Five Types of Books Digital Storytellers Should Be Reading

You’re a digital storyteller. You should be reading everything you can get your hands on about digital storytelling. These three are a great place to start.

Flash Genres (Flash fiction, flash nonfiction, prose poetry)

Most digital stories are short. By short I mean less than a thousand words and likely less than five minutes. Even if your stories push past those tendencies, you’re likely working with something significantly shorter than a movie, television episode, feature film, or even a typical short story. It’s probably a good idea to start thinking about what makes very short works different than longer genres.

Creative Nonfiction

Not all digital stories have to be nonfiction. But I’m guessing the audience for this site, at least in these early stages, will be looking for resources about telling their own, personal, nonfiction stories. Here are a few books that focus specifically on writing creative nonfiction, personal narratives, and memoir.

Comics

Creating comics (at least from what I understand) and digital storytelling draw on a similar set of creative skills. You won’t find much discussion here about audio recording, photography, or soundtracks. What you will find are ideas, practices, and advice about the relationship between images and the written word playing out over time. Oh, and comics as an art form, is way more mature and has a much larger audience than digital storytelling. We wish we had what comics has. These books can help us learned what comics already know.

Plot, Structure, Form

These sorts of books drive some people nuts. They can go take a hike. I’ll grant that books like risk undermining a writer’s creativity, but I think they still can play an important role as a resource for people who want to learn more about structuring their stories. Treat these books like paint-by-numbers storytelling manuals, and you’ll get nothing but cliche’s. On the other hand, these sorts of books have informed my own process several different times when I found myself at a loss to figure out why something wasn’t working in one of my stories. Probably best to keep these on the shelf as references rather than instruction manuals. But still, I don’t think it hurts to have them on your shelf.

Style (especially short style)

I’ve never written, or even started, a novel. I have produced longer essays and academic articles, though. It’s been my experience that working within the relatively tiny space of a digital story requires a much different approach to prose style than what longer genres afford. You can’t just boil it down to shorter sentences, fewer details, and sharper focus. Digital stories present their own unique set of challenges and require and/or offer a different set of creative strategies. Here are a few books that focus specifically on style through the lens of very short genres.

Prompts

Do I really need to explain this one? Maybe you’re one of those lucky people who always has an idea for their next story. Fine. You’re a unicorn. Or perhaps you’re one of those people who thinks that if you don’t have an idea for your next story, you probably shouldn’t be writing one at all. Fine. You’re might be kind of a dick. Personally, I find prompts to be useful in all sorts of ways. Maybe you’re trying to break some of your creative habits. Maybe you always seem to be telling a different version of the same story. Maybe there are certain things within which you would never have thought to look for a story. These books are for practice. For drills. When you’re stuck. When you’re bored with your own habits. Have at least one of these guys on your shelf when you find yourself in danger of losing your creative momentum. Or when you’re trying to get it back.

What Did I Miss?

I would love to hear from you about the books you find most helpful to you as a digital storyteller. Don’t limit yourself. Maybe there’s something missing from one of these lists? Don’t forget about books on photography, audio, radio storytelling, documentaries, filmmaking, oral history, or any other subject you think other storytellers might benefit from reading. Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

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