Personal Narrative and Digital Storytelling with WeVideo [Part 1]

October 16, 2013 / By

Everyone has a story to tell. They range from a funny anecdote, a special moment in our lives, a complicated chapter in our journey or a simple “day in the life”.  But finding a compelling way to share it, that’s a different story.
Remembering all the details can be quite challenging. You can easily get caught up in the sequence of the events that you could lose focus, and end up telling a different story altogether. Story structure and flow is critical.
Our team got a chance to experience this hands-on when we participated in a workshop facilitated by The Center For Digital Storytelling. Learning from their 20 years of experience in storytelling allowed us to find better ways to write, create and share our personal stories.
Here is my story from the workshop:

We want to help you create your stories with WeVideo. This blog post is part 1 of a 3-part quick guide that will help you build your personal narrative.

Part 1: The Story

Choosing a story could be a challenge by itself. Try talking about what you know and you’ll be successful in your first narrative. When writing your script, start by developing a synopsis that you can play out in your head and tell friends and family so that they can give you feedback. There is a hidden gem in the process of formulating the story. By listening to yourself and the feedback you are getting from other people, you’ll get more insight into what the real story is. When writing a personal narrative try to make it:
When writing a personal narrative try to make it:
Personal  The story is from your point of view. It is your voice!

I chased after a hummingbird and challenged myself to capture that photo, so the story I am telling is in my voice and point of view.

Short and natural  Convey more with less & make it sound natural

I added some context for the story at the beginning but jumped straight to the hummingbird chase. Take out everything that is not adding to the story, and try making it natural, as if you were speaking to a friend.

Selective  Make the salient points detailed to make the scenes realistic and authentic.

To help support the painstaking task of chasing after a small bird, I explained the different failed shots that I captured. This helped build the tension and made the ending even more powerful.

Comprehensible  The story has to be explicit enough so that the audience can follow you on the journey.

The hummingbird in this story can be interpreted as the animal, as well as a career path. It’s not explicitly mentioned, but it can be perceived if you listen carefully. Make the main story explicit and add layers that can be discovered for those that look deeper.

Structure your story  Most stories have a beginning, middle and end.

“The beginning tells the premise of your story: it sets up the dramatic tension that should hold throughout the story. The middle, outlines conflicts along the way. The end is the destination, revealing a small discovery, revelation, or insight.”- as explained by JD Lasica in this blog.  

Show, don’t tell  Help viewers imagine themselves in your story by adding story details or supporting imagery.

A digital narrative should always be accompanied by images. When writing your story remember that you’ll support phrases with these. Helping the listener imagine the scenario by either showing an image or describing it in detail will invite them in and make them relate even more. You can notice this in my story when I explain the skepticism I felt when getting the shot.

Now that you have written your story, its time to edit it down to a narrative. A good rule of thumb is to keep the script around 300 words for a 2-3 minute video. It is better to edit after you have written the whole piece than to edit as you go since it can distract you from telling the whole story. Once you’ve finished, read it to a friend one more time and get any additional feedback. Remember that story is driven by narrative so this is your opportunity to make it shine!
If you need additional help building your story check out these resources:
Digital storytelling cookbook
Digital storytelling tutorial 
WeVideo at The Center For Digital Storytelling
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our quick guide to personal narratives.
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