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Storytelling and Narrative Tools



Could your words be an book, a website, an ebook, app, or a film or a voice-over? This document is intended to help you find the best tool and platform for your story.


This document doesn’t have all the answers but contains suggestions of things for you to try yourself, from using a traditional page or website to more unconventional approaches.


I assume you have written (at least some of ) the text of your document and now you need to publish it. Alternatively, you are about to create your story and you would like to be exposed to the possibilities before you start, which might alter the direction you go in.

Introduction


Much of our communication is textual. Whether explaining how to do something, sharing an experience, or making a call to arms, we are telling stories and creating narratives. We create documents that have a beginning, middle and end.


Different tools and platforms have different subtly different nuances and affordances. This document will hopefully introduce you to a variety of approaches, tools and possibilities that might help your storytelling goals. I hope you will try a few.


If the layout or visual design is paramount to you, you could share it as a PDF and eBook, or maybe your words are the speaker notes for a brilliant slide presentation. 


Your story might be the starting point for a discussion and you might want lots of feedback and comments, and so maybe you could share it as Google Document. This of course is also a good way of sharing your work if you want people to take your work and adapt a copy of their own. 


Or maybe what you have would be best published on the web so that it is findable with Google? As well as the well-used blogging platforms of Wordpress and Blogger, there exist a number of platforms where you might consider publishing your work. 


Website tools

If you want to publish your work as a website, there are a number of excellent easy to use tools that offer interesting design templates.





https://pageflow.io (nice but paid)


If you have around £10 per month, Squarespace, is a very professional looking, fully-featured website building tool with easy-to-use tools. 

Sources of Images


Whilst we’re particularly focussing on text, many of the the tools we will look at have the ability to add decorative images, such as headers, or visual elements that punctuate the text. 


Article publishing sites like Medium (see below) have a minimalist design that really focuses on the text, but allows (and even encourages) the writer to pepper their story with large, high quality images, resulting in a magazine-like feel.


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Here are some good sources of royalty free, or creative commons images. 


Activity - 20 mins

If you have a finished, or part finished article or project in mind visit some of these sites and assemble some suitable media that you may use to give your narrative that coffee-table book feel. Ensure you keep track of which images you use so that you can properly cite the usage later.





Article-oriented tools

A new breed of publishing tool has started to appear. They focus on the creation of an article or story rather than a site of information. Often they have a stripped down minimalist aesthetic and simple tools that let you pepper your text with large graphics. 


Tools such as Medium which we just looked at, also bring with them the platform’s audience, in that because as well as being a simple online writing tool, it is also a means to find other interesting content, so if your work is looking for an audience or wider exposure, it may be worth considering Medium for this reason alone.

Activity- 30 mins


Because you have already written your text, and have some images, this shouldn’t take too long. The aim is for you to give these tools a quick trial and see which one you like working with best, and which one, in your eyes, gives you the best results.


  1. Go register at these these three sites, it won’t take long.
  2. Spend a little time reading some articles on Medium to get a feel for this platform’s particular style. You may, or may not like their aesthetic.
  3. Experiment adding some of your story to these tools and add some of the images you found.
  4. Explore each tool’s unusual features. For example, in Sway, as well as text and images you can add Stacks (see below) in which you can add sort of slide shows into your narrative. A feature like this might be totally useless to you or just the thing for your story.



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Blog and Diary tools


If your narrative is one that is unfolding over time, then blogs are common choice for publishing your work. They are simple content management systems where you can create posts with text with links and images.


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Activity - 30 mins 


Imagine your work as a series of blog posts. Posting too long a blog post is often not a good idea, as blog posts tend to be a couple of pages or less. 


Think of domain name. This has to be unique and will be used in the URL to your blog and then go to these sites and add a post. Also use tags or labels to see what they do and try out different themes.



Activity - 15 mins - Think About Process


At this time it is worth not only thinking about your end product, or the platform on which you want to publish your work but also think about your writing process.


For example, do you want to work “offline” in a tool like Google Documents or Word and then when complete, copy your work to the publishing site? There are tools to push Google Docs to Wordpress ( e.g https://www.wpsuperstars.net/publish-from-google-docs-to-wordpress/ ) and often the interface of tools like Medium doesn’t seem ideally suited for “offline” text creation, as it is designed for you to type your content directly into it. 


Spend a little time thinking about how you want to work. As you progress, keep an eye on how each tool’s process might impact the way you work and look out for the ability to connect tools together and how easy it is to export your work.


Learning Journals and Diaries


If you want to use a tool like a blog for more personal reflection, or diary and you don’t want to publish your thoughts to the world, it might be better to work in a tool that is more private to you.




Activity - 10 mins

If you think that a diary, or log or learning journal would aid your work - and there is a lot of evidence to suggest it would - then either try one of these tools below or Google to find a diary tool that suits you.


Ebook Making Tools


Have you considered that your work might be something that rather than giving away you could sell?

 

Would your work be best presented on a Kindle or an iPad? Maybe you have lots of related media or images that would make printing too expensive.


Would it make a good audio book?


There are various tools for the platforms of Kindle, Apple and Google Play Books.



iBooks Author

https://www.apple.com/uk/ibooks-author/ 


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The iBooks Author tool has all the usability goodness you would expect from Apple, allowing you easily create well designed, interactive content. 


