Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives...

–Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal

Telltale techniques

Applying storytelling
to enhance IA and UX

2

Eric Chuk
@echuk562
eschuk@gmail.com

Sara Hayden
@haydensaraa
sara.ann.hayden@gmail.com

Hello!

Eric Chuk

@echuk562

  • Editor
  • Taxonomist
  • UX/technical writer

Sara Hayden

@haydensaraa

  • Journalist
  • Creative writer
  • UX content strategist

What’s your favorite story?

4

Story is...

Significance of storytelling

  • It’s a universal way of thinking and communicating

  • Its techniques enhance the organization of information, and make it more creative and intuitive

Why stories are a universal form of reasoning and communicating

How storytelling principles lead to creative yet intuitive organization of information

Narrative twists on three conventional UX techniques that enrich results

Outline

  • Introduction to storytelling basics
    • Character
    • Plot

  • Using storytelling techniques to enhance design
    • Better understand the user’s needs
    • Respond to the user’s intent

Stories that are character-driven vs plot-driven

Narrative twists on three conventional UX techniques that enrich results

Character

“Once upon a time, there lived a…”

1

Tom Gauld, Characters for an Epic Tale

https://www.tomgauld.com/portfolio

What makes a character?

  • Personal history
  • Traits and characteristics
  • Setting
  • Something they want
    more than anything else
    in the world

Archetypes

These are symbolic patterns that

  • Help a storyteller break out of personal perspective and biases
  • Frame a character’s perspective

“By their very nature, (archetypes) force you to delve deeper into your characters, to see them as not just “Character 1” or “Librarian” but as a type of person who responds in very specific ways to the conflict within your story.” - Victoria Schmidt, 45 Master Characters

Archetypes’ origin in psychology? Or at least basic definition

Common roles across stories and cultures

Archetype examples

  • Hero
  • Mentor
  • Trickster
  • Protector
  • Recluse
  • Survivor

Hero

Trickster

Protector

“By their very nature, (archetypes) force you to delve deeper into your characters, to see them as not just “Character 1” or “Librarian” but as a type of person who responds in very specific ways to the conflict within your story.” - Victoria Schmidt, 45 Master Characters

“Hero” often used as generic term for protagonist

Hindu goddess—Shiva?

Yoda/Hermit tarot

Mulan

Rama, Sita, Hanuman, Giant

Archetypes are useful to...

  • Clarify what the character cares about and fears, and what drives them
  • Serve as a tool to test how a character would act and react in a situation

What does a character want the most?
But something’s holding them back!

That’s conflict: When a character feels moved to overcome it and take action, a plot gets rolling

[Characters] must be placed into situations that let them act and react, move forward and backward, learn, live, and grow.

In other words, they need a plot — they need something to happen to them.

–Carol Whiteley, The Everything Creative Writing Book

Plot

“And then...”

2

Story versus plot

The king died, and then

the queen died

-Edward Morgan Forster

15

of grief

Edward Morgan Forster
Pause after second sentence

the second is a story plot—it reveals causation and implies the stakes for the characters

so, stories make the reader want to know what happens next

authors have the power to lead readers on captivating journeys through complex environments

Cause and effect, relationship between events

Character’s emotion and motivation

The story arc

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This is the “classic” or most common arc, but there can be other shapes (Vonnegut)

Also similar to the hero’s journey (Campell)

The story arc: Beginning

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  • Exposition
    • Sets the stage with
      • Characters
      • Time
      • Place
      • What’s at stake

  • Conflict
    • Main obstacle between the character and what they want most
    • Inciting incident kicks off events

In the beginning, the protagonist and their world are at a “normal” state, the status quo

But some event sparks a quest they must undertake:

True birthright

Catastrophic loss

War

The character sets off to find their place or role in the ensuing action

The story arc: Middle

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  • Rising action
    • Trials and tribulations the protagonist faces as they pursue what they want most
  • Climax
    • Everything comes to a head
    • Protagonist succeeds or fails

Climax: Put to the test

The story arc: End

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  • Falling action
    • The short-term aftermath of the climax
    • Makes a resolution possible
  • Denouement
    • All the pieces of the puzzle come together
    • Hints at what’s next

The hero’s journey

As described by Joseph Campbell, it’s a gateway to transformation, a progression through various stages of development.

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Known (top) vs unknown (lower): our job is also to help users find their way through the unfamliar

https://www.blogarama.com/education-blogs/1282129-papertrue-professional-editing-amp-proofreading-services-blog/23742516-tips-for-author-art-storytelling-using-heros-journey

Also consider the story of how the persona/character got to the present

Effects of plot

  • Provides cohesion

  • Pulls focus out to “big picture”

  • Presents challenges in pursuit of ultimate goal

“Magnetic poetry”

Word bank

Topical sort

Story sort

job

adult

illness

loss

rent

home

child

resource

case

program

project

legal

prevention

support

service

family

shelter

advice

assistance

need

crisis

affordable

insecurity

opportunity

safe

adult

child

family

need

job

home

safe

affordable

prevention

insecurity

illness

loss

crisis

resource

rent

case

legal

shelter

opportunity

program

project

support

service

advice

assistance

A family, including an adult and child, encounters a crisis illness that leads to job loss. With no job and mounting medical bills, they can’t pay rent and lose their home.

