What I Learned In: Feature Writing

By Tom Hanaway (@tomhanaway)

Before I took Feature Writing, I thought I already knew everything about the craft. I had published feature stories before, so what else was there to learn?

Quite a lot, actually.

In professor Vincent Filak‘s course, we dived into the world of feature stories by exploring the use of narrative and descriptive language to create a detailed world for readers to experience. The class also sharpened our writing skills through a variety of workshops and assignments.

Up to this point in my journalism education it has been drilled in my head to be objective and not include any opinions. What I came to understand through Feature Writing is that you can still follow those rules but still add scenery and depth to your writing. Our assignments included writing scene-setters, vividly explaining how a place looked or felt like. We also produced profile stories, not only documenting a person’s history, but also noting the little things in their life, like gestures they make or the tone of their voice.

My favorite times in the class were when we tried our best to describe our senses. In one class we had to put our hands into mysterious boxes, feeling unknown substances within, which were usually sticky or moist. I loved watching the class cringe in horror as they rolled up their sleeves and gingerly slipped their arms into the boxes. We then had to think of the best adjectives to match the sensations that we felt. It was an exercise that really made me think about the vocabulary that I use in my writing and realized how limited it was.

I felt like my writing truly grew through this course. From writing personal experiences to how-to pieces, we not only developed a stronger voice, but also learned how to write new types of stories. We even dabbled in more advanced reporting, where we had to create multimedia pieces and blog posts that were not only a written story, but also a video, a side-bar story and sound clips.

While it may have been rough at times, and once in while it felt overwhelming, I feel that Feature Writing further expanded my ability to write and made me more eager, and prepared, to tell great and memorable stories.


One thought on “What I Learned In: Feature Writing

  1. One of the most demanding classes I’ve ever taken. Did I whine at Filak every chance I got? Absolutely. But I’m still proud of everything I wrote, and I’ll even be super cliché and say I look back on it fondly.

    But don’t let it go to Filak’s head.

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