Caveat: There are issues with iBooks Author https://tidbits.com/article/17558 with regards to licensing ( content made with iBooks Author can’t be used elsewhere, meaning you have to author twice ) 

Activity - 5 minutes

Spend some time thinking about the realistic audience for your story. Do you want or expect the massive reach of Amazon’s Kindle platform, or is it more important to have the tools and features of Apple’s iBooks?


Although you only want to tell your story, it does become important to think about where you tell your story and how.


Activity - 5 minutes

If you have written your text, and have some images and maybe you also have sounds and videos. At the point you add some interactivity to your work, in many ways it stops being a conventional narrative and magically it becomes an app.


Think about how your story might benefit from being mutated into an app. What media might bring it alive. Would interactivity make your story more compelling? 


Don’t worry if you don’t come up with an idea to “appify” your work, many ebooks are just that, books delivered electronically, but it is something worth pondering.


Activity - 30 mins

If you have a Mac give iBooks Author a trial. If you don’t or the tools below interest give one or two a quick trial and see if you can add the interactivity to make a button go from one screen to another and maybe play or show some media. This may help with an “appification” thoughts.



Demibooks

http://demibooks.com/


Demibooks is designed to create interactive content and is targeted at people writing children's stories or making educational material for iOS.

This is interesting because you make your work on the ipad, and publish it that way. The tool itself is easy to use and learnable. SE0Svjv22QZH5V8L-UUWe9FxUUiJsFXO2jqhuaQsMg9z-hWL9cduE6fdocd4bP1TbUttIGxF35TwySOPdU5InI4OssDyc2mvWvrVyVf3WqHH-hIHCJxxXPDuXfFuTOI7dCR1uayf.png

You would need an Apple Developer licence to publish your work into the Apple Store though (around £100)

Demibooks provide a "store" of its own, Printshop, meaning you can distribute your work for free WITHOUT the need whole compiling to iOS process. This might be a great feature for student work or for educators creating content for their class ( i.e not mass market ).


Blurb's BookWright

http://www.blurb.co.uk/bookwright 

This tool stood out to me because it can produce beautiful-ish print books/magazines and ebooks with interactivity. The tool’s UI can be quirky and awkward to use at times, for example, the only way I can find to play sounds is to use video. 

Interact Builder

 http://www.interactbuilder.com/


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InteractBuilder has a downloadable authoring environment aimed at non-technical, non-coders. With it you create your book, adding text, shapes, movies and interactions.

 

Booktype

https://omnibook.pro 

For the technically adept, Booktype is Django-based server software. This would be an alternative to Medium that could be hacked to behave in custom ways. It's sort of a book creating Content Management System that exports to ebook formats.

There is a "public" and social version of this tool you can try.



Other Tools


Explory

https://www.explory.com/ 


Explory is a free ipad/iphone application with which you can create simple, narrated photo and video slideshows. Quick and very easy. For some stories this may be all you need.



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Activity - 1 min

Begin watching this “story” of how to make Kombucha, to see if the format might be something you could ever use? 


PandaSuite

https://pandasuite.com/showcase/ 


PandaSuite is lovely, web-based tool to create interactive content without coding. I could imagine creating some fairly complex projects with this tool.


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For single user creations, PandaSuite is free but to publish on mobile, tablet and desktop it is $99 per month.

Amazon StoryBuilder

Note: I believe this has been deprecated. 


Often we plump for textual storytelling because text is the most readily available medium available to use, but what if your story was a film? 


I’m fascinated by Amazon’s strategy with StoryBuilder and Storyteller. With these tools you can flesh out your ideas in a screenplay, then move them into a more “screen oriented” storyboard format where the community can vote on which they think is best, and then Amazon fund the filming of your story and show your film on Amazon Prime Videos.


Amazon have thought about the process, from noting down sketchy ideas to actually distributing a movie or TV show. Wow!




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Amazon StoryBuilder to create a script or screenplay. This is like a corkboard of notes with which you develop your "story".


Amazon StoryTeller lets you create a visual storyboard from your script. Interestingly, the tool seems to recognise "people" and places. It has a huge library of people, and scenes and props with which you can create your storyboard pages, like the one shown below where Dr Cutie gets incredibly jealous of Greg's acrobatic cows. Ahem.


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Google Gallery

https://artsandculture.google.com/ 



For cultural organisations such as galleries, the Google Gallery project and tool lets you create tours that tell your story with an emphasis on the visual. 


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Look at this gallery of art installations or the way this gallery zooms in to images and text and has audio attachments.


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Storyboard Fountain

http://storyboardfountain.com/


I include Storyboard Fountain and Celtx (below) just for interest having been impressed by Amazon’s tools (above).


I became interested in tools which are designed for you to create your script (or narrative) but have a screen-oriented approach much like Powerpoint I guess, but they have more emphasis on creating something which might lead towards time-based media such as a film, documentary or animation.





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Celtx


Although free when I trialed this it is now a paid for online app.


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Animation-oriented Tools

Often, what you want to create can be conceived of, in its simplest form as an animation, similar to a Powerpoint presentation but with interactivity and/or branching.


Activity - 10 mins


Whilst you may not want to use these tools, why not just spend a few minutes researching them, watching demo videos and getting a feel for whether or not they might be something you could use.


Bot and Conversation Tools


Activity - 1 min


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Could your story be one told in the format of an online conversation? Maybe your content could be delivered to Twitter, through Facebook or other conversational platform.


A list of tools for making bot systems here:

https://www.infoworld.com/article/3244546/development-tools/9-chatbot-building-tools.html