Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to Arrange Topics in Your Feature Article

The order in which to present the main topics requires thoughtful study. A logical development of a subject by which the reader is led, step by step, from the first sentence to the last in the easiest and most natural way, is the ideal arrangement. An article should march right along from beginning to end, without digressing or marking time. The straight line, in writing as in drawing, is the shortest distance between two points.

In narration the natural order is chronological. To arouse immediate interest, however, a writer may at times deviate from this order by beginning with a striking incident and then going back to relate the events that led up to it. This method of beginning in medias res is a device well recognized in fiction. In exposition the normal order is to proceed from the known to the unknown, to dovetail the new facts into those already familiar to the reader.

When a writer desires by his article to create certain convictions in the minds of his readers, he should consider the arrangement best calculated to lead them to form such conclusions. The most telling effects are produced, not by stating his own conclusions as strongly as possible, but rather by skillfully inducing his readers to reach those conclusions by what they regard as their own mental processes. That is, if readers think that the convictions which they have reached are their own, and were not forced upon them, their interest in these ideas is likely to be much deeper and more lasting.

It is best, therefore, to understate conclusions or to omit them entirely. In all such cases the writer's aim in arranging his material should be to direct his readers' train of thought so that, after they have finished the last sentence, they will inevitably form the desired conclusion.

With the main topics arranged in the best possible order, the writer selects from his available material such details as he needs to amplify each point. Examples, incidents, statistics, and other particulars he jots down under each of the chief heads. The arrangement of these details, in relation both to the central purpose and to each other, requires some consideration, for each detail must have its logical place in the series. Having thus ordered his material according to a systematic plan, he has before him a good working outline to guide him in writing.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Selection and Proportion for Your Feature Article

After deciding on the length of his article, the writer should consider what main points he will be able to develop in the allotted space. His choice will be guided by his purpose in writing the article. "Is this point essential to the accomplishment of my aim?" is the test he should apply. Whatever is non-essential must be abandoned, no matter how attractive it may be. Having determined upon the essential topics, he next proceeds to estimate their relative value for the development of his theme, so that he may give to each one the space and the prominence that are proportionate to its importance.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Planning Your Article

Just as a builder would hesitate to erect a house without a carefully worked-out plan, so a writer should be loath to begin an article before he has outlined it fully. In planning a building, an architect considers how large a house his client desires, how many rooms he must provide, how the space available may best be apportioned among the rooms, and what relation the rooms are to bear to one another. In outlining an article, likewise, a writer needs to determine how long it must be, what material it should include, how much space should be devoted to each part, and how the parts should be arranged. Time spent in thus planning an article is time well spent.

Outlining the subject fully involves thinking out the article from beginning to end. The value of each item of the material gathered must be carefully weighed; its relation to the whole subject and to every part must be considered. The arrangement of the parts is of even greater importance, because much of the effectiveness of the presentation will depend upon a logical development of the thought. In the last analysis, good writing means clear thinking, and at no stage in the preparation of an article is clear thinking more necessary than in the planning of it.

Amateurs sometimes insist that it is easier to write without an outline than with one. It undoubtedly does take less time to dash off a special feature story than it does to think out all of the details and then write it. In nine cases out of ten, however, when a writer attempts to work out an article as he goes along, trusting that his ideas will arrange themselves, the result is far from a clear, logical, well-organized presentation of his subject. The common disinclination to make an outline is usually based on the difficulty that most persons experience in deliberately thinking about a subject in all its various aspects, and in getting down in logical order the results of such thought. Unwillingness to outline a subject generally means unwillingness to think.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Example of the Narrative Article

Here's an example of the Narrative Article:


The Community Kitchen Menu
Vegetable souppint, 3¢
Beef stewhalf pint, 4¢
Baked beanshalf pint, 3¢
Two frankfurters, one potato and cup full of boiled cabbageall for 7¢
Rice pudding,
Stewed peaches
Coffee or cocoa with milkhalf pint, 3¢

"My mother wants three cents' worth of vegetable soup."

