Upon reading wordcraft what stuck out most to me was when to add yourself into a story. Personality isn’t something that can be forced. It naturally comes out of the writer after they become familiar with the “language” and become more experienced writers. This makes sense to me. I feel like staying in the background is necessary unless you are confident with writing and feel putting yourself in the story would actually make it better. Another thing that sticks out to me is “Show, Don’t Tell”. This title explains itself. We need to use words that give our target audience the experience of using their imaginations to feel and see what we are writing about themselves.
I’ve heard a good story educates and entertains. You feel smarter after reading it. It reminds you of something you knew before, but forgot or it will teach you a something you never considered. It will make you laugh a little, or cry a little, or simply feel as if the time you spent reading it was a worthwhile decision. Upon reading “What exactly is a feature story?” I learned that a feature story is expected to connect with the audience on a deeper level than average news stories. When I practice feature writing, I remind myself to take a step back and think how does this connect with my target audience. I think this is something simply, but very important every writer should practice.
The parts of Chapter 10 that I find most usefull in my writing are the sections on simplicity and intrinsic interest. Clutter is one of my biggest problems in the feature writing format. I try to put too much detail on things that, in the end, are unimportant and bog the reader down. Editing these parts out or “cutting the fat” will take a lot more practice for me.
Intrinsic interest. I’m so glad that features are not always written on deadline. I say this because finding intrinsically interesting material is hard for me at my low level of practice and experience. I suppose I see interesting things every day but typically have no idea how to approach writing about them in a creative way. I hope this class will, and I think it has already, change that.
In Chapter 11 of Writing Feature Stories the author delves into the topic of wordiness and its different levels of need for different subjects and publications. Like the difference between stories in the Oxford American or say Signature Magazine here in the Hattiesburg area. Some days I feel more “artsy” than others and want to allow my language to flow in prose. Some days I just don’t feel. it. Freelancing is appealing to me because of the chance to head in either direction.
This all makes me think of a writing competition I read about online. Several talented young writers were grouped and heard the same interviews and had all the same resources. Then they were told to write a feature story on the material. In one case, the subject was of a man in a courtroom being condemned for murder. I enjoyed reading the differing interpretations of the same facts and feelings. The tones of the stories varied more than I expected. Some seemed more judgmental, cut and dry, while others painted a picture of the emotions of the defendant. Showing his humanity. Some of the stories could have, depending on the mood they were in, been written by the same person I thought. I’ll try to find the website that had the stories and list the link. I think other feature writers will find the differing interpretations interesting.
On the subject of sifting and sorting through the raw material… I have always, until now, written papers without the need for cutting out parts that were not important enough to use. The book calls it “dead wood.” This type of shoot first and edit later style of writing is growing on me, but I have too much doubt sometimes to cut stuff that I like.
I hope to grow into having a better eye for what telling details will make a better component to a feature with practice.
The memorable ending is, right now, my least comfortable part of a feature story. The wrap-up takes me forever to come up with.
In his writing Hochshild explains how travel writing should take the reader “from ignorance to knowledge.” I like this perspective of how to approach travel pieces. I’ve only written one and I’m afraid it was more of a tourist pamphlet than a piece of journalism. The nitty-gritty is what my paper lacked and that is what I now know I have to portray in order to give readers “knowledge” of a location. Next time I take a trip anywhere I plan to take a notebook and record the stuff that I left out last time.
Ted Conover’s story about working as a correctional officer reminds me of working in restaurant kitchens. I’ve managed two of them. While doing so I realized that many, if not most, of my employees were ex-cons. I could not help but notice the apparent transfer of culture from behind bars to behind the grill, fryer or dish pit. Restaurants, like prisons, are often hotbeds of drug use, mental illness, and social injustice. I hope to use my presence in restaurants to report on what I find to the masses.
In the section Being There by Anne Hull, she gives some good examples of how to get closer to your subjects. It brought me back to the story we read in class about the shanty town by the polluted lake. When she says “Don’t drink a cold drink in front of someone who is not allowed to have one,” I’m reminded of how hard this type of journalism can be. Not just on your physical state, but on your emotions when trying to write objectively in spite of your feelings of empathy or disgust.
I think the section Not Always Being There by Louise Kiernan is valuable lesson not just for writers, but for everyone. I want some of my friends and aquaintenancess to read this for general purposes.