Presentation on theme: "Feature stories, alternative leads Story structure beyond the inverted pyramid."— Presentation transcript:
Feature stories, alternative leads Story structure beyond the inverted pyramid
So far … Weve studied basic story structures and leads that apply to breaking news stories, hard news, etc. Stories that arent of those types are also prevalent in the media. In these cases, we have the opportunity to take a more creative approach.
Other types of stories An umbrella term is feature story. Non-breaking or hard news, these stories are often about people doing unusual or interesting activities. A feature story may be a more in-depth look at a particular aspect of a hard news story. Reader has more time to spend with this type of story.
Feature stories Still have a central point or theme. Instead of the lead containing that point or theme, it is contained in a nut graph. Writer must sustain readers interest for a longer period of time. Not in the inverted pyramid style – rather, more like a non-fiction short story.
Feature stories, cont. Lots of detail and description. Paint a picture with words. Writers choose a structure to best tell the story. Good lead, strong body of the story that moves smoothly from one point to the next, and a good ending.
Details, details Feature stories contain much more detail and description than general news stories. Instead of getting the reader a basic set of facts as quickly as possible (inverted pyramid style) the feature story enhances those facts with detail and description.
For example BASIC: He sat in a chair at his desk. FEATURE: A large, soft executive chair enveloped him as he sat behind a dark mahogany desk. The feature example has more detail and the words work to paint a picture of the scene in the readers mind.
Description, cont. Describe the way things look, sound, feel, smell, taste. Be specific. Dont tell us something sounds and looks peaceful. Use specific words to let the reader know HOW it sounds and looks peaceful. Paint a picture with words.
Other characteristics Good use of direct quotes. They let us know how a person speaks, give us insight into their character. Just like weve discussed, dont string a bunch of quotes together without a break, though.
Feature structure Lead – draws people in and prompts them to read further. Very important to craft a quality lead. Nut graph – statement of the point of the story. Body – details and narrative that tells the story. The ending – A good anecdote or quote ties the story together.
The lead Unlike inverted pyramid structure, its OK to use anyones name in the lead. Leads often set a scene. Sort of like a movie. Can be more than one sentence. Serve the purpose of drawing readers in to read the rest of the story.
Typical feature leads Description – describe the scene for the reader. Draw them in with vivid, specific detail. Contrast – draw a contrast between the normal situation and the unusual situation in your story. Build on a good quote. If youve got an awesome quote, set it up for the reader with a paragraph of description.
For example Jim McCluskey has a vision for the future of radio. It begins in a cramped, 8-by-10- foot room in his house. Its a room filled with books and videotapes from his four years as a broadcasting professor at CMU. There are also a couple computers, which run his radio network, and maps, for future station locations.
Example, cont. Then there is the washer and dryer. Yes, the headquarters of his radio network still functions as a laundry room.
So … In the example, we describe the scene with specific details. Details allow us to see a small, cramped laundry room that doubles as the headquarters of a low- power radio station.
Next step After the lead paragraph(s), we need a paragraph that tells us the point of the story, and sets up the rest of the body of the story. This is often called a nut graph. Also might be called the hook, snapper, why paragraph, or some other odd name.
For example McCluskey, 47, has been on the air with a low-powered radio station for the past several months. It is the first step in what he envisions – a low-watt network of stations serving local communities and keeping oldies music alive.
Next step Body of the story. Here we provide more details about the theme, supported by quotes. Answer all the readers questions and build on the premise from the lead and nut graph. Make sure what you put in the body is relevant and important to the story. Leave everything else out.
For example Details on how many low-powered stations McCluskey envisions. How does he think he can go about achieving his ambition. What background does he have. What led to the idea of a low-watt network. Technological changes that contributed to the idea.
For example, cont. Radio requires content. What are his ideas for content on this network? Oldies music, local church broadcasts, rebroadcasts of old-time radio shows. Possible other local programming ideas.
When its time to end With inverted pyramid news stories, we end the story when we dont have any more facts to present. Feature stories require a planned ending. We want to leave the reader with a feeling of completeness. Can be a short story related to the theme, a quote or tie back to the lead.
For example Its a lot of activity coming from an 8-by- 10-foot room. We have everything we need in here, he said. Its not antiseptic, where everything is neat and clean. Its community radio, grass roots radio. Im just happy to be doing things to improve our quality.
For example, cont. There are plans to create a bit more space in the room – the washer and dryer are moving elsewhere. The real problem is when youre on the air and the buzzer goes off telling you the wash is done, he said with a laugh.
Feature checklist Craft a good lead to draw people in. Nut graph lets the reader know what the point of the story is, and sets up the rest. Body of the story has detailed information and good quotes to further flesh out the nut graph. A strong ending wraps things up and leaves reader with a feeling of completeness.
Details, details Concrete, specific details are required in a good feature story. Paint a picture for the reader using words to describe the experience. Move smoothly from one point to the next. Dont forget, just like inverted pyramid style, these stories are written in the third person.