And this is the last past of the summary of “Storytelling for UX” (first part, second part). In this last part I’ll cover the tips to create stories. At the end I’ll do a mini-review of the book and will add some extra comments.

How to create a story

Stories have four elements: audience, ingredients, structure and medium.

Audience

There are two important relationships in stories: story-audience and you-audience. About the first, you want to include details that fill the gap, and also stories are a good way to make the audience see a different perspective by feeling it. Finally, endings are important. They should be memorable and settled (“take them home”).

Ingredients

See checklist on p. 209.

  • Perspective. there isn’t a neutral POV in stories. Types of perspectives are realist (3rd person, “absent” author), confessional (focused on author experience) and impressionist (mixes descriptions of events with a strong structure). The last intends to spark ideas/actions and while they can have an ending, they might end with implicit question. An easy way to add perspective is letting the main character do the talking.
  • Characters. One of the reasons why UX stories are useful is because they add specificity and texture to the usually one-dimensional view of users. Also useful to highlight needs outside the mainstream. Tips to build characters: (1) choose (only) details that add meaning; (2) show, don’t tell (show in action instead of describing traits); (3) set up “hooks” that you can use later in the story; (4) leave room for imagination.
  • Context. Five types: physical (time, date, location, location scale), emotional (how characters feel), sensory (5 senses), historical (“when phones had dials”), memory (storyteller’s memory, flashbacks).
  • Imagery. Things that make us picture the story (example in p. 205). Don’t use too much!
  • Language. Tips: (a) speak in the language of the characters, (b) make the story active, (c) focus on telling the story, not describing, (d) don’t judge characters, context or events.

Structure/plot

Structure is the framework/skeleton of the story. Plot is the arrangement of the events. Strong structures help the audience, the author and the story (p. 215). See types of stories on p. 216. “Checklist” for good structure and plot on p. 235.

Medium

Four big media: oral (mind the gap to written, p. 243), written (make the point explicit, keep it short, make use of cultural cues as in p. 253), visual (comics and storyboards work, see p. 258-260), multimedia/video.

See tips on how to integrate stories in reports on p. 265 and p. 266. See strong sides of different media on p. 272.

Mini-review and conclusions

I quite liked the book, although I admit that the last part (the one summarised in this post) was a bit disappointing. I guess it’s hard to give tips about something as complex as creating a story, in a book. The book has a very clear structure and it’s easy to follow and read, which helps in figuring out what to read, what to skim and what to leave for later.

Another thing that really struck me while reading the book (the second book I read following the tips from “How to Read a Book“) is how little I used to understand of the books I read. I now go through the book three times: one to get an idea of the structure and the most interesting parts, one to read the content, and one to review and make a summary. So even while I was reading it for the last time, I made sense of things that I hadn’t realised while reading the book (and that was after knowing the structure, knowing what to expect from each chapter, and having made some preliminary notes!). Not only that, but I also feel that I’m much more critical with what I read and I compare it much more with what I think myself.

If you aren’t doing it already, I strongly recommend that you give those tips a try…