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Zoya Patel on how to write a compelling feature article

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16 April 2021

At the Library's Teen writing boot camp in April 2021, writer and editor Zoya Patel taught teens how to construct their ideas, research and opinions into compelling non-fiction writing. Here she shares some tips and reflections from the second boot camp on Thursday 15 April.

Feature articles are one of my favourite types of non-fiction to write. A feature is generally a deep dive into a particular story – it might be a profile of an outstanding person, a look at a global issue, or an exploration of an aspect of our culture. The sky is the limit, but the key factor is that features are thoughtful, nuanced, and dig further than the surface of any topic.

Here are three tips for writing compelling feature articles:

Pick topics that excite you 

Writing a feature is as much about research and gathering information as it is about the actual writing. When you write about a topic you’re interested in, this enthusiasm and interest will become clear in your article, and you’ll be driven to find out as much as you can about your chosen topic.

Find a narrative that can provide the bones of your article

Every topic has a human story behind it. When you bring that story to life, your feature will connect with readers and you’ll be able to draw them towards your overall message more easily.

For example, say you’re writing a feature about a local cinema that’s closing down in your neighbourhood. If you tell the story of the first person to open and run the cinema, where they are now, and how they feel about its closure, you’ll have a human narrative that can provide a hook into the story about the slow dissolution of cinema culture as a result of home streaming services like Netflix.

Adding a narrative into your feature also helps to guide the reader through a beginning, middle and end. This provides a sense of resolution, and can help you structure your messaging in a way that makes sense to the reader but still conveys your key points.

Add the voices of others

Interviews are a great way of adding depth to a feature, and creating a compelling tone for the reader. Adding more voices to the piece helps to both provide variety, but also insights and information for the reader that aren’t only being told in your voice.

Interviewing is a great skill to develop, and practice is definitely key. But once you become comfortable teasing information and ideas from your subjects, you’ll be able to add depth to your writing.

Adding quotes and dialogue to a feature can be a tricky skill to learn as well. Read lots of other articles to see what techniques seasoned writers use, and incorporate those into your drafts.

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