So earlier today I was editing an intern’s piece for my section of TOHK. I printed out her original copy, made marks with comments, printed out my edited/slightly-rewritten copy, and handed it to her. I gave her some basic advice on what I think makes a good feature
1: start the story with a scene, place the reader in the action. present tense.
2: immediately following the opening, tell us who/what/where/when/why, ideally the who or the what is interesting and not everyday material.
3: insert some form of drama, mystery, or tension immediately after.
4: provide lots of sources and quotes. keep the action going.
That’s what I told the intern. Then a few hours later I log on and I read this, a GQ profile on William Wesley, also known as Worldwide Wes. This name’s in alot of headlines recently because he’s part of Lebron’s group of yes-men who’s been causing waves among the basketball world.
To this day, exactly who the hell William Wesley is, is something that’s a bit lost on most people. This GQ piece does an absolutely superb job of painting that picture–you have journalist, coaches, players, agents, all struggling to describe just exactly what he does.
And every advice I gave the intern, this piece knocked out the park. The story starts with action–Worldwide in the middle of the Palace of Auburn Hills brawl (a night Marv, Will, D, Vince and I watched over and over and over and over on sportscenter over poker in 2004). Then the story introduces us to this Wesley character, someone who, inexplicably, can be seen at almost any basketball event, schmoozing with the biggest names. Yet… NO ONE KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT HE DOES OR WHY HE’S THERE.
Then comes the background. The fact that Wes lived the typical “poor black kid” life like Cuba in Boyz in the Hood only adds intrigue…makes it a true American rags to riches story. There are good quotes (including a journalist who said she thought Wes was a pimp for the players when they first met), heaps of sources, and the story keeps moving. Shady shenanigans are hinted at (how exactly does he support himself?), iconic figures are namedropped (Clinton, Jordan, Jay, Beyonce), and even a potential physical threat near the end of the story when the writer finally meets Worldwide Wes.
Now this, is a feature.
Best part? it was written in 2007. Three years before Wes started popping up in headlines and making people wonder “who the hell is that?”.
Instead of sitting down with the intern with that whole speech, I should have just printed this feature out and have her read it. This is how you learn how to tell a story.