Archive for the ‘brainstorming’ Category

Route 1 Reflections

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Four days a week I have a 20-30 minute commute to school, and lately my drive on the traffic plagued Route 1 has been dominated by thoughts of my digital story. In Sunday’s post, “Digital Storytelling Tools Breakdown” I had the below quote to say about my writing process, and I want to expand on it a bit more:

“Unless it’s a very foreign topic to me, I’m not the type of writer who outlines an article or paper. Typically, when I sit down with my computer, I find the detail or part of an anecdote in my notes that interests me the most and start from that point, adding the remaining facts above and below it until the story feels complete. I’ll probably stick with this technique for this project, as everything usually “falls into place” with this method for me.”

While I normally don’t outline an article in the sense of creating a document or marking up a piece of paper that summarizes the points I want to include, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the story.

Over the past year, my boss has given me several pieces of great advice that urge me to improve as a writer. One of the tips she recently shared that aligns with what I mentioned about my process and seems to work best with feature stories is immediately after an interview, write down the point(s) you remember the most, without looking at your notes. Often, you may find this is the most interesting or engaging aspect of the story, and it can potentially give you a starting point.

I didn’t return home after my two interviews with Andy and write down the points that stuck out most to me, but as I’ve thought about the anecdotes she’s shared so far, there are a few things she mentioned I keep returning to that seem to speak the most loudly about her family’s military life experiences.

I’ve been repeatedly running her responses to my questions through my head, mentally arranging them into an order and considering how to transition from one point to the next. So, while I’m not planning on paper, I do have a general idea of how I want to present her family’s story in article form. My writing process doesn’t just entail finding that one detail and taking off from there when I sit down to write; rather, with the benefit of time and a flexible deadline, I begin putting the pieces of the story together in my head and take off from there when I’m ready to write.

Early Mechanics of a Digital Story

Monday, October 18th, 2010

After Jim Groom briefly mentioned our multi-week digital storytelling assignment during the first night of class, I spent my 20 minute drive home brainstorming a very rough plan for my project. We’d each just shared 30 second stories about how we spent our summer, and although I can’t remember the exact quote, a comment Groom made in response to my brief story inspired my large idea. I told the class I spent my summer as an intern with a nonprofit that provides support and entertainment services to U.S. military personnel. Groom made a remark regarding the stories people choose to share and withhold concerning their experiences with war, and his observation got me thinking about the angles from which I saw the media covering the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Upon arriving at my house, I grabbed the first sheets of paper I could find and sat at my table to transfer my thoughts from my head to a notepad-who would I talk with? What was my goal? How would we (the reporter and the source) tell these stories? These points became much more coherent when I wrote my project proposal. I also sketched a quick outline, at right, of how I envisioned the appearance of the story on the web: a magazine theme, with subject headings at the top of the page and a featured posts slideshow linking to different content: a text story, an audio slideshow, perhaps a video.

In the weeks leading up to our proposal due date, I began amassing all off my resources in one corner of my desk, at left. My background research about the wars-news articles, maps, images-went into a binder. I posted my original project notes, penned on the obnoxious celebratory stationary, on a bulletin board with other related memos. The lime post it note, “Subdomain” includes five points I’ve been considering for the website: Name, Theme, Stories, Audio and Images. While I’m still brainstorming names and browsing through magazine style themes (I’ll be blogging separately about these topics), I have been thinking about the story’s presentation.

Text, audio and images are three methods of storytelling I am certain I want to use, tools I think will have a significant impact in different ways on the audience of readers, listeners and viewers. My source, (I know that term is rather impersonal; I’ll be doing an introductory post about her soon) is not only willing to share anecdotes about her experiences with a family member deployed to Afghanistan, she’s also a very engaging, open, storyteller.

I’m a fan of “slice of life” feature articles, stories that depict exactly that: “slices,” or moments, of a person’s life, often in relation to a larger trend or idea. I’ll also be writing reconstruction pieces, documenting her family’s previous experiences with military life and deployments through writing. These are moments I didn’t observe, but can learn about by asking questions and looking at pictures, among other methods.

After being introduced to Audacity this semester, I’d like to incorporate audio into this project, most likely as one or two audio slideshows. The New York Times has some of my favorite examples of audio slideshows in their “One in 8 Million-New York Characters in Sound and Images” collection. As I mentioned before, I’m discovering how a story has the potential to become much more powerful and interesting when the element of the subject’s voice is part of the presentation. It creates a relationship between the subject and the audience that reading words on a page might not necessarily do to the same extent.

As I mentioned above, I’ll be blogging about the initial stages of my subdomain (name and theme) and introducing my source in a post later this week and into early next week.