They now need a legal resource to help them with their case. In the meantime, they also need assistance to find a safe, affordable shelter. To prevent future insecurity, they need an opportunity to get back on their feet.

A friend recommends them to a program that makes it a project to offer support, service, advice.

Story sort = using information to tell a story (with the same words)

Design

Putting character and plot into practice

3

Make believe for a moment…

  • That you, dear designer, are an author

  • That your user is a character — a protagonist

  • And you have some details to round out before you write your story — before you craft your design

Transitioning from literary concepts to the real-world application

Now, try these tools

  • Character development questionnaire
  • Story arc
  • Diorama

Narrative arc helps with:

keeping bigger picture when useful, what’s going on in user’s life beyond the design

zooming in on completion of particular task
giving better understanding of sequencing information and user’s actions

Possibly incorporate cardsorting or pitch as turning info into a simple story?

not just topic, but also cause/effect

Character development questionnaire

  • Which archetype might apply?
  • What’s one word that defines this character?
  • Where are they from?
  • What’s their catchphrase?
  • What’s their stage of life?
  • What are their personality traits and behaviors?
  • What does this character want the most?
  • Why do they want that so much?
  • What’s keeping them from achieving it?

Tool

Why it’s useful or the effect it has

Show worksheet briefly, including example with ShelterTech character

Transition:

Knowing the character more deeply helps to understand why they take a certain path/direction

versus alternative ones and the opportunity cost

ShelterTech example

Tool

Why it’s useful or the effect it has

Show worksheet briefly, including example with ShelterTech character

Transition:

Knowing the character more deeply helps to understand why they take a certain path/direction

versus alternative ones and the opportunity cost

Character development questionnaire

  • Which archetype might apply? The survivor

  • Why do they want that so much? Love and duty

  • What does this character want the most? To reunite with their child

–Asian American Tarot: A Mental Health Project,
The Asian American Literary Review

Tool

Why it’s useful or the effect it has

Show worksheet briefly, including example with ShelterTech character

Transition:

Knowing the character more deeply helps to understand why they take a certain path/direction

versus alternative ones and the opportunity cost

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1750978990/asian-american-tarot-a-mental-health-project/faqs

Story arc: Example

Conflict

Loss of job due to illness

Rising action

New job, but can’t pay rent

Climax

Forced to live

on the street

Resolution

Seeking home for stability, future family

Falling action

Learning to survive
the new reality

Exposition

Young adult living
alone in the city

Emotional connections?

Examples of experience goals

  • Pre-story
    • To provide an organized, comprehensive directory of services for those experiencing homelessness

  • Post-story
    • To help a young parent find temporary shelter and sustainable work after expected housing in a new city falls through

Emotional connections?

Homelessness services directory

https://askdarcel.org/

Steps on path through services

Diorama or snapshot

  • A story arc:
    • Everything designed should be relevant to user
    • “Think beyond the L”

  • Other examples as food for thought

Emotional connections?

Insurance: Character/plot-based

http://cytora.com/ai-guide/

Travel: Action-based

https://www.irwinmitchell.com/safety-on-the-slopes.html

Outdoor safety: Space/place-based

https://www.irwinmitchell.com/safety-on-the-slopes.html

Space mission: Time-based

http://apollo17.org/

Summary

“And they lived happily ever after”

Putting it all together

character

diorama or scene

  • Where is the character on the plotline?
  • Organize information by task, not just topic
  • Relate back to the character’s ultimate goal or desired resolution

plot

Plot

Making IA/UX like a good book

Story-based checklist for design

  • To fill in gaps about who your user is, use a character development worksheet
  • To take a step back and remember your user’s ultimate goal, use a story arc
  • To make your information more actionable, organize it according to not only category, but task (think about cause and effect, time, sequence)
  • To increase relevance to your user in your design, consider a diorama or snapshot approach

About

Explore housing options

Find a caseworker

Join SNAP

Store your belongings

Access grooming and hygiene rousrces

Regresh your wardrobe

Stay connected with a mobile phone

Find financial resources

Get cash and credit

Enroll in vocational training

Apply for housing todya

Share resources

Invitation to conversation

  • Experiment, learn, share

Thanks!

More questions? Contact us:

43

Eric Chuk

  • @echuk562
  • eschuk@gmail.com

Sara Hayden

  • @haydensaraa
  • sara.ann.hayden@gmail.com

IAC slides final - Google Slides