What is Feature Writing Anyway?

“The greatest potential—still largely unrealized, I believe— of narrative reporting is communicating the very hardest news,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Katherine Boo in Telling True Stories, an anthology on the craft of narrative storytelling by journalists and nonfiction writers. “Narrative can convey vividly and potently the greater failings of government and industry, inequities of class, and fractures in the infrastructure of opportunities in this country. It can engage the public, almost against its will, in crucial questions of meritocracy and social justice.”

Feature writing is narrative storytelling of true stories. Storytelling —applying all the tools of storytelling (character, setting, conflict, resolution)— is core to the work of rich and engaging feature stories. Feature writing is narrative, fact driven stories that asks readers to look beyond the harsh and dizzying light of 24/7 news cycle to consider deeper questions in civil society. Features can be intense long view of international security issues, or they can be explorations national obsessions. They can be critical and researched pieces of cultural products.

Feature reporting at its best humanizes and adds depth, texture and context — nuance— to media narratives.

The feature writer/reporter’s job is to engage the reader with a mix of information, analysis, entertainment and enlightenment. Feature writing is reader centric, sparks curiosity of  their audiences, and immerses readers in experiences that help them gain an understanding of the world writ large.