Carolyn Dale, Assoc. Professor Fall 2007
Office: CF 269 Tel.; 650-3245 4 credits
e-mail: email@example.com M, W 10-11:20 a.m.
Office Hours: Mon. through Thurs. 9-9:50 a.m. CF 224
and by appointment.
J404 FEATURE WRITING
Catalog description: Prereq: Journ 307 and major status. In-depth article, column and persuasive writing; development of ideas, gathering of materials and writing; special attention to individual interests; exploration of free-lance writing markets.
During the quarter, each student will research, interview sources for and write four articles: a profile, a general feature, a personal essay or column, and a researched persuasive article intended for publication in off-campus magazines or newspapers. Each story will be submitted and graded in early and final drafts. Two quizzes will cover readings and lecture material. Students will also take part in in-class exercises, write two brief reflective pieces on readings, and generate a query letter with a market list. Regular attendance is necessary to gain points for participating in-class exercises and critique sessions.
Features are stories:
· about developments that truly affect real people,
· that go beyond a single time-oriented event,
· that have storytelling elements such as action, drama and movement,
· that involve multiple sources and viewpoints,
· and that involve the writer's own presence in the telling.
Because of the length, complexity and variety of content, and because of their more entertaining nature, feature stories make use of techniques from fiction, news and essay writing. A number of useful techniques will be covered in class as short exercises: description, dialog, feature leads, endings and titles, tone and voice, visual planning, and narrative pacing.
Story topics and exploration of freelance markets:
This class is designed as the final writing class seniors take as part of their major, and it serves as a bridge to future professional work. Students are encouraged to work on topics or issues of their own choosing, though we will develop ideas on a central theme in class sessions. On internships and on the job, doing reporting or public relations work, writers are expected to produce feature stories as part of enterprise reporting. So, generating and developing story ideas is a great skill to practice in this class.
The class also covers writing query letters and exploring freelance markets, and students often submit articles to professional publications as a result of their course work. Some go on to work in the field of magazine editing and writing.
"Feature Writing for Newspapers and Magazines," by Edward Jay Friedlander and John Lee.
“Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation,” Edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call.
Additional articles from magazines and newspapers will also be assigned as required reading.
Recommended: Features in the daily editions of the Wall Street Journal.
For grammar, we will use "When Words Collide," and for style, the AP Stylebook.
Objectives: The class aims to give students instruction and practice in:
· Writing feature-style titles, leads and story endings
· Structuring longer articles
· Developing select sources as characters
· Extending quotation into dialogue
· Working with narration and storytelling
· Incorporating scenes and sensory details
· Researching effectively
· Adding depth and breadth to articles
· Using present tense and structuring time in a story
· Writing from a point of view
· Adding tone and voice to one's writing style
· Writing a query letter or a story proposal
· Finding potential markets for article placements
· Understanding legal and ethical issues involved with free-lancing
The 350 points possible in the course are broken out below. Each story will be graded on both mechanics and story content as separate categories. Because different aspects of writing are emphasized as we progress through the quarter, point distributions will be specified for each assignment.
As the instructor, I will try to be as objective as possible in grading. My method is to assume a story or assignment earns full points unless specific problems appear. These need to be clearly identified for you, especially as they relate to material covered in class. Please let me know at any time if you feel you are having difficulties in the class. I’m available during office hours and am happy to set up an appointment for an individual session.
Late papers will lose 10 percent of possible points per day. One in-class writing exercise may be made up. For an excused absence, please present a note from a doctor or from Student Life.
Students should plan to attend class regularly in order to get the most out of the sessions as well as to earn the points for in-class exercises and critiques.
To figure your grade at any time, total your points and use 90% = A, 80% = B, 70% = C, 60% = D, and 50% = F. At the end of the quarter, I may adjust these categories slightly to reflect grouping of point totals, but only to the benefit of the students.
