Writing a feature is like fishing. Imagine yourself on the bank of your favorite fishing spot. In your mind, you know today is the day you will catch the big one. You strategically plan every detail. You know the fish in this water, so you fill your tackle box with its favorite bait, the best hooks and fishing line. You have the right kind of fishing pole for the water conditions. You are even ready to take a picture with your prize catch after you land the big one. A similar amount of planning to goes into writing a feature. You know your audience and understand your purpose and what end state you seek. You’ve done your research for your story. All this planning will prepare you for writing the four sections of a feature story: the lead, nutgraph, body and conclusion.
It's time. You bait your hook and cast your line into the water. Before you know it, you get a nibble. Like any good bait, the lead should hook the readers and leave them wanting more. Consider what people care about. Consider the juiciest tidbits from your interviews and research that you can entice the reader with.
You spring into action and set the hook with a big yank. You feel the tension on the rod from the fish fighting back and start reeling it in. The nutgraph is the yank of your feature as it tells the readers what you are going to talk about just before you reel them in. Don't start your sentence with "This feature examines..." Use the nutgraph to continue engaging your reader.
Your heart races; the harder the struggle, the stronger your resolve. You think to yourself that this must be a big one. The body of the story reels the reader in by moving the reader through a narrative of emotions, expectations, build up, disappointments, conflict, twists, struggles, achievements and reflections.
Finally, you see your catch, and it's the big one. You give the line one last tug, reach out with your net and bring it on shore. The conclusion brings the feature to a close by tying up any loose ends and looking at the future. You snap the picture as evidence of your feat. This is the measurement of the change in knowledge, attitude and behaviors that you set as your goal at the start.
When writing for your next big catch, remember this structure: bait with a lead and use a nutgraph to set your hook. Reel in with an engaging narrative to a conclusion that achieves your purpose and gets results. Whether it is a news feature, human interest story or personality feature, this story structure will always land a big one.