"And mine wants enough beef stew for three of us."

Two battered tin pails were handed up by small, grimy fingers. Two eager little faces were upturned toward the top of the bright green counter which loomed before them. Two pairs of roguish eyes smiled back at the woman who reached over the counter and took the pails.

"The beef stew will be twelve cents," she said. "It is four cents for each half pint, you know."

"I know," answered the youth. "My mother says when she has to buy the meat and all and cook it and put a quarter in the gas meter, it's cheaper to get it here. My father got his breakfast here, too, and it only cost him five cents."

"And was he pleased?" asked the woman, carefully lowering the filled pail to the outstretched little hand.

"You bet," chuckled the lad, as he turned and followed the little procession down the length of the room and out through the door on the opposite side.

The woman was Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, jr.

The boy was the son of a 'longshoreman living on "Death Avenue," in close proximity to the newly established People's Kitchen, situated on the southeast corner of Tenth Avenue and West Twenty-seventh Street, New York.

So it is here at last—the much talked of, long hoped for, community kitchen.

Within three days after its doors had been opened to the public more than 1,100 persons had availed themselves of its benefits. Within three years, it is promised, the community kitchen will have become national in character. Its possibilities for development are limitless.

Way was blazed for the pioneer kitchen by Edward F. Brown, executive secretary of the New York school lunch committee.

The active power behind the cauldrons of soup, cabbage and frankfurters, beans and rice pudding is vested in Mrs. James A. Burden, jr., and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, jr.

The evolution of the community kitchen is going to be of interest to every housewife and to every wage earner in all classes of society.

First of all, let it be distinctly understood that the kitchen as inaugurated is not a charity. It is social and philanthropic in character, and it will ultimately reduce the cost of living by almost 50 per cent. This much has been demonstrated already to the extent that the Tenth Avenue kitchen has not only paid expenses, but has so overrun its confines that plans are in preparation for the establishment of other and larger kitchens in rapid succession.

The object is to give to the purchaser the maximum quantity of highest grade food, properly cooked, at minimum cost. This cost includes rent, light, heat, power, interest on investment, depreciation, cost of food materials, labor and supervision. The principle is that of barter and sale on an equitable business basis.

The project as now formulated is to establish for immediate use a small group of public kitchens having one central depot. This depot will be in constant operation throughout the twenty-four hours. Here the food will be prepared and distributed to the smaller kitchens where, by means of steam tables, it can be kept hot and dispensed. The character of the food to be supplied each district will be chosen with regard to what the population is accustomed to, that which is simple and wholesome, which contains bulk, can be prepared at minimum cost, can be conveniently dispensed and easily carried away.

Opposite a large school building, in a small room that had been at one time a saloon, the kitchen of the century was fitted up and formally opened to the public. Three long green tables with green painted benches beside them encircle the room on two sides. Their use was manifest the second day after the kitchen was opened.

At 4 o'clock in the morning, from various tenement homes near by, sturdy 'longshoremen and laborers might have been seen plodding silently from their respective homes, careful not to disturb their wives and families, and heading straight for the new kitchen on the corner. From trains running along "Death Avenue" came blackened trainmen after their night's work. They, too, stopped at the corner kitchen.

By the time the attendant arrived to unlock the doors forty men were in line waiting for breakfast.
Ten minutes later the three tables were fully occupied.

"Bread, cereal and coffee for five cents!" exclaimed one of the men, pushing the empty tray from him, after draining the last drop of coffee in his mug. "This kitchen's all right."

Noon came. The children from the school building trooped in.

"My mamma works in a factory," said one. "I used to get some cakes at a bakery at noontime. Gee! There's raisins in this rice puddin', ain't there?" He carried the saucerful of pudding over to the table.
"Only three cents," he whispered to the little girl beside him. "You better get some, too. That'll leave you two cents for a cup of cocoa."
"Ain't it a cinch!" exclaimed the little girl.