Assignment points: Totals: 350
First drafts of four articles, 20 points each 80
Final drafts of four articles, 30 points each 120
Query letter and market list, 20 points 20
Quizzes, 25 points each 50
Two brief reflective pieces on readings, 15 each 30
In-class exercises and critiques, 10 at 5 each 50
Due dates for assignments:
Dates for in-class exercises will be announced ahead of time in class.
Ex. 1 Five story ideas Mon., Oct. 1
First draft, profile Mon., Oct. 8
First draft, general feature Wed., Oct. 17
Draft of query letter and market list Mon. Oct. 22
Quiz #1 and first reflective piece Wed., Oct. 24
Final drafts of profile, general feature, query and market list, prepared as a package ready for publication Wed., Oct. 29
First draft, personal column Wed., Nov. 7
Final draft, personal column Mon., Nov. 19
First draft, persuasive article Wed., Nov. 21
Quiz #2 and second reflective piece Wed., Nov. 28
Final draft, persuasive article Mon., Dec. 3
Finals week: return of all papers, individual feedback and discussion.
Class topics and Reading Assignments:
“Text” refers to “Feature Writing” by Friedlander and Lee
Sept. 26 Introduction to class and to article categories and structures.
Oct. 1 Storylines; structuring longer stories. Reading: chapters 1 and 2 in text, with special attention to “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster.” Ex. 1 Bring five written story ideas to class.
Oct. 3 Read ch. 3 in text on magazine features, and pages 65-74 in “Telling True Tales.” For structuring a profile, read “Against All Odds,” by Ron Suskind, at www.pulitzer.org/year/1995/feature-writing/works/suskind3.html
Oct. 8 Descriptive writing: the role of place in a story. Read “A ride on the Baghdad 99,” (handout), and chapter 4 in the text. Research. Critique session on article drafts.
Oct. 10 Interviewing, quotation and dialogue; read chapter 5 in text, with attention to the interview story and follow-up with Cybill Shepherd. Also read The cipher in room 214,” by Carol Smith, at
Oct. 15 How to write a query letter and evaluate potential markets. Read chapter 8 in text on marketing.
Oct. 17 Ethics; review for first quiz; general features due; critiques of article drafts.
Oct. 22 Draft of query letter due; critique session.
Oct. 24 Quiz #1 and reflective piece due.
Oct. 29 Point of view; read chapter 6 in the text, with attention to “A Boy of Unusual Vision”; Final drafts due of profile, general feature, query and market list.
Oct. 31 Introduction to column writing. Read chapter 7 in text on specialized articles, and pages 77-85 in “Telling True Stories.”
Nov. 5 Exploration of tone, voice and stance.
Nov. 7 First draft of personal column due; reading out loud; critique session.
Nov. 12 Veterans Day holiday; no class.
Nov. 14 Writing researched persuasive pieces. Rewriting; read chapter 9 in text.
Nov. 19 Legal issues of free-lancing; read chapter 10 in text. Final draft of column due.
Nov. 21 First draft of persuasive article due; critique session.
Nov. 26 Handling the business side of free-lancing.
Nov. 28 Quiz #2; second reflective piece on reading.
Dec. 3 Final draft of persuasive article due.
Dec. 5 Discussion and course evaluations.
Finals week: Returning all papers; individual feedback and comment.
Each student will turn in work that is his or her sole, original effort. All material for anything other than news events in the common domain needs to carry attribution.
University policy prohibits submitting as new work anything created earlier in another class for credit. Please refer to Appendix D of the university catalog for details.
Magazine editors don’t mind if writers have some background knowledge in the topics they’re covering – in fact, they prefer that – but the author’s connection must be stated explicitly in an editor’s note. Writers of general features and profiles cannot be involved in any advocacy position or effort in the area. Exceptions may be made for opinion pieces on editorial pages. Please refer to the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics for guidelines.
" ... the vast majority of readers are allowing you to tell them your story because they want to escape. They don't want to work; they want to relax. They want to be transported into the world you're creating..."
Michael Seidman, Seeing is Believing, in Writer's Digest, February 1995
"How can we make the truth as interesting to others as it is to us? ... Prize above all those ideas with action in them."
William Blundell, The Art and Craft of Feature Writing