The Personal Touch of Feature Obituaries versus the Traditional

by M-Gillies
A man sitting on park bench reading obituary section of newspaper

How do you want to be remembered? Feature obituaries that tell the story of your life are on their way to becoming more popular than the more factual traditional obituary.

Feature obituaries are becoming a popular new style in story writing. Where a typical obituary is straightforward and factual, feature obituaries add depth and character that tell the life stories of ordinary people. Using techniques that reveal intimate details and give the style a looser and friendlier flow, feature obituaries have a way of creating a more personal and relevant means of memorializing a person’s legacy.

While the illusion of intimacy would be shattered by a regular obituary, this type of obituary writing requires the writer to conduct a number of interviews with family and friends in order to ascertain a degree of familiarity. However, the end result creates a voice of surprising candor which will captivate its readers and make you feel as if you knew this person fairly well.

When she spoke, she spoke at great length, sometimes for too long, but no one could fault her for that. She spoke warmly and positively about anyone and everyone. It was a trait which made her approachable and welcoming, and enticed any stranger to gravitate toward her.

Despite her ability for being a long-winded orator, she adored cats, and with a soft spot for strays, often took them in, too many, actually…

or

A stickler for being on time, Ben was never late for an appointment. In fact, his strict regimen was so disciplined that he maintained a fixed routine daily. This explained why his absence was noticed almost immediately when he failed to show up to work during the day of… and failed to call his mother per usual that night. Even his Thursday night bowling partner noticed his absence…

When it comes to writing feature obituaries, the idea is to tell the story of a person, their habits, lifestyle, the impact they had on the people around them and through this form of writing, create a tale which celebrates the person’s life opposed to their death.

However, while feature obit writing requires room and time to write a story about the life of someone who dies, sometimes this isn’t always possible. This is why typical obituaries use the lead as a place to emphasize the person’s significance, rather than to begin the story.

It is with these leads that the reader is supplied with a person’s name, major accomplishment or occupation, as well as the day, location and cause of death. Often this can be a tricky method to formulate on a page, and while most writers arrange the facts in the same reliable and predictable sequence, it’s merely a method of inserting as much information as possible in a limited amount of space.

Often, when the cause of death is natural, the remainder of the story focuses on the deceased’s personal history, unlike incidents where the death is unnatural. However, details about the death should always precede the deceased’s background information as a means of shifting the focus to the aspects of their life rather than their death.

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