Keep in mind, though, that humor must fit the
situation. Flippant treatment of serious or distressful
subjects will likely alienate your readers.
The narrative is especially suitable for writing about
Navy subjects. Sharp characterization, vivid
description, dialogue, action and suspense are skillfully
woven into the framework of a narrative article to
dramatize the facts. However, the facts must be adapted
to this type of treatment. The writer does not invent
them, exaggerate them or embellish them in any way.
The story must be authentic even in the smallest detail.
The real life exploits and adventures of sailors the
world over are told in magazine articles using the
narrative approach. A heroic rescue, an epic battle, a
dramatic struggle against the elements, a display of
bravery and determination in the face of overwhelming
difficulties are all subjects that maybe developed into
Careful research is important in writing the
narrative article. This is especially true if it is about an
event in which many of the magazines readers may
have participated. An important error or omission will
immediately be noted by these people, and they will then
be skeptical of the entire article. Also, the writing should
be colorful and fast-paced. Otherwise it may sound like
a chapter out of a history textbook.
Any process, product, method or idea that will help
the reader become wiser, healthier, wealthier or happier
is a subject for the utility article. Also called the
how-to-do-it article, the utility article is generally
shorter than most other articles and the writing is usually
expository or explanatory.
The Navy offers a wealth of ideas for the utility
article. Atone time or another, practically everyone has
devised a scheme to improve a job, working conditions
or equipment. These ideas are especially valuable if they
can be tailored for a specific magazine. There are
thousands of trade and employee magazines constantly
looking for material of this type. Editors of Popular
Science and Popular Mechanics build their entire
magazines around this type of article.
The utility article can be compared to a set of
instructions presented in an interesting and lively
manner. Writers should ask themselves the questions
they feel readers are most likely to ask, then answer
them clearly and simply. Even though some readers may
be experts, writers must assume that every reader is
unfamiliar with the information and provide complete
details. A routine set of instructions for building a simple
cabinet can be interesting if it is presented properly.
You can use the first, second or third person in
writing this article. The personal experience approach
can be very effective in the utility article. The third
person style should be used only if the idea presented
involves dramatic or entertaining situations. The most
common approach is to use the second person,
imperative voice (You fit the wrench ...).
Interview articles present questions and answers
that offer a subjects views on a given topic. Little
background information is given in the article if the
subject is widel y known to the readers and the emphasis
is on the topic of discussion. The interview requires
much advance planning, however, and the writer should
research the subject thoroughly before conducting the
interview. Each edition of Playboy presents an excellent
example of the interview article.
The featurette is probably the most popular and
best-selling short article found in magazines today. It is
short and simple, and it contains the element of oddity
or humor, and sometimes both. The purpose of the
featurette is to entertain.
Humor in Uniform and Life in These United
States, regular sections in Readers Digest, are good
examples of the featurette. Nearly every magazine
carries at least one anecdote as filler material in each
RESEARCHING AN IDEA FOR A
Every person, place, event or thing is a possible
source for a magazine article. What one person sees
daily and takes for granted, another person with a
well-developed eye for the interesting and unusual often
can turn it into a successful article. The idea sources and
material concerning feature writing discussed in
The Navy is a fertile source for subjects and ideas
you can develop into good magazine articles. All you
Chapter 3 also apply to magazine writing.
have to do is look around you. Better yet, thumb through