FOCUS ON STORY TELLING Adapted fromhttp://www.jasonohler.com/storytelling/storymaking. cfm
FOCUSING ON STORYTELLINGThe Digital Age is the Storytelling Age... we all get to tell our stories in ourown way on the great stage of the Internet... Bottom Line: Telling weak stories with technology is like giving a bad guitar player a bigger amplifier. Agree or Disagree? LOUD BAD GUITAR Similarly, if you have no understanding of how media persuasion works you do not have the skills necessary to understand the digital world you inhabit. Therefore, the most important thing teachers can do for students is teach them how to tell an effective story.
THE STORY UNDERSTANDING PROCESS - BEGIN WITH THE STORY CORE No matter what kind of approach to storytelling I am using, I always being by focusing on the story, not the technology.The story core: from problem, thru change, to resolution. THE STORY CORE - Basic Configuration To do this I usually tell stories and show stories createdby other students (on DVD), then "find the story core" in each of the stories. You see the story core depictedbelow, as a problem and solution precariously perched ontop of a tipping point, signifying that stories have tension that give them forward motion as they move from problem through transformation to solution. This is explained below, as well as covered in some detail in my book, Digital Storytelling in the Classroom.The story core represents only one approach to story andnew media. But suffice it to say for now that the world of Western storytelling relies heavily on stories with "storycores," making it recognizable to students. I start with the core, and see where each project leads me.
STORY CORES 1ST ELEMENTThe central challenge that creates the story’s tension and forwardmomentum. This can be a question, a problem, an obstacle, anopportunity or a goal that needs to be addressed by the main character inthe story.The challenge creates tension that gives the story its forwardmomentum, which in turn produces listener involvement. FYI: the maincharacter can be anything from a rock, to a group of animals, to a student,to, in some cases, the audience itself.
STORY CORES 2ND ELEMENT Character transformation that facilitates the response to the challenge. Transformation is difficult and is often resisted, a portrayed in the picture below. Transformation is the essential change that a character needs to undergo to address the challenge, obstacle or opportunity. Sometimes the transformation occurs at the end, and, rarely, at the beginning. But it is usually most powerful when it occurs in the middle and facilitates the response to the challenge. Typically, change is a struggle. Either “life” or the “old you” pushes back as new circumstances or a “new you” struggles to emerge. If change comes too easily in a story, the audience disengages.
STORY CORES 3RD ELEMENTThe response to the challenge thatresolves the tension and leads to storyclosure. The character addresses thechallenge made possible by thetransformation. This can mean solving amystery, slaying a dragon, reaching a goal,applying new academic knowledge orlearning processes, overcoming an To me, the story core is about emergence,obstacle… anything that addresses the as portrayed in this image. Here you seechallenge, resolves the tension and leads to an "old me" and "new me" battling with each other. The old me struggles not toclosure. Closure by no means implies a change, to maintain the status quo andhappy ending, just a resolution of events. thus deny the call to adventure and to transformation. The new me knows that his survival ultimately depends on his transformation.
STORY MAPPINGStorymapping is basically a process of fleshing out the story core with story details. Todemonstrate this I usually tell and map stories with students as a group exercise.Students then begin their storytelling projects by creating a story map that sketches outtheir stories. This is explained below.There are many approaches to story mapping (see my book, Digital Storytelling in theClassroom). However, my favorite is Brett Dillinghams Visual Portrait of the Story(VPS), presented here. I recommend you look at Bretts site for great storytellingmaterials. The basic VPS as I have adapted it appears below:
The map shows the five essential story elements. Note that the story core is at the heart ofthe map:1. Beginning. This is Campbells "call to adventure." Somehow, normal life is suspended and an adventure begins.2. Problem. Life pushes against the main character in the story by presenting him or her with a problem to solve, an obstacle to overcome, or a mission to accomplish. The problem creates the tension that must be resolved. It sets the mood, and makes story listeners want to know what is going to happen next.3. Changes. The main character transforms in some significant way, such as learning something important, becoming more skilled, mature or courageous, or developing personal insight and understanding. In great stories the characters transformation is so great that we, the listening audience, feel transformed as well. However, this is the simple explanation. I devote an entire chapter in my book to transformation because it can be a complex topic. For example, with documentaries sometimes the primary transformation is in audience members, as we learn about a situation that has an effect on us. With academic new media stories, transformation occurs by students showing what they have learned. See the chapter for much more on this topic.4. Solution. Often due to the transformation, the character can now solve the problem, overcome the obstacle or accomplish the mission. Sometimes the change and solution dont come until the end of the story.5. End. The end brings the story to "closure." Note that closure does not necessarily mean "a happy ending." It simply means that the problem in the story has been resolved.
THE STORY ARC MAP The story arc. Another story map that students respond to is "the story arc." This comes right out of Hollywood. As legend has it, should you manage to trap an executive producer in an elevator long enough to pitch her your story, she will want to know "yourstory arc." That is, she will want to know the basic flow of action and the kind of transformation on the part of the hero that the audience will witness. Thissounds a bit simplistic, so think in terms of the story map above: who changesin your story, how do they change, and how does the audience relate to it? If I give students a choice between the VPS and the story arc, they will choose them 50/50. Note that the story arc contains all the components of the story core; you are just using a different kind of map shape to express them:
THE MAP ARCED The story mapping process: The story mapping process is fairly straightforward. Students draw this basic VPS story map (without the wording) on a piece of a regularpaper, usually turned sideways to better accommodate the VPS. Then they annotate the VPS with words, phrases or sentences that describe the basic elements of their story.
Here are a few important points about usingstory maps:Maps are not formulas. In the words of RobertMcKee (author of Story, the well known biblefor movie story development) when it comes tocreating good stories, "...there are no formulasbut there are guidelines." A story map is just aguideline.Characters that grow and change engagelisteners. The heart of so many good stories isthe transformation that the main characterundergoes. A story that features a character wholearns something or grows in some way to solvea problem or overcomes an obstacle is a timehonored way to create a memorable story thatengages story listeners.
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