Questions Shape Our Stories

December 12, 2016 | Blog Admin | Let's Talk Visual |


Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Darcy Alexandra NadiaThe story circle is a crucial first step in making digital stories. Sharing story ideas in the circle helps clarify what the stories are really about. It is an intense group process of joint reflection and inquiry that is meaningful for everyone involved. Mid November, the SDC Learning & Networking Team organized its 4th Digital Storytelling workshop in Bern. In this workshop, “Pivotal Stories in Intercultural Contexts,” the story circle was once again the starting point for a dynamic process of reflection and dialogue. This process continues throughout the entire workshop as storytellers edit, re-write, read aloud, and polish their scripts to completion. 

By Darcy Alexandra, Inquiry Media and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments

For me, this was the 4th digital storytelling workshop I have observed, first as participant and now as co-facilitator together with Darcy Alexandra. I am always struck by the story circle. Sharing stories in the story-circle is a deep experience for everyone. I see curious faces, listening ears and sometimes, shiny eyes. The engagement is almost tangible.

The circle is the staring point for a joint inquiry and a crucial step in clarifying and shaping the stories. It is a conversational and creative act of the whole group in supporting the storyteller to uncover his or her story.

Nadia von Holzen


Photo: Story circle by Kuno Schläfli

The story circle can be a great opportunity for people to engage with one another in new ways. That engagement is tangible because although everyone has the same goal – to create a digital story – they are approaching the goal from a unique foundation point: their own insights, experiences, and questions. The story comes together through editing and this editing process begins in the story circle. As the author drafts, edits, and polishes her script, the inquiry and reflection continue.

I have been facilitating digital storytelling workshops for nearly 10 years. For me, collaboration with the SDC has raised exciting questions about the role of narrative within a governmental agency. For example, in the first workshops, some participants imagined that a digital story would be rather like a report–but shorter and with visuals. Others were hesitant to bring their own insights and experiences into the story – they imagined it would be more professional to ‘stay out of the picture.’ But digital storytelling is a different kind of knowledge sharing and requires a different kind of writing – it’s more akin to writing for radio than writing for a report that someone will read. The sentences are often shorter and the language is more concise. Because authors also develop a visual concept for their story, ideally they also shape a relationship between the spoken monologue and the visual world of the stories. As a writer and filmmaker, I encourage people to take intellectual and creative risks. This begins with the story circle.

Darcy Alexandra

What constitutes a story?

Together with the Learning and Networking team, we’ve been thinking through how to support people in developing pivotal stories. But what constitutes a story? A topic is not a story. A location is not a story. Stories need specifics. They need characters, places to unfold, tension, insight, and structure. The story circle can be the first place where people collectively consider these questions.

Questions elicit stories

To elicit and shape stories we consider many questions. These include: the place where the story unfolds, the protagonists involved in the story, dialogue between protagonists, the author’s voice, his/her point of view, and the intended audience.

Often, the question about point of view or author’s voice presents a new challenge for SDC colleagues. In this case, the following questions can help the author develop her sense of authority and perspective:

How are you involved in this story?
What is your relationship to the protagonist?
What is your argument?
What do you really want to say? How are you uniquely qualified to say it?

We support the development of story structure by asking authors to ask themselves:
What’s the moment of change in the story?
What is the tension or conflict in this story?

We encourage authors to think about the audience for their story by asking:
With whom are you in dialogue?
Who needs to hear this story?
Where would you like to see this story screened?

These questions can help to shape stories that represent your insights in dynamic ways.

What is a story you would love to share and shape through the dialogue of a story circle?

Related stories

Have a look at the whole digital storytelling process here:



Comments to“Questions Shape Our Stories”

  1. Thank you Darcy, thank you Nadia for putting the emphasis on the story circle. I have experienced Darcy’s workshop once and the story circle impressed me as well. A moment/space of intimacy is created which is difficult to recreate in other moments of daily work. This intimacy then follows the story creators throughout their production process. This intimacy makes the final videos special.

  2. Dear Hynek, thanks for your comment. I remember the super creative and fun video you made. I agree with you, it is about the intimacy and trust that is created in the story circle and how, as you write, “it follows the story creators throughout their production process.” It’s wonderful that you can see how this influences the final outcome. All best!

  3. Soyolmaa says:

    Thanks Darcy and Nadia, yes, the story circle is a starting point for the digital stories. These questions are helpful for guiding the storytellers and share their experience and stories in relaxed mode… thanks for sharing. You are the great coaches! Digital stories are in demand here… :-)

  4. Nadia von Holzen says:

    Dear Soyolmaa, thanks a lot for your comment. You make us curious! Can you share more stories already? Please connect! Best, Nadia


Leave a Reply