Tag Archives: writing

Object Stories

What stories do objects hold? How can using our own objects help us access our own personal stories?

Below is a beautiful object story by Graziella Bonaguidi.

YOUR TURN! Choose your object and think about why you chose it. Ask yourself:
  • What do I want to say about this object?
  • What details will help my listeners understand my object or my story?
Six prompts to help you write an object story:

1. Discovery
When and how did you first receive or encounter the object?
What was your first impression of it?
Who was there?

2. Meaning
Did you know it was significant from the beginning?
How did your object gain meaning?
Has its meaning changed over time?

3. Value
What does the object say about you?
What event or person taught you the importance of this object?

4. Reward
What is the best reward of owning your object?

5. Conclusion
If you had to give it to someone, who would that be and what would you say to them?

6. Description
Before we take pictures, please describe your object.
What does it look like?
What does it feel like?
What does it smell like?


What is a video script?

A video script is the blueprint and foundation for your digital video. It’s a chronological run-down of scenes displaying the dialogue and action that you want to appear in your video.

Just as an architect’s blueprint is the foundation for the construction of a building, so too is the script for crafting a video. As the writer/storyteller, you are essentially the “architect” of what will be seen and heard by your audience.

Writing a script allows you to whittle down your ideas into one coherent unfolding story line of words, imagery and sounds. A video script displays the multiple layers happening as a video plays. This blueprint bridges the gap between the story idea and video editing needed to craft a digital story.

Feel free to use our 4 column video script template.



Problem Solving Stories

Excerpt from Storymaking.comThe Role of the Problem in Great Stories” by James Bonnet

In real life, a problem is anything that is contrary to the way you want things to be. In a great story the problem is the central, unifying event that holds the story together. In Harry Potter, Voldemort is trying to take possession of the Wizard World. That is the problem that brings about the change of fortune and that is the problem that has to be resolved.

This and hundreds of other great stories I could name revolve around a problem that has to be resolved. And these are the central events that are holding these stories together and giving them power. And, when these problems are finally solved, it brings the story to a satisfactory conclusion and we know it is over.

The reason great stories are about problems, and what this important pattern is telling us about ourselves, is that life is all about problems. Despite their prevalence, I’m not sure that most people realize how much our lives are dominated and controlled by problems. We are bombarded daily by all sorts of big and little problems. They come at us by phone, via email and the news – everything from finding our lost keys and having nothing to wear to a stolen wallet or a flooded basement.

On top of that there are emotional problems, financial problems, health problems – threats to our lives and our well-being, threats to our families, threats to our communities, threats to our country and the world. All of the professions, in fact – doctor, lawyer, accountant, plumber, psychologist, therapist, auto mechanic, teacher, soldier, policeman, fireman, etc. are built around problem solving. They make their living solving problems for other people.

What problems do storymakers solve?

Well, great storymakers help people solve the most serious problem of all, the problem of ignorance – ignorance concerning who we really are and who we were really meant to be.

The great mission of story is to show us how to analyze, cope with, and solve the problems that stand between us and the values we are pursuing, between us and our dreams, between us and our full potential. And revealing how that problem was created and how it can be resolved is at the very heart of a great story – and at the very heart of who we are and the predicaments we face during our relatively brief visit to this sometimes scary, often delightful, but always incredible planet called Earth.

Anything you need to know about any particular problem is stored somewhere in the DNA, and the creative unconscious self can access that information. You just have to ask your self the right direct questions then play midwife to the new ideas as they come to life in your imagination.

Make your story a definitive revelation of that problem and you will make that story extremely relevant and powerful.


First Person Narrative: Writing Tips

Excerpt from “First person narrative: 7 tips for writing great narrators” by NOW NOVEL

1. Evoke the senses, not only the narrator’s inner world

Writing a novel or story in the first person makes it tempting to let your narrator dwell on their thoughts and feelings extensively. Often characters can feel lacking if all the focus is on their mental and emotional processes, though. Have your character describe not only thoughts but also sights, sounds, smells and tastes where appropriate.

When you use a first person narrator, ask:

  • What senses are strongest in this particular character and what does that say about them?

  • How can I give the reader a greater sense of an embodied narrator and not just a disembodied, storytelling ‘I’?

Remember to ground your narrator’s observations in the material world. Because this will add colour and depth to your story.

Focusing on all aspects of your narrating ‘I’ character’s experience, physical and otherwise, is one way to write a great narrator. It is also important to let readers see through your narrator’s eyes actively:

2. Avoid overusing words that place distance between the narrator and your reader

Because the narrator uses the first person ‘I’ (and sometimes the plural ‘we’) to tell the bulk of the story in first person narration, you may be tempted to begin sentences with ‘I’ a lot. Take this sentence for example:

‘I saw that the door was closed and I heard a faint scratching noise coming from within the house. I thought it sounded like someone trying to dig a tunnel out.’

The words ‘I saw’, ‘I heard’ and ‘I thought’ all place the reader at one remove to the unfolding events. The reader isn’t seeing, hearing or thinking these things through the narrator. The reader is being told about the narrator’s experiences. The scene could be more vivid if the narrator didn’t ‘report’ her or his experience.

