GUIDE – Using Narrative Strategies for Digital Storytelling

Related resource: GUIDE – Examples of Showing vs. Telling

Digital storytelling falls under the larger category of creative nonfiction, which makes use of narrative strategies from fiction and filmmaking. This guide offers some tips and resources on how to use those strategies.


Borrow storytelling strategies from fiction — i.e., novels and short stories.

Don’t read much fiction? Check out the very short stories on Flash Fiction Online or 100 Word Story for sources of inspiration.


  • start in the middle of the action, not the beginning
  • describe what your characters are doing (body language, facial expressions, actions)
  • use dialogue to convey insight into characters’ emotions

Here are a few more strategies from More Ways to Use Fiction Techniques in Non-Fiction:

  • Create anticipation: Set up the action to come.
  • Create propulsion: Make your scenes have consequences.
  • Compress time: Limit the amount of time you cover.
  • Let emotion and event, not the passage of time, prompt your story.

Links to Learn More


Borrow storytelling strategies from film writing (aka screenplay writing).

Even films start out as a written story in the form of a screenplay, and the best screenplays are powerful stories in their own right, even without actors and scenery and special lighting.


  • choose a key scene from your story to try drafting in screenplay format, just as an exercise to help you get better at using your characters’ behavior and dialogue to move a story forward
  • use your writing the way a film director uses shots and camera angles:
    establishing shots: provide readers with relevant info about location, people, time period, etc.
    • wide shots: provide broad descriptions
    • close ups: zoom in on a few characters
    • montages: briefly describe the passage of large chunks of time you don’t need to focus in on