Behind the counter the women who had made these things possible smiled happily and dished out pudding, beans and soup with generous impartiality. The daughter of Mrs. Vanderbilt appeared.
"I'm hungry, mother," she cried. "I'll pay for my lunch."
"You'll have to serve yourself," was the rejoinder of the busy woman with the tin pail in her hand. "There's a tray at the end of the counter—but don't get in the way."
So rich and poor lunched together.

"Oh, but I'm tired!" exclaimed a woman, who, satchel in hand, entered, late in the afternoon, "It's hard to go home and cook after canvassing all day. Will you mind if I eat supper here?"
Then the women and children poured in with pails and dishes and pans.
"We're getting used to it now," said one. "It's just like a store, you know, and it saves us a lot of work—"
"And expense! My land!" cried another. "Why, my man has only been working half time, and the pennies count when you've got children to feed and clothe. When I go to work by the day it's little that's cooked at home. Now—" She presented a dish as the line moved along. "Beef stew for four," she ordered, "and coffee in this pitcher, here."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The "How-To" Article

Articles the primary purpose of which is to give directions for doing something in a particular way, are always in demand.

The simplest type is the recipe or formula containing a few directions for combining ingredients. More elaborate processes naturally demand more complex directions and require longer articles. In the simpler types the directions are given in the imperative form; that is, the reader is told to "take" this thing and that, and to "mix" it with something else. Although such recipe directions are clear, they are not particularly interesting. Many readers, especially those of agricultural journals, are tired of being told to do this and that in order to get better results. They are inclined to suspect the writer of giving directions on the basis of untried theory rather than on that of successful practice. There is an advantage, therefore, in getting away from formal advice and directions and in describing actual processes as they have been carried on successfully.

Articles intended to give practical guidance are most interesting when cast in the form of an interview, a personal experience, or a narrative. In an interview article, a person may indirectly give directions to others by describing in his own words the methods that he has used to accomplish the desired results.

Or the writer, by telling his own experiences in doing something, may give readers directions in an interesting form.

Whatever method he adopts, the writer must keep in mind the questions that his readers would be likely to ask if he were explaining the method or process to them in person. To one who is thoroughly familiar with a method the whole process is so clear that he forgets how necessary it is to describe every step to readers unfamiliar with it. The omission of a single point may make it impossible for the reader to understand or to follow the directions. Although a writer need not insult the intelligence of his readers by telling them what they already know, he may well assume that they need to be reminded tactfully of many things that they may have known but have possibly forgotten.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Narrative Article

Although the interview, the personal experience article, and the confession story are largely narrative, they are always told in the first person, whereas the term "narrative article" as used in this classification is applied only to a narrative in the third person. In this respect it is more like the short story. As in the short story so in the narrative article, description of persons, places, and objects involved serves to heighten.

Narrative methods may be employed to present any group of facts that can be arranged in chronological order. A process, for example, may be explained by showing a man or a number of men engaged in the work involved, and by giving each step in the process as though it were an incident in a story. The story of an invention or a discovery may be told from the inception of the idea to its realization. A political situation may be explained by relating the events that led up to it. The workings of some institution, such as an employment office or a juvenile court, may be made clear by telling just what takes place in it on a typical occasion. Historical and biographical material can best be presented in narrative form.

Suspense, rapid action, exciting adventure, vivid description, conversation, and all the other devices of the short story may be introduced into narrative articles to increase the interest and strengthen the impression. Whenever, therefore, material can be given a narrative form it is very desirable to do so. A writer, however, must guard against exaggeration and the use of fictitious details.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Examples of the Personality Sketch

The following is a good example of a personality sketch feature article. It appeared, with a half-tone portrait, in the department of "Interesting People" in the American Magazine

"Tommy"—Who Enjoys Straightening Out Things


Six years ago a young Bulgarian immigrant, dreamy-eyed and shabby, came to the University of Illinois seeking an education. He inquired his way of a group of underclassmen and they pointed out to him a large red building on the campus.

