Story Prompts, Activities for All Occasions: Part 2

Continuing a list of story prompts and activities begun in yesterday’s entry:

The next prompt requires some herculean thinking and work, as well as knowledge of transmedia storytelling. It comes from a blog entry for a class called Theories of Texts and Technology taught by Blake Scott. (The entry is by “lamothej,” but that’s the extent to which I’ve been able to identify this blogger).

Take a well known story/narrative (it can be a story that’s been read in class, an influential TV show or movie, an intricate comic book, a popular video game, etc.) and build off of it to create a “narrative universe” by adding to the story through transmedia storytelling.

In her Storycatcher Blog Christina Baldwin described a session with her publisher in which participants formed a circle and asked these questions:

  • What did you notice on the fringe of society 15 years ago that is now at the center?
  • What do you notice on the fringe of society now that you hope will move to the center in the next 15 years?
  • What are you willing to do to contribute to that happening?

The responses to these questions might not necessarily be stories, but for Baldwin, they were, as she related in the blog entry.

The site describes a visual method of brainstorming to generate stories (rather than mere lists):

… To facilitate brainstorming session participants to build stories rather than lists of ideas, you need to be explicit in your instructions and, ideally, provide objects that help participants focus on building their story.

Explicit instructions need to be given as an introduction to the brainstorming activity and should be incorporated into the creative challenge itself. For instance, if you want a team of brainstormers to generate ideas on how to improve the efficiency of your
manufacturing plant, don’t ask the typical “In what ways might we improve the efficiency of our production line?” This is just asking for a list. Rather ask, “Describe the journey of [your product] riding down an ideal production line.” Add to the challenge some additional instructions such as: “Include as many ideas as you possibly can and do not worry at this time about contradictions, impossibilities or strange ideas.”

The author also suggests using other props and tools to aid brainstorming, visualization, and story generation.

Finally, from the newsletter of my friends at Anecdote, an exercise for enhancing the visual palette when telling a story:

Pair people up: a storyteller and a listener. The storyteller has to start their story by describing the place where the story begins: “It all started in a tiny red brick house on the upside of the street. The poplar trees were blowing in the wind and my Dad was sitting on the front steps …” That sort of thing. The listener then has the job of interrupting the story at anytime to get more description. “Poplar tree?” they might ask, at which point the teller needs to say more about the poplar trees until the listener says “continue.” The storyteller then just keeps telling their story from that point on. One of the variations they had us do is then walk side by side and talk about our stories. There is something about strolling which improves the conversation.