Monday, February 13, 2012

Feature Writing with Dan Rubinstein of Canadian Geographic (Part 2 of 2)

Dan speaking to a riveted group at the Feature Writing seminar in Calgary.
Photo credit: Sandra Markieta, SAIT student and AMPA volunteer

As promised, I bring you part two of my recap from AMPA's Feature Writing seminar with Dan Rubinstein of Canadian Geographic. Missed part one? Check it out first.

So as I was saying...

There are different styles magazine features can take. Consider what style you are using. A couple include:
  • Informational – commonly used for how-to’s; good for when the story needs to be objective and there’s no need for you as the writer to be in it; most stories have informational passages
  • Anecdotal – telling the story of something that happened to you; if your anecdote is strong, you could write an essay
Dan emphasizes the importance of “show, don’t tell.” Paint the picture; don’t just say “conditions were bad.” Use sensory details to make it known without having to say it. He recommends going to the actual site(s) of your stories wherever possible to gather the details so you can bring the scene to life. “‘God is in the details’ really rings true here,” he affirms.

You are the storyteller; it is your job to tell the story in a way the audience will receive—you have to speak to the magazine’s audience, but you also have to be you. Dan suggests that you act as "the tour guide; be in charge and authoritative, but don’t lecture.” And remember to pay attention to pacing; slow down so thoughts can linger and build.

Reader Reward Unit (RRU)
Dan defines an RRU as something that will make the reader smile, shudder, think, etc. It could be a clever turn of phrase, alliteration or some other literary device. He ensures that every feature has enough RRUs to make it shine, but there’s no specific formula.

He wraps up by affirming what we all know about great magazine writing. He points out that 80 percent of good writing is just clean straightforward storytelling. Thanks for a great seminar, Dan!

--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence