Assignment: Feature Story

Ryan Teague Beckwith
2 min readAug 22, 2023
Creative Commons-licensed photo by Maya83

Feature stories are like a meringue: a light, airy confection that requires a lot of work behind the scenes to pull off.

For the reader, a feature story is a fun diversion from the news of the day, an interesting glimpse into other people’s lives or a simple reminder of the human moments we all share.

But to write a feature, first you must find it.

The best feature ideas come when you are working on something else entirely. A member of the audience at a city council meeting offhandedly mentions an unusual hobby. You chance upon a group of old men playing dominoes in the park. Or a friend casually mentions something interesting that they saw.

One time, I saw a woman driving a Volkswagen Beetle covered in hundreds of tiny plastic figurines, and I followed her for 10 minutes until I could talk to her in a parking lot. I ended up with a feature about a woman who overcame her extreme shyness after a brush with cancer by intentionally driving the most outlandish car she could.

Some features begin as topics. Maybe you decide you want to write a story about people who play tabletop role-playing games in the back of the local comic book store.

That’s a good start, but you’ll need to report it out until you get to the hook of the story. Maybe there’s one member who started the group and has been doing it for 20 years, or another who joined the group to get over a tough divorce. Maybe the group is seeing an influx of younger members who want to push it in a different direction, or it’s losing members and may have to shut down. Find the story, and write that.

  • Minimum of three sources
  • Minimum of 550 words, maximum of 625
  • Google News headline: 60 characters maximum, lead with keywords
  • Google News summary: 160 characters maximum, include keywords
  • Social media headline: 95 characters maximum
  • Minimum of three links to relevant websites or previous news stories
  • Written in AP Style
  • Turned in by deadline
  • Ready to publish

Don’t forget to use the generic story template!

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” — Neil Gaiman

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Ryan Teague Beckwith

National politics reporter. Part-time journalism teacher.