Getting Feedback On Your Story

This post is the penultimate entry in this series, but that doesn’t mean it should only happen at the end of your process. Instead, it’s probably best to think of getting feedback as much as you can along the way. Some storytellers even seek out feedback before they start their drafting process, sometimes talking through their story with one or more people while they’re still trying to figure out what their story is going to be about. StoryCenter’s model incorporates what they call a “story circle” at the very beginning of the process where people within a small group take turns sharing their story while everyone else in the group listens carefully and offers feedback. You might consider reading your script aloud to another person. It might also be useful to send your story to a friend or share it with an online storytelling group. (Note: I’m hoping that enough storytellers start visiting Stories21 so that we can eventually create small-group workshop forums that provide this sort of space online. I don’t know of any others available on the Web right now.)

You have a lot of options concerning how you ask for feedback. You might go the most straightforward route and just ask for whatever thoughts someone has in response to your story. But you can also request more specific feedback. You might ask what they think is the heart of the story. What do you think of the ending? What sort of images might work for this story? If you’re asking a family member or an old friend, you might even ask them if they have any images or videos you might be able to use for your story. You could ask them if you’re leaving anything out that they think belongs in the story. If your feedback person is one of the story’s characters, you might ask them how they feel about how you’re representing them.

Some people will give you bad advice. Some people will give you great advice. Your best strategy might be to experiment with whose advice you seek and how you ask for it.

I also want to encourage you to be careful about where you’re getting your advice. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to get advice from a certain type of person; you just need to remember that not all the feedback you get is going to make your story better. Some people will give you bad advice. Some people will give you great advice. Your best strategy might be to experiment with whose advice you seek and how you ask for it. The advice you get from an experienced digital storyteller will likely be very different than what a close friend may suggest. It just depends on what you’re asking for feedback about, and why you’re asking in the first place.

And finally, be generous and gracious when asking for feedback. Be sure to make it clear that you’re going to be happy to return the favor when someone asks you for feedback on their story. Always be ready to accept the opportunity to offer feedback when someone does ask you. And once you’ve heard someone’s feedback, remember to thank them for it. And if you want to go even a little bit further, let the person know which part of their feedback was most valuable to you and how it will likely have an effect on your story.

Do you have of your own stories or advice about asking people for their input about your stories? What part of the process do you find other people’s ideas most useful to you? Do you have any examples of people giving you unhelpful or negative feedback? How did you handle it? Feel free to offer your own experience in the comment section below. 🙂

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