While our stories are incredibly complex and multi-layered, today’s digital media environment favors quick glimpses into a story that are about 2-3 minutes long.
Ira Glass (producer of NPR’s “This American Life”) gives some insight into the building blocks of a good story:
- The anecdote: a sequence of actions, a story in its purest form; one thing following from another (rather than just disjointed "facts").
"The power of the anecdote is so great...there is suspense in it, it feels like something's going to happen. The reason why is because literally it's a sequence of events...you can feel through its form [that it's] inherently like being on a train that has a destination...and that you're going to find something..." — Ira Glass
- The moment of reflection.
What is the key point? What does this all mean? It is not just a series of facts/events. Many people get the first part, they tell an interesting sequence of events, but in the end it fails because it doesn't say anything new, it did not have meaning. And sometimes people have the reflection part and the question is clear in their mind, but they fail to put it in a sequence that compels people to follow and engage. In a good story you need both -- you can flip back and forth between the two. The Anecdote and the Moment of Reflection are interwoven to make a story.
Here are some questions to consider as a focus in crafting a short (3 minute) story:
- When did the “shift” happen in your life that moved you away from an illness/diagnosis perspective to a wellness and recovery focus? Tell a story about that “moment” or series of events that changed your thinking.
- What do you think is the most important factor that helped you on your road to recovery and wellness? (peer support, activism, spirituality, creativity) – Tell a specific story about how it affected you and changed your life.
- Was there a specific person in your life who gave you hope that you could recover? Tell a story about him or her and the impact he/she had on your life.
- How have you dealt with a crisis in your life and come out the other side? Focus about 1/3 or less of your story on the crisis itself, and 2/3 on the hopeful message and how you overcame the crisis.
- What do you most want people to know about hope and recovery? Use a story from your life and then say, “I wish I had known…X”
- How did you get involved in the consumer/survivor/ex patient movement?
General tips on preparing to tell your story:
- Think about the main points you want to cover in advance and write them down. Look over them before telling your story.
- Think about how you will open your story. It can be effective to open with a brief provocative anecdote and reflect on the significance of the anecdote in your life.
- Think about how you will close. Reflecting on how you were changed as a result of the story is one way to end.
- If you have time, rehearse your piece a few times before you are filmed. You can tell it to a friend and have them keep time for you.
- Consider telling a story you have already told many times, so that it is relatively easy for you to retell in a natural way.
- Be yourself! For most folks, it’s not easy to get in front of a camera, but as much as you can, imagine you’re telling this story to a trusted friend.
Resources — Places to post video:
Digital Video Activism!
Witness: Effective Strategies in Video Advocacy
See it. Film it. Change it. Witness uses video to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. [www.witness.org]
Our goal is a world of activists made more powerful and more effective through the use of digital technology. [http://www.digiactive.org]
Stories from Alternatives 2011
The stories collected at Alternatives may be added to a YouTube “channel” dedicated to stories of hope and recovery. For more information, or if you’d like to submit a video after Alternatives, please contact: Judene Shelley, or Leah Harris via our contact form.