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College Writing Assignment 4
Nonfiction Feature Article

  Assignment: Write a non-fiction feature article based on an interview.  The interview should begin with a real question to which you do not know the answer.  The final product will resemble a feature length article you would find in a newspaper or magazine.  Your task is to write up what you have learned into an entertaining 1-2 page article (and no longer). The article may give you (and the reader) a glimpse into a world to which you (and they) are not familiar or it may tell an interesting family or local story or it may find and tell the story of a local place or event or it may be the story of you finding the answer to a complicated question.  See the examples below.  

Example Questions

1.  What is the story of The Indian Trading Post?
2.  What is the story behind the butterfly Mr. Norris discovered?
3.  What was on the site of JBHS before it was built?
4.  What is it like to have childhood leukemia?
5.  What is it like to be a volunteer fireman?
6.  Is graffiti a legitimate art form?
7.  How factual is the basis of My Brother Sam is Dead?
8.  What is it like to be a second generation American in Easton or Redding?
9.  What is it like to go to Japan with the Japanese program?
10. Where did P. T. Barnum live and is the house still there?

Recommended Process

1. Generate a list of at least ten questions.
2. Choose the most interesting one that fits the criteria of the assignment.
3. Write a focused freewrite, a list or a web of everything you already know about your topic.
4. Brainstorm a list of small questions that would lead to the answer to your big question.
5. Make a list of people you could interview to answer your questions.
6. Ask your potential interviewees for permission to talk with them.
7. Conduct the interview(s).  Record it.
8. Write a focused freewrite, a list or a web answering your question.
8a. If you are not satisfied with the answer, make a list of other questions you have and repeat steps 5-8.
9.  Reread your freewrite and choose a form to best tell your story in a clear and entertaining manner.
10. Draft.
11. Confer.
12  Revise. Pay special attention to embedding the quotes into your text and creating a clear context for your reader..
13. Repeat steps 11 and 12 until you are satisfied.
14. Edit.
15. Read your piece at the readaround.

Example Papers

"Fatal" by Bob Green.  Question - What's the story of one drunken driver fatality?
"Fifteen" by Bob Green. Question - What's it like to be fifteen these days?
"Crime and Punishment" by Scott Dalessio.  What really happened in the "Wood Chipper" case?
"Trust in Him" by Gia Dardani.  Question -What is the story behind my grandmother's strong faith?
"A Silk Chute Wedding" by Jenn Toohey.  Question - What is the story behind Mike Scarpa making his wife's wedding gown out of his parachute?
"You Could Die" by Jack Powers. Question - What is it like to have childhood leukemia?

The Interview

The interview should be very much like a good conversation except that it stays focused on the question and the interviewee does most of the talking.  As the interviewer your job is to get the conversation started, keep it on the topic, keep the interview going until you get the answer to your question and keep an accurate record of what was said. You must tape record the interview to insure accurate quotes.


• Use everything you have learned about telling a story.
• Use dialogue.
• Reconstruct a scene if it's important and you have enough information.
• Use the words of the interviewee as much as possible.  (Make the person come alive for the reader.)
• Don't be afraid to start in the middle or end.
• Feel free to experiment with different forms.
• Anticipate the reader's questions.  Remember the reporter's questions: who, what, why, when, where and how.
• Do the research to fill in holes the reader may have.

Rough Draft Due May 4, 2007
Final Draft Due: May 11, 2007

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