A feature article is the main story in the magazine that focuses on a special event, place or person in great detail. There are many types of feature articles, whether they’re creatively focused or newsworthy, however, they always have one thing in common: human interest. Writing feature articles for magazines (and newspapers) is a great way for emerging writers and authors to build up their portfolio of work. However, there are many different elements to magazine writing and publishing that the feature writer needs to consider. We've put together a little guide on what to research and what to include when it comes to writing a high quality feature article...
Know the Publication:
Remember that each publication has a specific target audience, and a distinct style of writing. For example, if you’re writing for a well-known magazine such as the Women’s Weekly the article needs to focus on an emotional level, using pictures and quotes that reflect the reader’s thought on everyday life. However, if you’re writing for a small independent magazine like The Morning Bell the style is more flexible, you have a lot more freedom in terms of subject matter, just as long as the content is clear and appropriate to the magazine’s theme.
Also depending on the publication, not all magazines concentrate on trends and current events; those are mostly for weekly or daily magazines. There are publications that print annually, quarterly, bi-monthly, or monthly, which in these cases, trends are less of a focus because trends have come and gone by the time the mag goes to print. So what do magazines focus on if not recent issues? Usually, the magazine has a theme to base their stories on. For example, Australian literary journal, Kill Your Darlings, focuses on commentary essays, politics and reviews. One issue could be about the Australian Government and another on memoir; the main feature article details this theme in depth.
Get to know the magazine and what kind of content they publish; we strongly suggest reading their previous articles before submitting one of your own. Look through the publication’s submission guidelines and identify aspects of their house style in their published content.
When you're ready, here's a step-by-step process in creating a feature article that will impress.
Mission for Story and the Publication:
Some magazines will give you a topic for you to research and write about, but if you’re submitting toa magazine then you’ll probably have to pitch one yourself. This is where you're able to brainstorm ideas and define what area you would like to write about. However, this is no simple task because the piece you are writing has to be detailed and must provide examples and evidence along with the facts you’re providing.
To be able to work as a freelance writer, the writer is self-employed, also known as a contractor. They can write for one or more publications at the same time and are paid per article or per word. Though freelancing technically allows you the freedom to write for whatever publications you'd like - writers must be wary of the fact that more and more companies are out-sourcing their content production, and so freelancers nowadays (especially new freelancers) must take the jobs they can get. Extensive research will still be a major part of your job, and depending on how you're getting paid (per word, per article or per hour) you need to be cautious of how you spend your time.
Freelancers are in charge of their own invoicing and tax. However, one of the much-loved benefits of freelancing is the fact that these writers get to work at their own pace, on their own schedule.
Some magazines or websites have employees who write for them within a team. If you’re an in-house writer, you’ll most likely have a topics assigned to you, or you'll at least receive a brief. Your work will be passed to editors who will give you feedback on how to improve the article. Usually the team and you will have regular meetings to decide on future content scheduling and subject matter. During content meetings the writers usually brainstorm ideas for articles, and present statistics and research that will benefit the publication.
A good idea is to explore what people are reading about at the time you’re writing. Is it interesting enough to write about? Look at the news; is an event powerful enough for a main article? Search your local community and what’s been happening. Is it newsworthy?
As author of Writer’s Digest, Chuck Sambuchino said:
The idea’s the thing. If you build your story around a unique and compelling idea, your odds of publishing it increase dramatically. Often, a perfectly good project will go unpublished because the premise on which it is based is too predictable, commonplace, or over-published.”
Once you’ve chosen your idea, proper research will cover the bones of your story with lots of meat and soul. Just gather information.
The Mean Old Structure:
Like other articles, the feature has a basic structure. The shape depends on the style of your magazine varies but most feature articles have three acts, just like a story or an essay. It has a headline, an introduction; forming as one, then a main body and a conclusion.
Structure is very important when telling a story, especially for a feature article, it is what holds the piece together clearly. Without structure, the article will fall apart and the readers will become confused and disinterested. As writer, Robert Frost said, “if there is no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader; there is no surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
To clarify the structure, we'll break it down in more detail.
Cheers to the Headline:
Probably one of the important tasks of writing a feature article for a magazine is coming up with an effective headline. This is a short and simple line that grabs the reader’s attention and convinces them to read the piece. A headline means to highlight the central idea of the article in a catchy, clever way.
The editor of the magazine always has the final say in what the headline says, though the writer comes up with a number of options for the editor to choose from.
Think of this as a preview to the rest of your feature article. It 'introduces' the ideas you're about to explore and as a general rule, is about 10% of the overall word count. The introduction draws the reader in from the headline and provokes their interest by injecting a good dose of intrigue and speculation.
With the introduction the reader makes a conscious decision on what side of the story they believe in or whether it’s interesting enough to keep reading. The introduction needs to be compelling enough that it is seen at a publishable standard. Make the editor think it's worthy; sell it to them so they can sell it to the reader. Not only does it create the article’s tone it also establishes a relationship between the reader and the writer.
Main Body Magnetism:
This is where all the details of who, what, why and how are revealed. It is the explanation and the proof. Include all your facts, statistics, and quotes to support your argument. This is where all your hard-earned work pays off by resulting in a compelling and accurate piece. Depending on the publication, some magazines require their writers to supply original images or photographs as well.
The Finishing Touch:
A conclusion is the final statement that brings together all your ideas and evidence. Conclusions need to be strong, concise and thought-provoking, inviting the reader’s opinion. The writer, the editor and the publisher don't want the conversation to end at the full-stop of the feature article. The best feature articles encourage the continuation of debate on social media platforms, comment pages and discussion forums.