Story-Development Approaches in Applied Storytelling: Each to His or Her Own

I had a bit of an epiphany the other day while reading a blog post by J. Timothy King on his blog Be the Story.

startedyourstoryheader.jpg Story practitioners whose practice includes story development tend to adopt very specific approaches for developing stories. Sometimes they create these approaches on their own. Sometimes they use approaches developed by others. And sometimes they combine their own approaches with those developed by others. I regularly publish the story-development approaches of various practitioners so that folks can consider adopting these approaches — in part of full — to their own applied-storytelling practices.

Because applied storytelling has been applied to so many disciplines, bits and pieces of those disciplines tend to get integrated into story-development approaches.

Take King’s former discipline — software development. King ascribes to the software-development philosophy called “Agile Software Development,” in which the developer “start[s] by accepting that change happens — Deal with it! You deal with it by building your software in tiny pieces, the most valuable parts first.” Now, as a writer and story consultant, he applies Agile Software Development. His blog post, in fact is titled Agile Storytelling.

King’s approach, unlike many, is more process than content/story structure. King uses it for novel-writing — but I’ll bet at least part of it would be useful in other types of applied storytelling. Here’s what he suggests:

  1. Write brief character sketches for each of the main, viewpoint characters.

  2. Describe each character arc and story thread, in a sentence each.

  3. Expand these to scenes, a sentence or two per scene. (You can do this using plot cards, if you’re more comfortable working with them.)

  4. Write each scene in 100-300 words. This is “draft zero.” By the end of this, you should be able to see your story having taken form. You should be able to see whether it works, and whether it will be about the right size to hit your word goals. You will also have enough detail planned so that you can track word targets and target dates in writing your first draft.

  5. Rewrite the story, expanding each scene to its full length, producing a first draft. Where necessary, insert additional scenes, split scenes into multiples, combine scenes, rearrange scenes, and redefine scenes.

  6. Revise the manuscript.

  7. Final line editing.

In what other applied-storytelling disciplines might this approach be useful?

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Dr. Kathy Hansen

Kathy Hansen, PhD, is a leading proponent of deploying storytelling for career advancement. She is an author and instructor, in addition to being a career guru. More...


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