Miles Kington Remembered: Stuck for an idea? Then why not recycle some old ones?

23 August 1999

Related Topics

Many students who fail to get into university will be tempted to opt for freelance journalism instead, and today's piece gives you specific advice on how to forge ahead in that field. It's quite easy, really. All you have to know is what subjects editors most like articles about. And all you have to do to find that out, is go back over the past 40 years of general interest magazines and newspaper feature pages, seeing which the most common articles are. Luckily for you, I have already done that, so here is a complete list of the Top Feature Ideas in British Journalism of all time. Please cut it out and use it as often as possible.

1. The Things that Live on Our Bodies: We all know this article. It is decorated by photographs of things that look like giant prawns going through a thicket of toothpicks, but which turn out to be tiny organisms in our hair. The writer says that under the microscope our scalp, body hair, eyebrows, and bed clothes contain enough moving objects to invade Afghanistan. The word "mites" crops up quite often, and so does "jungle".

2. Look at the Back of Your Wardrobe – That Little Black Dress may be Back in Fashion! Self-explanatory: one of of a family of articles, all with titles like "The Fortune in Your Attic", or "It Might be an Old 78 to You, but to Someone Else it's a Collector's Item!"

3. Go On – You can Do It Yourself! Readers love to be urged to do things for themselves. They love the idea that some commercial process can actually be done in their own home for half the price, twice the effect and four times the effort. They love to be told that it is quite possible to make their own bread, smoke their own food, make their own pasta, make their own jam, make their own Christmas presents, and so on – and they even cut these articles out and keep them. What they never do is go ahead and do it themselves – they just like to cut the article out and keep it. (I myself once cut out an article on how to make my own sloe gin, and I actually went ahead and made sloe gin! I've had it sitting in a decanter for two years now. I really must try it.)

4. I Came Through the Hell of Exams: By its very nature, this is an article that only a young person can write - indeed, I believe many people actually get into journalism by selling a paper their harrowing account of the nightmare of A-levels, and that some are even tempted, on selling this first piece, to give up their university place and stick with journalism. Don't be silly. You may never have read a piece called "How I Entered the Hell of Journalism", but that's only because papers don't print pieces like that.

5. Put the Romance Back into Your Relationship! I can't bear to spell out the grim details of this, but the words "candle-lit", "personal rediscovery" and "a deux" should figure strongly.

6. She was Born Diana Fluck: This used to be one of the commonest of all articles, the one that revealed what film stars were really called, and what modest beginnings they all had. Some of them, like Tony Curtis, not only had modest beginnings but unpronounceable original names. It was from one of these articles that I first learnt that Stewart Granger's real name was actually James Stewart, a name he couldn't use because James Stewart was already using it. Nowadays film stars have a distressing habit of not changing their name – can you imagine a pre-war star called Arnold Schwarzenegger? – so it may be too late for this idea to figure. But there are always singers, of course – such as Cliff Richard (Herry Webb) and Elton John (Reg Dwight).

7. There's Still Time to Get Ready for Summer! The real name for this article should be "Get Rid of that Horrible Flab before You Dare to Disrobe on the Beach": but it comes to the same thing. There is a sister piece called "Countdown till Christmas", which does not, oddly enough, advise you to put all that weight back on again as a protection against winter cold, only how to make punch and organise turkey cooking.

8. Great Mouthwatering Picnic Ideas! These pieces are lovely to read, even if nobody ever attempts the grand recipes in them, being daunted by the glamourous photos that go with them. Even if you know nothing about picnics, you can always get the ideas from other pieces on picnics. Where do you think cookery writers get their ideas from, for heaven's sake?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Grange Retirement Home: Full Time Care Team Manager

£22,400: The Grange Retirement Home: This is a key role which requires a sound...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: Inequality in Britain – a defence of the mansion tax

John Rentoul
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada