Posted March 23rd 2017 at 11:49 am by
in Telling Your Story Online

Telling strategic stories

Friday, March 3rd was the final session of the 3 sessions of the Home Page workshop I have been helping to teach at RAW Art Works in Lynn, MA. This third session was about how to craft and tell strategic stories. It was meant to be the culmination of session #1, which was about learning how to tell your personal story, and session #2, which was about learning how to tell your story online.

The session began, like usual, with a go-around of people saying their names, rating their day from 1-10, and what they’re looking to get out of the workshop.* We quickly reviewed the tools we’ve learned about so far: The Elements of Story, The Drama Triangle (which are both part of the Center for Story-Based Strategy’s Narrative Power Media Analysis), and the power of framing. Then we jumped right into practicing with the final tool we’d use: The Battle of the Story. We used an ad of an immigration narrative called “The Entire Journey” from this year’s Super Bowl.

Because most of the stories we want or need to tell aren’t entering into a narrative vacuum, it was important for our exercise to begin by deconstructing a problematic dominant narrative. In order to make the exercise a little more oppositional, I stopped our viewing of the commercial at 4:09 (which is before the happy ending). Then we brainstormed about how to use the same elements of the (shortened) story to challenge, flip, or deepen some of the assumptions in “Their Story” (see the worksheet).

After finishing our exploration of how to build a compelling narrative in opposition to the narrative displayed in the ad, we watched a video that did used some of the same narrative tactics we had come up with in our conversation! 

Having gone through a full exercise using The Battle of the Story, we turned our attention geographically closer to home. We researched, brainstormed, and analyzed some narratives about Lynn from a media perspective (i.e. Googling Lynn in the news) and from the perspective of two neighboring, wealthy, white communities. After a troubling but honest discussion of how Lynn’s neighbors view it, we picked some of assumptions from those narratives and brainstormed ways to create stories that combat them.

And then we ran out of time! I don’t know how it happened, but it really snuck up on me. We ended the session by talking briefly about how to use this thinking in the future. Käthe gave a very specific challenge to one of the young artists (which I thought was amazing): How does this way of thinking about stories and narrative help us think about how to frame the presentation of our Home project(s) supported by the Adobe Catalyst grant?  

I’m excited to see how that work ends up and I hope the lessons from this workshop we will help the young artists build a powerful, compelling, and strategically framed narrative around their presentation of Home. Hopefully, I’ll post a link to the website where they present the projects once it’s finished!

* Over the course of this workshop, I’ve really come to appreciate the “Rate Your Day” question. I think it’s a good way to encourage people to reflect on how they’re doing today (which we don’t do nearly enough of). It’s also a low-pressure way to let the whole group know where everyone is. This is particularly important when people have been having a bad day and need to be held gently).

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