“Thankful,” a digital story by Sarah Schmidt.
How to create a polished, powerful digital story for yourself or your nonprofit
Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, educators, foundations, individuals. This is part of Creating Media, our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and make media.
With millions of videos floating around on the Web, I’d like to make the case today for a genre that has received far too little attention: digital storytelling.
Digital storytelling is a craft that uses the tools of digital technology to tell stories about our lives. Done properly, storytelling can be a powerful, evocative way of communicating
themes and stories, often touching us in deeper ways than one-dimensional videos that rarely probe beneath the surface of people’s lives. Nonprofits, especially, can use this technique to convey powerful, emotion-filled messages — by letting the people you’re helping tell their own stories.
If you plan to do it yourself, see our Visual story checklist to make sure you follow all the steps involved in creating a compelling story. You may also want to sign up for a digital storytelling workshop (see bottom), which can last from a few hours to a full day or two and generally costs a modest tuition fee. Either way, follow the following steps and you’ll be on your way.
Decide on the story you want to tell
Step 1You probably already have a person or subject in mind. Think small. Focus. Don’t get caught up trying to convey all the aspects of someone’s life — you’re not writing the great American novel, you’re creating what will optimally be a 3- to 5-minute work that recounts a personal tale and reveals a small truth.What form should your story take? In their decade of leading workshops, Joe Lambert and Nina Mullen of the Center for Digital Storytelling list these main varieties of digital stories:
• The story about someone important. Character stories center on a person who’s touched you in a deep way. Often, these stories reveal as much about the narrator as about the subject of the piece. Memorial stories pay tribute to someone who passed on but left a lasting impression.
• The story about an event in your life. Travel stories — stories about a personal journey or passage — can be effective if they result in the narrator being transformed by the experience in some way.
• Accomplishment stories about achieving a goal, graduating from school, or winning an honor can easily fit into the framework of the desire-struggle-realization structure of a classic story. Continue reading