The snippet could be rewritten as follows:

‘The door was closed and a faint scratching noise came from within the house. It sounded like someone trying to dig a tunnel out, I thought.’


Continue reading First Person Narrative: Writing Tips


How to Write Winning First Person Stories

Excerpt from “How to Write Winning First-Person Stories
by C.S. Paquin

The essence of good first-person narrative is sharing an experience, letting the reader see and feel it, and reaching a resolution from which both reader and writer grow or have an ‘aha’ moment. Writers often confuse essays with a recollection of an event — they fail to share how the experience enlightened them, affected them, changed their opinion. An essay is an internal journey of discovery. To work well, the reader takes that journey with you.

What to write

The topics are endless. Almost anything can be the subject material for an essay — nature, climbing, sailing, death, parenting, relationships — but ask yourself what you feel passionate about, or what you have experienced that has universal appeal. Ask yourself what makes you happy, or what makes you sad. When you have a clear idea of what you’d like to share, begin a draft.

The draft

The draft essay is the first step in clearing your head for a final, tightly focused piece. Don’t hold back in your draft, don’t critique it, just let your emotions and thoughts run unchecked. Write where you are comfortable; perhaps try longhand if you usually type. Then, when you think you’ve said all you can say, close the file or notebook and walk away.
When you’re ready, perhaps in a day or so, read your draft. You’ll find paragraphs that make you wince, and others that shine with brilliance. You might find you sound dogmatic or overly emotional. It’s good to recognize this now before you submit your piece. If you don’t, the editor will.

Many essays for commercial publications are not lengthy — perhaps 1,000 to 1,200 words, often less. To share all you want to share, you must keep focused on three elements — the beginning or hook; the conflict or the internal journey; and the ending, what you find at your destination.

1. The hook

Look at your first draft and see what parts of it are crucial to set the scene — people, places, events — and what will distract the reader with unnecessary detail. The balance lies in giving the reader enough information so they can know you at least a little. Remember, your neighbors, spouse and children may be familiar with you and your experience, but your readers are not, yet are about to embark on an intimate journey with you. On the other hand they don’t want tedious details about your Aunt Marge or her canary, unless they’re coming on the journey too.

The most successful essay I’ve published had this introduction:

I sob in Sydney International Airport as my 5-year-old daughter Bee and I bid our friends and family an emotional farewell. At age 30, I am leaving my native Australia, after a whirlwind romance, to join my husband in his native Minnesota.
Immediately, the readers (Minnesota Monthly) knew they were going to hear about a physical journey as well as the internal one, and the key players were myself, my daughter and husband, and a relocation to Minnesota.

What wasn’t important in this piece is what got to me the airport — why my daughter and I were going to Minnesota, and not my husband to Australia, or whatever. What mattered was that I was at the airport, and that I was leaving.

If you are writing about coping with infidelity, don’t talk about the ten good years before your ex-spouse’s affair; start from when you discovered the betrayal.

In short, begin with the phone call, the letter, the diagnosis, the news, and the event… not what led up to it.

2. The journey

We’re packed, ready and off we go. This is where we experience your challenge or conflict with you, grapple with the curveball, struggle to make sense or laugh or cry with you. To recapture your emotions and make us feel them, the body must be lively and interesting. Again, don’t bog down your story with unwieldy descriptions; keep focused on your emotions and the drama to keep the reader moving forward. Make sure you occasionally remind of us of the theme of the journey, but succinctly.

It’s OK to pause, recollect your thoughts, or comment on where you thought this journey may have led you, but you do have to press on. You’ve taken us this far and we’re engrossed, so you have an obligation to see us to the end.

3. The destination

Aah, so we discover that it is possible to survive a Minnesota winter; a broken heart; beat the odds; or change a belief about yourself. Tie the ends together, remind us where we were when the journey began and how far we’ve come. The ending or resolution doesn’t have to be happy, but there should be evidence of growth or a new understanding in the author.

And if the reader can apply that growth and understanding to his or her own life, then your essay has achieved its goal — a journey worth taking.

Editing your essay

Now for the hard work! You’ve written what you think is close to a publishable piece, but don’t be hasty in sending it off. Put this second draft away and then reread it, removing yourself from your experience as much as possible. Look for the following pitfalls:

1. Emotion vs. emotional

It’s fine to be angry, sad or happy. We want those emotions, but remember the reader is more removed from your particular experience. If you are too emotional, you will appear to be venting, possibly irrational and to not have grown from your challenge. If you haven’t grown, neither can the reader.

2. Passive vs. active

There is a tendency for essays to be passive because they describe past events, which offers no immediacy to readers and less chance to engage them. Look at your sentence structure, if you have a lot of “was” or “by” in your essay, revise it. Look at the following:

“I was being lied to by my wife” is passive. So break it down: Who’s doing the action? The wife: the wife is lying. What is the verb or the action word? Lying. Who is having something done to it? I am. Sentence structure should be subject/verb/object: “My wife lied to me” — offering less to wade through and bringing the action (the verb) closer to the reader.

