What Exactly IS a Feature?

We go through school constantly being taught how to write an essay: start with the introduction, come up with a thesis, the body should be such-and-such a length, the conclusion restates the thesis, start out broad and then get specific, support your thesis with strong points, prove your points and don’t just state them, blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc.  Somewhere in that time, some of us decided we didn’t like writing and reading very much, so we became scientists and mathematicians and doctors.  The rest of us read more than we had to and wrote more than we had to – and we discovered we liked it.  We liked reading and writing outside our schoolwork, and we had the desire and ambition to try our hand at other forms of writing than the all-important essay.

So we discovered story and poetry.  And with story, we began to experiment and learn and discover.  We started to develop our very own style and voice, often incorporating and emulating the kinds of techniques we admired in the styles of our favourite authors and favourite books.  We wrote stories and dabbled in poetry and created characters and designed settings and worked on our description skills.

We might not have been taught how to do all these things, but we learned along the way through endless trial and error, and eventually, we discovered how to write a story.

Now we know how to write essays and stories.

 

 

So writing a feature poses a problem.

At least, it did for me.  I hope I wasn’t just speaking for myself earlier, but that’s basically how I learned how to write: I was taught how to write an essay, and discovered story-writing basically all on my own (I don’t count the occasional assignment to “write a story about this historical figure” or “write your own version of your assigned literature reading for today”).

By the time I got to this Magazine and Feature Writing class, I could probably write an essay in my sleep.    (. . . Well, I could at least tell you HOW to write an essay in my sleep.)  And I already “write” stories in my sleep (I often get inspiration from dreams).  So when I was told to mix the two in a completely new form of writing called a “feature,” I was completely at a loss.  How do you combine research AND creative writing AND somehow include an unspoken but clear and specific point?  I understood that that’s what a feature is, but I was utterly confused as to how I was supposed to balance all three elements into a piece that sounded (at least somewhat) like the examples I had read.

As a result, it took me an absurdly long time to gather my research, figure out how to fit it together with my storytelling, AND weave in my underlying point.  I won’t say it’s the hardest piece of writing I’ve done, but it definitely stumped me for longer than any other piece of writing has since high school.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not trying to say that anybody failed to teach me what I needed to know for this assignment, nor am I saying that I should have been taught this information any sooner than now.  Actually, I love to be challenged, and learning things that are completely new to me gets me excited about continuing to improve my own writing and field of experience.  This piece just happened to be especially difficult for me to figure out.

If you would like to read my full feature, I’ve posted it here: http://mistressofquills.deviantart.com/art/Fighting-to-Fit-In-408119218  Please note: if you want to comment or critique my piece, you have to make an account on that site in order for me to see it, or you could just post your comment here instead.  Thanks for reading!

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3 thoughts on “What Exactly IS a Feature?

  1. Kaiya Woodside says:

    Girl, I feel ya. Feature writing was so difficult for me too, because it was like nothing I had ever done before! And it is such a beautiful craft of blending storytelling with interviews and research. I’m really glad you shared about this! It’s nice to know someone else feels the same way. Great post! 🙂

  2. […] What Exactly IS a Feature? (mistressofquills.wordpress.com) […]

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