I have another blog focused on digital storytelling that still gets regular traffic, even though it has lain silent for some time now. But I have recently been thinking about making some changes to the novel I’m working on, and realized that digital storytelling might help me flesh out these ideas a little more before I commit to making wholesale changes.
Digital storytelling is a powerful medium that helps people tell stories through voice, imagery and music using simple technologies available to most people with computers. It was founded on the idea that everyone has a story to tell. As writers, we live that every day. At the end of 2010, I reviewed my favorite discoveries in digital storytelling for the year. The examples tell both fiction and non-fiction stories. And digital storytelling can also help you as a writer, both in the writing process and in building your platform.
To create a digital story, a person first develops a script 2 to 3 minutes long, then generates a storyboard to consider imagery that can illustrate the ideas of 15 to 20-second sections of the script. After creating or finding the appropriate digital images, the storyteller digitally records the narrative. Using free video-editing software available on most computers, the person creates a 2-to-3-minute video, and can include music and effects to complete the soundtrack.
Let’s take a look at the seven elements of effective digital storytelling developed by Joe Lambert at the Center for Digital Storytelling, and how they can help writers. These elements were originally outlined in Lambert’s Digital Storytelling Cookbook.
1. A Point of View - Writers can use digital storytelling to try different perspectives using digital storytelling. If your work-in-progress is written in third-person perspective, try creating a digital story in first-person. The short length of the script and the visual nature of the medium can help you develop the character’s voice and physical characteristics, as well as develop plot points. Digital storytelling is traditionally written in first-person, but if you want to try third-person to see how it feels, digital storytelling can give you a small enough canvas to experiment with.
2. A Dramatic Question – You probably already know the dramatic question of your work in progress. Digital storytelling can help you develop the dramatic questions of scenes that lead to the climax and resolution of your greater story, or can provide a medium for you to present a synopsis of your work more creatively. It can also help you develop subplot or back-story. For both fiction and non-fiction work, it can help you process your research into a more meaningful and relevant story arc.
3. Emotional Content – If you’re finding that your work is lacking in emotional texture, digital storytelling can help you focus on creating the feelings you want. Choosing digital imagery that helps you visualize your settings and characters is invaluable. Using descriptive language rather than explaining the emotions that a character feels or that a situation evokes is as important in a digital storytelling script as it is anywhere else in our work. But combining it with imagery and music can really help us draw out the emotions we need to tap into as part of our creative process.
4. Economy – This element is what makes digital storytelling so useful to the writer. Because the script is so short, (one double-spaced page of text for 2 to 3 minutes of narrative) the production time needed is manageable, and creates a product that your audience is willing to view in the time they have available. It also helps you focus on what is essential to the story.
5. Pacing – Recording the narrative with effective pacing can help both you and your audience connect more deeply with your story. Speeding up your narration in high tension/high action moments, pausing for dramatic effect and using different inflections for different characters’ voices add a lot of dimensions to a scene, and can really help you develop the tone and style you want to use in your larger work.
6. The Gift of Your Voice – Some of the best-read books-on-tape are those read by their authors. The author records the exact pitch, tone and inflection intended. With digital storytelling, you don’t have to wait for Audible to purchase your story to convey what the story should sound like. It also helps your audience connect with you in a new way. Reading the text out-loud is an excellent editorial technique, and can help you make significant breakthroughs in what is missing or just isn’t quite right.
7. Soundtrack – Many writers listen to certain kinds of music to get them in the mood for the writing they have to do. Movies use music to underscore and enhance the emotional content of the story. Why not music in your digital story to accomplish both ends? Don’t forget, It is important consider copyright when you use music. Websites like the Creative Commons offer music that can be used legally.
Whether you are working on fiction or non-fiction, digital storytelling can help you share your topic with your audience in a new way. In a short amount of time, you can introduce characters to your audience, share important research you’ve done to help you develop your story and setting, or explore avenues that you haven’t gone down before to help resurrect a stalled manuscript. It can add a new dimension to your platform that draws in new audience and engages your current audience more deeply.
Have you used digital storytelling to develop aspects of your work-in-progress? Share them here! Do you have other thoughts about how it might be useful to your creative process or platform building? I’d love to hear them. If you’ve done digital storytelling as part of your writing process, contact me, and I’ll invite you to do a guest post to share your work.
I’m going to try creating a digital story with my novel’s main character, using first-person. It may take a couple of weeks, but I really want to test the waters before I go diving it to a totally new revision of the second draft I’ve been working on. Watch for it here!