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3 easy pieces: Using the feature-style structure


May 1, 2013

You already know how to organize a story that grabs your reader’s attention.

Just think back to what you learned in third-grade English class.  Your story should have three pieces:

  1. The beginning, or introduction
  2. The middle, or body
  3. The end, or conclusion

OK, so it’s not quite that easy because each of those sections has its own parts:

  • The introduction includes the lead, nut graph and sometimes background introduction.
  • The body is organized into clear, logical parts. For now,  let’s call them Sections 1, 2 and 3.
  • The conclusion has a wrap-up and kicker.

(In other words, your story looks like the chart to the right.)

Writing a good feature is as simple as filling in these boxes.

Fill in the blanks

So how do you get started? 

  • Lead:  Illustrate your point. Show, don’t tell. Make the lead concrete, creative and provocative. Think anecdote, human interest and juicy details.
     
  • Nut graph:  Explain your point. Now you can tell. Here’s where you summarize your story into a nutshell, or deliver the key point.
     
  • Background section: Fill in the blanks. Do you have a term that needs explaining? Does your story require an understanding of context or history? Include that background information here.
     
  • Body: Develop the story. Avoid the “muddle in the middle” by arranging the body of your story into discrete sections, organized thematically, sequentially or hierarchically.
     
  • Wrap-up: Restate your point. In the nut graph, you tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. In the body, you tell ‘em. Here’s where you tell ’em what you told ’em.
     
  • Kicker: Illustrate your point. Leave a lasting impression with a provocative kicker. Bonus points for circling back to the lead.

Feature more features

This simple, elegant structure works for virtually everything but breaking news, where the inverted pyramid is more effective. Use this feature style for releases, blog posts, bylined articles — any piece where you want to hold your reader’s rapt attention and leave him or her wanting more.

Copyright © 2013 Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.


Catch your reader

Want more techniques for writing copy that reaches readers? Join Ann Wylie for "Writing That Sells," a PRSA Professional Development workshop, on June 6 in San Francisco. Register now.

 

Ann Wylie Ann Wylie works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. To learn more about her training, consulting or writing and editing services, contact her at ann@WylieComm.com
Email: ann at WylieComm.com



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