"Go there," they said gayly, "and ask for Tommy."

He did, and when he was admitted to the presence of Thomas Arkle Clark, Dean of Men, and addressed him in his broken English as "Mis-terr Tommy," the dean did not smile. Although Mr. Clark had just finished persuading an irascible father to allow his reprobate sophomore son to stay at college, and although he was facing the problem of advising an impetuous senior how to break an engagement with a girl he no longer loved, he adapted himself to the needs and the temperament of the foreigner instantly, sympathetically, and efficiently.

In five minutes the Bulgarian had a job, knew what courses in English he ought to take, and was filled with a glow of hope, inspiration, and security which only a genius in the art of graciousness and understanding like "Tommy Arkle," as he is amiably called by every student and alumnus of Illinois, can bestow.

This is a typical incident in the extremely busy, richly human daily routine of the man who created the office of Dean of Men in American universities. Slender, short, well-dressed, his gray hair smartly parted, with kindly, clever, humorous blue eyes and a smile that is an ecstasy of friendliness, "Tommy" sits behind his big desk in the Administration Building from eight to five every day and handles all of the very real troubles and problems of the four thousand-odd men students at the University of Illinois.
He averages one hundred callers a day, in addition to answering a heavy mail and attendance upon various committee, board, and council meetings. He is known all over the country as an authority on fraternities and their influence, and a power for making that influence constantly better and finer. In business, farmer, and school circles in the Middle West Mr. Clark is famous for his whimsical, inspiring speeches. His quick, shaft-like humor, his keen, devastating sarcasm, and his rare, resilient sympathy have made him a personality beloved particularly by young persons.

They still tell the story on the campus of an ingenuous youngster who walked into the dean's office one fall, set his suitcase on the floor, and drawing two one-dollar bills and a fifty-cent piece from his pocket, laid the money on the big desk, saying:

"That's all the money I have. I've come to work my way through. Will you help me to get a job?"

In a flash "Tommy" noted the boy's eager, imaginative brown eyes, his wide, compact lips and strong jaw. Reaching over, he took the two bills and pocketed them, leaving the half-dollar.

"The traditional great men," said the dean, "started their university careers with only fifty cents. I don't want you to be handicapped, so I'll keep this two dollars. You can get work at —— Green Street waiting on table for your meals, and the landlady at —— Chalmers Street wants a student to fire her furnace in exchange for room rent."

The boy earned his way successfully for several months. Then suddenly he was taken sick. An operation was necessary. Mr. Clark wired for a Chicago specialist and paid all expenses out of his own pocket. The student recovered, and two years after he was graduated sent "Tommy" a letter enclosing a check for five hundred dollars. "To redeem my two dollars which you have in trust," the letter said, "and please use the money as a medical fund for sick students who need, but cannot afford, Chicago specialists."

The dean has an abnormal memory for names and faces. Every year he makes a "rogues' gallery"—the photographs of all incoming freshmen are taken and filed away. And many an humble, unknown freshman has been exalted by the "Hello, Darby," or "Good morning, Boschenstein"—or whatever his name happened to be—with which the dean greeted him.

Mr. Clark once revealed to me the secret of his life. Fifteen years ago he was professor of English and had strong literary ambitions, with no little promise. There came the offer of the office of Dean of Men. He had to choose between writing about peoples lives or living those lives with people. And he chose, with the result that at all times of the day and night it's "Tommy this, and Tommy that"; an accident case may need him at two A.M. in the hospital, or a crowd of roystering students may necessitate his missing a night's sleep in order to argue an irate sheriff into the conviction that they are not robbers and murderers. He has been known to spend many evenings in the rooms of lonesome students who "need a friend."

"Tommy Arkle" is one of the Middle West's finest contributions to the modern ideal of human service.