Writing the Feature
Day 1: Filtering Notes
Let's look at the following interview notes. Copy and paste into a Word document, and highlight the "quotable" information from the story. We'll read the actual story to see which ones made the cut!
When you see information that you know will be interesting, highlight it. Choose a different color for different parts of the story. For example: Highlight all information that has to do with how the business got started in yellow.
Day 2: Sample Writing Formula and Organization Tips
Background Information from interview and/or research
Background Information from interview and/or research
(and so on)
Closing (refer back to lead, what's ahead for the future, a quote that sums up essence of story)
Example of Above
For an in-depth analysis of how a story is written, please read Test of Faith by Kendra Kingsley.
Day 3: Journalistic Writing Tips
1. Show don't tell.
Avoid using vague adjectives like "The pretty campus has many beautiful flowers along the sidewalk." Use specific adjectives and verbs to eliminate vagueness and opinion. Example: "Robust yellow and orange leaves highlight the 35,000-square-foot campus. Tulips, dandelions, roses and sculpted bushes add to the fresh smell of fall in the air."
2. Don't use first person (I, our, we). Have a good reason to use second person (you, your).
3. Keep opinion to yourself. Don't say things are great or awesome or important or really cool. Those can't be proven, but if your source says it, that's okay, just make sure they elaborated.
4. Use less interesting quotes as transitions into the more interesting parts: It cuts out so much work!
Here's a portion of an interview: "There's something neat about teaching that I didn't really discover until I had been doing it for a while. Once your students graduate and go off to college, they actually come back to visit and that makes every hour spent planning and grading worth it. And it's really neat when they start their own families and still get in touch with you."
Here's how a writer might condense: Jane says that she discovered something very special about her job, although it took her a while before she realized it. "Once your students graduate and go off to college, they actually come back to visit and that makes every hour spent planning and grading worth it." And when her former students start families of their own, she's delighted to be included on their list of people of whom they stay in touch.
5. Make sure you attribute correctly.
Here's a quote and who said it (before proper attribution):
"I thought I would open a store in my later years in life, not when I was 35." -- store manager Patty Lewis.
--Have you introduced the source (Patty Lewis) already? Does your reader already know she's the store owner from a previous transition? If so, cite like this:
"I thought I would open a store in my later years in life, not when I was 35," Lewis said.
--If you haven't yet introduced the source, then cite like this:
"I thought I would open a store in my later years in life, not when I was 35," store manager Patty Lewis said.
--If your source has a long title, for example Liberal Arts and Science Academy head football coach Demo Odems, and you haven't yet introduced him, cite like this:
"This year's quarterback is the best we've seen come through this school," said Demo Odems, head football coach for the Liberal Arts and Science Academy.
6. Other helpful attribution tips
--Always refer to your source by his/her last name when attributing quotes. "Ezine is the most incredible class I've ever taken," Smith says. "I can't believe I thought any engineering or science class could ever compare."
--Acceptable verbs and tense for attribution: says, said, explains, laughs, remembers, recalls -- keep it neutral (no "exclaims," "declares," etc.) It doesn't matter what tense, just keep it the same throughout your story.
--REMEMBER: NAME SAID. (Unless complicated title)
--How long does my quote need to be? Between one (really good) sentence and three sentences. Anything else tends to interrupt the flow of your piece.
--Can I clean up my quote if the readers won't understand what the interviewee meant?
If there is a part of a quote that needs clarification (particularly in the case of a quote that has an ambiguous subject), you can explain what the source meant in brackets.
Example: "Coffeehouse is the social highlight of the season," freshman Elliot Gordon says. "He did a great job planning it, and we had a lot of fun." Who is "he"??? Instead: "Coffeehouse is the social highlight of the season," freshman Elliot Gordon says. "[Snyder] did a great job planning it, and we had a lot of fun."
--If there is a situation where you want to correct your source's grammar, do so only if your source's original language makes him/her sound unintelligent or you are trying to show personality through someone's speech. Please let your instructor know when you are changing a quote.
--NEVER USE THE PHRASE: WHEN ASKED WHAT JOHN THOUGHT ABOUT THE MOVIE, ... Keep yourself out of the piece! You want the story to unfold naturally, so don't remind your reader that you had to really dig for all of this information!
--Most quotes should be in their own paragraphs! Occasionally, a writer will use part of a quote within a sentence, but don't make a habit of it. Quotes should have some weight in the story and if all you have are phrases, you didn't get enough information.
--Don't stack quotes! (quotes from two or more sources stacked without transitions) You must introduce a new source with a transition.