3. Adverbs

Writers often think if they use adverbs they’re heightening emotion when, in fact, the opposite is true. Use of words ending in “-ly” weaken prose. If you shout because you’re angry, the reader should know that from your actions and not be told, “I shouted at her angrily.”

4. Show, don’t tell

Sheila Bender, author of Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page, says that a good essay is one with imagery appealing to the five senses. To engage readers, offer enough detail so the audience sees, smells, hears, etc., what you are describing. Don’t “tell” the reader what’s happening; use verbs that “show.” Don’t say, “it was a hot day,” instead, tell us, “the sun beat down.”


Tips for Crafting Digital Stories

Excerpt from “Advanced Thinking in Digital Storytelling” by John Orech

The Writing Process

The foundation of a good digital story is a solid piece of writing that includes a point, dramatic question, and emotional content. In addition to these key elements, I have my students focus on verb choice, observations, and keeping their writing concise.

Precise verbs drive a story.

Action verbs provide a far richer meaning and appeal to the senses better than linking verbs. Looking at my cat Sunny next to me, I might write “The cat was relaxed,” but a better choice would be “The cat lounged on the couch.” Verbs with a definite meaning also help the viewer create a more accurate mental picture of the story. The word “walk” is not nearly as descriptive as “saunter,” “stroll,” “stagger,” “stomp,” or “strut.”

Effective writers must observe carefully.

When viewers observe our stories, they infer meaning. If we make these inferences for them, we cheat our audience. “He was mad,” tells the audience, but “His nostrils flared, his teeth clenched, and his eyes bulged” allows the viewer to draw their own inferences and become a more active participant in the story. Including sensory terms and descriptions allows the audience to create the picture in their minds.

Too much background dilutes a story.

Feeling like they need to set up an entire scene so they don’t confuse their audience, writers often add too much detail. However, a carefully written first sentence can take us right into the story. The viewer will figure out what is happening based on their own experiences.

I had one student who wrote about an incident at a dance camp she attended. Her story initially started with an entire paragraph explaining location, how she got there, when she went, and so on; she transformed the beginning into, “My legs tensed as I waited for my cue; after all the sweat at camp, it was Showtime.” The tone, point, and dramatic question are clearly established: she is a dancer, at a camp, and has prepared for this moment intensely. Now she can tell her story.

Making the Movie

Movement (panning and zooming) can add a dynamic feel to still shots and can aid in developing plot, revealing character, or creating a dramatic effect. When working with my students, I encourage the judicious use of movement. When they grumble about not using video, I share footage from Ken Burns’ documentaries to help explain that brilliant manipulation and stunning effects can be made using still images.

Students need to learn the impact of each movement before they can effectively create interplay between movement and narration.

Continue reading Tips for Crafting Digital Stories


Writing personal voice

I think this kid’s story “Mashed Potato Pizza” is a great example of effective personal narrative. Check it out and let’s talk.

mashed potatoe pizza -story script

Did you find this story compelling? I did. First I chuckled and that’s always a good sign. But deeper layers emerged too.

To me it is a nice “simple yet profound” blend. We all have been there – being embarrassed in public & being comrades within a group. I liked being reminded about the great value of laughing at yourself.

To me this story follows the essential aspects outlined in my post Key Ingredients of Digital Storytelling.

It is a personal experience expressed using conversational language. There is emotion and feelings … impatience, hunger pains, and misfortune  to name a few. The story effectively conveys an unfolding scene taking place in a school lunch line. There is effective story contrast. Do we get pizza? We got pizza! Arghh … dropped pizza! I especially like the contrast between deep dismay and deep laughter.

This story on paper effectively evokes pictures and sounds in our heads. What would this look like as a digital story?


What is a Story Arc?

Each story is unique, yet all stories can be boiled down into three distinct “acts”: beginning, middle, and end.

A story arc is a tool to help storytellers outline a good story into five key components:

  1. Exposition
  2. Rising action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling action
  5. Resolution


The exposition is where the story begins and sets the stage for the audience. The introduction should include a SETTING, both physical and emotional; it might also include a BACKSTORY.

Rising Action

The rising action is what begins to move the story in a forward direction. The inciting incident is the initial action that sets the story in motion. The rising action is generally characterized by conflicts and complications to drive the plot.

This rising action component may contain four separate elements:

  • the trigger – the event that sets the plot into motion
  • the quest – how the storyteller responds to the trigger
  • the surprise – any twist, turn, or unexpected event that arises
  • the critical choice – decisions made that lead to the climax of the story


The climax of the story is where the plot reaches its critical mass; it’s the tipping point where tensions or excitement are at their highest and the audience is most engaged by what’s happening.

The climax is the turning point of the story and provides a sense of change.

Falling Action

The falling action occurs on the other side of the climax. While the rising action helps build towards the climax, the falling action helps deescalate and ease readers into the conclusion of the story cymbalta cost.


Last but not least, the resolution of the story is where the plot comes to an end.

The resolution is the final curtain call of the story and strives to leave a lasting impression.