The Mississippi School For Math and Science
Human interest stories appeal to the emotions. The way they are written makes them interesting: no summary lead, no inverted pyramid order. Use a beginning that intrigues, then keep up the interest. Its composition is like a magazine story. Don’t run wild on adjectives. Don’t mix humor with pathos.
Types of features are as varied as there are people. Here are a few of them together with some pertinent suggestions.
Review. A play or performance we had last week or month had better be treated in a review, not a news story. The review can be signed or not. It can be put on the front page if you like, but don’t try to make it a news story. A review is as personal, emotional, and sharp as the writer wants; it can include as much judgment, reaction summarizing, credit-giving, name-calling, excitement, and fault-finding as the writer (or the advisor) wants.
News feature. The writer explores the personalities behind a news article and gives interest to the story.
Unusual experience or accomplishment. The writer tells about the unusual activity or hobby of some student or teacher.
In this type of story, it is customary to make use of the interview.
Interesting places story. The writer reports on a class’s visit to the jail or court house; the writer visits a little-known department of the school, e.g., tool shop, garden.
Classroom features. Unusual activities in some particular subject: English class rewrites Shakespeare; physics students build a Geiger Counter; geometry class constructs three-dimensional geometric figures.
Columns. Sports, band, alumni, around the campus: just a few of the ideas that could be employed if they are not overworked.
There is no end to the features possibilities in the average high school. Here are some suggestions which should lead to interesting stories:
Write a feature to run each issue about each of the new teachers. Find out their hobbies, childhood ambitions, school day pranks, interesting and amusing incidents. If these are cleverly written, the student body will clamor for more.
What is the most common surname in school? The second?
Find out how some students got their nicknames; write a feature about it. Some are better known by nicknames than they are by their real names.
What is the most dangerous chemical in the laboratory? What has the worst odor? The instructor will tell you man interesting facts about his supplies.
The season games are played in the yard at recess can make good material.
How many square yards of floor space do the janitors sweep daily and how many barrels of sweeping compound and how many brooms do they use every year?
Hobbies of teachers and students are good for a whole series of feature stories.
The most popular book and magazine in the library could be the subject of a feature.
Write a feature about the suits worn by the team. Find out the weight, cost, color, material. Make a comparison with those of previous years.
What does the coach tell the boys before a game and at half time? What do the boys tell the coach? Doubtless many amusing things can be told.
It was necessary to refinish the desks because of the numerous scratches and marks made by the students. Ask the principle to show you the state law about defacing public property. Get quotations. Tell about the extent of the marks.
See the teachers and get some of the foolish answers given in tests.
13. Science students are gathering specimens of various objects and having considerable difficulty assembling a complete collection. Who turns in the first set? Interview students and teachers for a good story.
14. Explain the work of a class in any one of the special subjects such as printing, typewriting, band, dramatics, and voice. Only a few take any one of these subjects. The rest of the students would like to know about them. Here is a material for a whole series of features.
15. What class furnished the most students for the term honor roll? Compare with previous rolls.
16. Find out who all made A’s last six weeks. How much time do they put on preparation? Do they do all their studying at school or part of it at home? Do they do outside work for pay?
17. The current opinion is that athletes do not usually rank high as students in regular subjects. Investigate for yourself. Perhaps this is wrong; perhaps it is right; there might be exceptions.
18. Sportsmanship is something one hears a great deal about. Ask coaches, players, and others what constitutes good sportsmanship.
19. A reporter broke his pencil in a room where there was no sharpener. In the class of 25 boys he failed to find a single pocket knife. That night he told his father of the incident and got some interesting information for a feature. In Dad’s day, no young male was a red-blooded he-boy if he didn’t carry at least one knife and keep it sharp. What DO boys carry now?
20. Who is the tallest and shortest student, the youngest and the oldest student in the school? It wouldn’t be hard to find out.
21. Write a feature about some problem connected with the production of forthcoming a play. Make-up, scenery, property, and costumes may call for research and overcoming of difficulties. The public likes to know about the back-stage part of a production.
22. Many humorous incidents happen in the school room. Things witch would be unnoticed elsewhere are especially funny in class. Get the spirit of the incident and write a human interest story. Let the rest of us enjoy what you see and hear.
23. Write a feature about the bright colors worn by the students. Compare styles of those of previous years. Collarless and tieless shirts, sun-tans – all are feature possibilities.
24. Where did teachers and students go during the summer? What did they do and see? Endless possibilities for features.
25. Watch for amusing, interesting, unusual, or humorous things in athletic contests. Does a player get lost and make a score for the other side? Everybody slips on a muddy field. The wind carries the ball where it is not intended to go. One fellow can’t do his best because his shoe hurts his foot. The scope of this story is as wide as the world it’s self.
26. Who lives farthest from the school and who lives nearest? How about the attendance and punctuality of the two?
27. Any out-of-town trip made by a school group, if properly written, makes interesting material.
Find out how many students work, total earning capacity, type of work hours, effects on school work, etc.
What are the training rules for high school athletes? Are they permitted to eat whatever they wish, stay out late, and have irregular schedules?
Special days, as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Armistice Day are feature possibilities. What do students and teachers do these days? History of the occasion?
A pet follows a student to school, or a stray dog or cat strolls into the classroom.
Was any teacher in a war, a holdup, a homestead “run,” or any other thrilling adventure? Find out details and write a story.
How does the enrollment of the school compare with former years? The number of teachers? Avoid a dry list of statistics.
Play try-outs are often boring, sometimes amusing. Be on the look-out for a feature story. One girl lost a role because she could not whistle; another because she was unable to play the piano. One boy had to be dropped from a cast because he tripped over the scenery too much.
The power company has made a survey of the electric “load” of the city. Find out how many lights, motors, appliances used in the school and their “load.” How many watts if all the lights in the school were turned on at once? How many horsepower if all the motors were running? Use your head. Ask a lot of questions.
If a state or national election is approaching, get a straw vote. Students will vote about the same as their parents plan to vote and the school paper can score a scoop by predicting the election results in the city with surprising accuracy.
Watch the dailies for seasonal sport events. Get the opinion of the coaches and a straw vote of the boys as to their choice for a winner of the World Series, most popular baseball stars, etc.
Make a collection of current slang expressions and dances; compare with former years.
Look over the conveyances that bring students to school: cars of all descriptions, some bicycles, perhaps a few motorcycles. Does anyone ride a horse? How about roller skates? Compare with former years.
How old are some of the customs and traditions of your school? When, how, or why did they originate?