Storytelling Course: Learning Units & Goals

Here are the Learning Units & Goals for my Storytelling through New Media class, as of January 2015. Return to the Learning Goals page for links to my Writing & Rhetoric class goals.

Learning Units

We’ll explore each of these approaches to storytelling throughout the semester, and you’ll choose several of your favorites to develop and refine for your Storytelling Portfolios.

Verbal Storytelling

Stories conveyed entirely through written language

  • Characteristics: Uses the conventions of memoir and creative non-fiction to narrate a sequence of events and interactions, offer insight into characters, recall conversations through dialogue, provide details of setting and action, and reflect on moments of emotional significance.
  • Readings: Selections from CDS Digital Storytelling Cookbook, Shimmering Images,, and other sources
  • Approaches:  We’ll experiment with writing stories in the following formats: Cowbird, Moth, StoryCorps, CDS-Style Digital Stories, Six-Word Memoirs, Chat/Tweet Stories, and more

Graphic Storytelling

Stories conveyed through a combination of words and visuals

  • Characteristics: Uses the conventions of comics and graphic novels to tell a story through characters whose body language, facial expressions, behavior, and dialogue move the story forward across a series of panels.
    • May include brief bits of explanatory or narrative text (i.e., captions), but the visuals are intended to carry a significant portion of the storytelling weight. Panels typically feature background scenery relevant to the story and transitions where needed to suggest large passages of time or movements back and forth in time.
  • Readings:  Selections from Making Comics and other sources
  • Approaches: We’ll experiment with autobio comics, graphic memoir excerpts, animated memoirs, and more

Cinematic Storytelling

Stories conveyed through the reenactment (or dramatization) of events on screen

  • Characteristics: Uses the conventions of film making to tell a story through actors whose body language, facial expressions, behavior, and dialogue move the story forward across a series of shots and scenes. May include small amounts of narrated voiceover, but the interactions between characters are intended to carry most of the storytelling weight.
    • Scenes typically focus on key moments of change between characters and follow the overall pattern of a narrative arc (or plot). May also experiment with juxtapositions between words spoken by characters, visuals, and soundtrack, to create tension or deepen emotional impact.
  • Readings: Selections from Crafting Short Screenplays and other sources
  • Approaches:  We’ll explore the role of scripts, synopses, screenplays, and storyboards for planning stories for the screen, but we’ll also incorporate cinematic strategies into verbal and graphic storytelling

Learning Goals

The goals below represent a synthesis of those relevant to both the TAM program and the Program for Writing and Rhetoric (PWR).

Storytelling Goals

While participating in this class, you will:

  • study the components of effective personal stories told through a variety of mediums
    • analyze strategies and techniques in wide range of sample stories
    • consider what types of stories work best in each medium
  • identify story topics from your own personal experience that reveal some aspect of growth or change in your life or offer insight into the kind of person you are or want to become
  • craft stories about specific moments and events that relate to larger themes in your life, including your goals, relationships, identity, passions, struggles, values, and so on
    • based on the truth of your experiences, even if the story is not literally true
    • with the goal of making an emotional connection with your audience
  • experiment with storytelling strategies from fiction, comics, and film-making, such as:
    • transforming yourself and those involved in the story into “characters”
    • using dialogue between characters to provide insight into the key players and to move the story forward
    • providing details of setting and time period through vivid details or images
    • hooking the audience with the promise that something interesting is about to happen (i.e., building tension through foreshadowing)
    • delivering on that promise by taking the audience down unexpected paths (i.e., the “twist”)
    • providing a satisfying conclusion to the story that resolves the tension created in earlier sections
    • connecting your own specific event or experience to the larger set of conflicts and issues all humans struggle with
  • develop stories by following the multiple stages of the writing and creative process, with an emphasis on substantial revision
    • follow the process customary for the storytelling approach, such as sketching out a script and visual layout before creating a graphic memoir or preparing a screenplay and storyboard before making an animated short
  • convey stories through the multiple layers of words, sounds, music, images, photos, animations, and more
  • gain experience with publishing and distributing digital stories on the web

Technical Proficiency Goals

As you work on each digital storytelling project, you will attain proficiency with:

  • managing and contributing to your own blog, in the form of posts with words, images, audio, video, and hyperlinks
  • planning projects using journal writing, drafts, scripts, screenplays, storyboards, and other industry-standard methods
  • locating, downloading, and modifying digital media, following the principles of Fair Use
  • capturing, modifying, and editing audio, images, and video using consumer-level digital media tools
  • designing verbal stories to appeal to web readers
  • using the language of comics and graphic novels to convey visual stories
  • using the language of film-making to convey cinematic stories
  • exporting comics and videos in shareable formats and uploading them to a hosting site