Story Boards and Story Maps

This is my third year teaching in the Wilkes/Discovery masters program and my (lucky) 13th section of Digital Storytelling. The more I read students’ discussion posts and re-read sections of the text myself, the more I appreciate the depth of  understanding and insight our textbook’s author, Jason Ohler, has for the many aspects of “new media narratives” in education. One dual aspect in particular seems to both resonate and perplex my students. I think story boarding and story mapping go hand in hand, but one is not the other. Story boards are the easiest to explain and visualize. If you haven’t ever seen one in the bonus section of a DVD or a “making of” special, you’ve still probably seen a comic strip or a graphic novel. That’s all there is to it: a shot by shot, visual representation of the story. And stick figures are more than good enough. Story maps on the other hand chart the ebb and flow of a story. For example, a simple parable is a parabola; the story leading up to the peak on the one side is like the story sliding down to a moral on the other. You can “talk” through them like I usually do with an old Irish Spring commercial:
Beginning/Call to Adventure
-Sean has worked hard all day then raced his horse through the surf and slopped the hogs.
-He meets up with his friend Patrick and tells him he is escorting Mary Kate to the dance tonight.
Problem
-He suspects maybe he should shower first and seeks Patrick’s counsel on the matter.
Resolution/Solution
-Patrick offers him a bar of Irish Spring and sends Sean to the showers.
Closure
-Later Patrick sees Sean and Mary Kate at the dance and it’s obvious they will live happily ever after.

It’s not the script and it doesn’t talk about shot angles or framing, but it does lay out the arc of the story.

Ohler offers a number of visual maps (VPS – Visual Portrait of a Story) in his book Digital Storytelling in the Classroom. With his permission, I share a couple of diagrams that help visualize the line of a story below.
This one from Pg. 73 puts the spotlight on the story’s path and “helps students to focus at the outset on the power of their stories.”


And for stories that may seem to wander but still offer a resolution, there is the “Treasure Map” (Pg. 116 )


So, well written script + story map, visualized in a story board = a well organized video and a very good possibility of a great story.

Don’t forget the annual Discovery Educator Network streamathon on September 14th. See Lance’s previous post for the schedule.

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