What is a ‘feature article’?
The definitions are varied, and the differences can be confusing. A ‘feature’, like the word ‘item’, can mean a whole thing, or part of that whole. My Oxford dictionary lists several meanings of ‘feature’, including (in brief):
Characteristic, face, special attraction, and (written) article.
My own definition of ‘feature article’ comes from a merge of the last two meanings: ‘A written non-fiction article/story that is intended as a focal point of a magazine publication so that it will attract readers.’
What sets a ‘feature article’ apart from other writing?
· It usually tells about a person, group or topic in some depth; though it may focus on a place instead, such as in a travel article.
· There is usually more than one feature article per magazine edition.
· It is usually written in a more relaxed conversational tone than a typical news item or essay, with quotes, dialogue and personal anecdotes. It is more of a ‘story’ than just a report.
· The writer’s personal style can show through more clearly than with many other non-fiction items, and the writer’s opinions and experiences can be voiced.
· Although feature articles are regularly included in magazines, they are not the same as regular columns and commentaries, which are usually on one specific topic. Feature articles usually deal with a person, place and/or topic relevant to the magazine’s focus.
· They could be authored by the same writer each edition, such as the editor. They usually provide good opportunity for freelance writers as well though, and enable the editor to see the writer’s skill. This may result in a regular job with that publication.
· Feature articles don’t have a concise style such as that of a newspaper article. The length of the article is often longer than other items in the publication, and depends on the individual editor’s requirements.
· They take prominent place in the magazine, though not necessarily on the first pages, and their titles are usually noted on the front cover.
What are the advantages of writing feature articles?
· They enable you to gain experience in writing for publication without the huge outlay of time and effort that is involved in writing a book, and they are much easier to get published – especially for the beginner writer. If your aim is to write a book, this experience will prove invaluable.
· You will learn how to really craft a piece of writing as you continue writing them.
· Copies of published feature articles become part of your CV, which you can then show to other editors for whom you would like to write.
· A by-line (your name attributed to the article), and possibly a short bio and picture as well, enable readers to identify you, and recognise you in further editions or publications. If they like your style of writing, they are more likely to seek your articles (and books) to read in future.
· They are seldom as pressured as news articles, and allow you to develop and reveal your personal writing style.
· If you enjoy writing about people (as I do), the greater depth of a feature article will enable you to have more involvement with your subjects.
Many book authors actually continue to write feature articles even while working on their books. This could be for financial reasons (writing a book can mean a long wait for payment), for a break from their book subject, or to increase their exposure as a writer on their subject so as to show readers they will have something worthwhile to offer when the book is published.
There are many reasons to write feature articles, and many benefits to doing so.
Do you need help to write better? Do you want some inspiration to put your thoughts into words? Could you do with some encouragement to develop your writing skills?