

These are features that give readers the inside track on what is happening.

They are particularly popular with entertainment journalists, but are used by feature writers within every sphere.

Examples: ‘‘You Just Have to Accept That Wes Is Right’: The French Dispatch crew explains how it pulled off the movie’s quietly impossible long shot’. ‘The Diamond Desk, Surveillance Shots, and 7 Other Stories About Making Severance’.

9. Travel Features

How to Write a Feature Story: Travel Features
A travel feature often features a narrator who is writing about a place that the reader has an interest in

As you probably guessed, a travel feature often features a narrator who is writing about a place that the reader has an interest in.

It is the job of the writer to inform their audience of the experiences, sights and sounds that they can also experience if they ever visit this destination.

Examples: Palau’s world-first ‘good traveller’ incentive’, ‘An icy mystery deep in Arctic Canada’.

10. Instructional Features

‘How to’ features will always have their place and have become even more popular with the advent of the internet phenomenon known as ‘life hacks’. There is now a subsection of these features, where writers try out ‘how to’ instructional content and let the reader know how useful it actually is.

Interestingly, you don’t have to go far to find an instructional feature article. You are actually reading one at the moment.

Example: The article you are reading right now.

Something Completely Different

Of course, the above is just an overview of some of the types of features that exist. You shouldn’t get bogged down by the idea that some feature types interlope with others.

Feature writing is a dynamic area that is constantly evolving and so are the topics and styles associated with this type of writing.

If you have an idea for something completely different, don’t be afraid to try it.

Steps For Writing A Feature Writing

Now we covered some of the main types, let’s take a look at the steps you should take when planning to write a feature article.

1. Evaluate Your Story Ideas

It sounds obvious, but the first step on the path to a good feature article is to have a strong idea. If you are struggling for inspiration, then it may be worth your while checking out popular feature sections within newspapers or websites.

For instance, the New York Times is renowned for its wonderful ‘Trending’ section, as is The Guardian, for its features. Of course, these sites should be used only for education and inspiration.

2. Do Your Research

In an instructional feature article, online learning platform MasterClass gives a good overview of the type of research that needs to be done for this type of article.

It states: “Feature stories need more than straight facts and sensory details—they need evidence. Quotes, anecdotes, and interviews are all useful when gathering information for (a) feature story.”

The article also gives an overview of why research is important. It reads: “Hearing the viewpoints or recollections of witnesses, family members, or anyone else… can help (the article) feel more three-dimensional, allowing you to craft a more vivid and interesting story.”

Feature articles may involve creative writing, but they are still based on facts. That is why research should be a tenet of any article you produce in this area.

3. Decide The Type Of Feature You Want To Write

Shortly after starting your research, you will be posed the question of ‘what type of feature do I want to write?’.

The answer to this question may even change from when you had your initial idea.

For example, you may have decided that you want to do a lifestyle feature on the physical fitness plan of your local sports team. However, during research, you realized that there is a far more interesting interview piece on one of the athletes who turned their physical health around by joining the team.

Of course, that is a fictional scenario, but anyone who has ever worked within a newsroom knows how story ideas can evolve and change based on the reporting that’s done for them.

4. Select An Appropriate Writing Style

The next step is to consider the language you will be using while writing the article. As you become more experienced, this will be second nature to you. However, for now, below are a few tips.

When writing a feature, you should do so with your own unique style. Unlike straight news stories, you can insert your personality and use emotive language.

However, you should avoid too many adjectives and adverbs and other overused words. You should generally refer to the audience as ‘you’ too.

To learn more, check out our article about the best style guides.

5. Craft a Compelling Headline

As you can tell from the examples listed above, a good feature usually has a good headline/ header. If you are lucky enough to work in a newsroom with a good subeditor, then they will work with you to decide an eye-catching headline.

However, most of you will have to pick your features’ header on your own. Thus, it’s worth giving some time to consider this stage of the process.

It is handy to take a look at Matrix Education’s tips for creating a catchy headline.

They are as follows:

  • Use emotive language.
  • Keep it short and snappy.
  • Directly address the reader.
  • Use adjectives / adverbs.
  • Tell readers what your content is about.
  • Ask a question.
  • Give an imperative.

These are, of course, only options and they all shouldn’t be utilized at once.

Another suggestion that can be added to the list is grabbing an intriguing quote from the story and using that within the header.

6. Open With Interest

Your opening paragraph should draw the reader in. It is important that you can hook them here; if you can grab them at the start, they are far more likely to go deeper into the article.

Methods of doing this include the building of tension, the posing of a rhetorical question, making an outlandish statement that is proven true later in the article, or working your way back from a monumental event that the reader is already familiar with.

Whichever you use, the primary goal should be to catch the reader’s interest and to make them want to read on.

If you need help, start with writing a five-paragraph essay.

7. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Creative

Jean-Luc Godard said that “a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order”.

That statement can be somewhat applied to feature articles. However, don’t be afraid to take risks with your writing. Of course, it is important to share the information you need to share, but a feature article does offer far more room for creativity than the writing of a traditional news story.

8. Leave With A Bang

All the best feature writer leave a little something for the reader who reaches the end of the article. Whether that is a storming conclusion, or something that ties it all together, it is important that there is some sort of conclusion.

It gives your audience a feeling of satisfaction upon reading the article and will make this is the element that will make them look out for the articles that you will write in the future.

Writing a Feature Story: The Last Word

The above steps don’t necessarily need to be followed in the order they are written. However, if you are new to this type of writing, they should give you a good starting point as when creating feature articles.

When writing feature articles, you will find a style and a voice that suits you. This is a type of journalistic writing where you can embrace that creative side and run with it.

  • What is a feature story example?

Jennifer Senior won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for an article entitled ‘What Bobby McIlVaine Left Behind’, an article about the human aftermath of grief after 9/11. It is an excellent example of a quality feature article.

  • What is the difference between a feature story and a news story?

There are several differences between a feature article and a news story.

Firstly, news articles are time-sensitive, whereas there is more flexibility when a feature can be published as it will still be of interest to the public.

Secondly, feature stories are usually more long-form than news stories, with differences in style employed in both. For instance, news writing often employs the inverted pyramid, where the most important information is at the start. Whereas, feature writing has a tendency to tease out the information throughout the article.

Lastly, the ending of a news story usually happens when all the relevant and available details are shared. On the other hand, a feature story usually ends with the writer tying up the loose-ends that exist with an overall conclusion.