Blog Pile

Story Circles: Approaches for Mining Great Stories

presentation by Joe Lambert at NMC Regional Conference at Tulane.

This session will discuss a range of approaches from the field of media arts in capturing stories, from creative writing prompts, to interview techniques, to place-based recordings, and talking into images and film. Come learn what works, what doesn’t, and what might be best suited to your project.

Short writing exercise… storytelling is mainly about desire, an arc of reaching what you want. Write 10 things that you really love. Flip side, write 10 things that make you furious. One word each. Read the list of likes in normal voice, but read the second list slowly with feeling. Asks them to ask for which ones were surprising that they wrote down.

Asks each of us to pick the one word on either of our lists and describe the moment when we felt that emotion.

Joe shows digital story about New Orleans “Pralines”. Woman’s story of discovering family past of racism and her approach of overcoming the sordid past via a gift of pralines. This came from this exercise- hate=racism, love=pralines.

Anchoring stories in something concrete, where there was an emotion. Stories begin at the place where there is a core of of a powerful moment, towards your own personal center.

Core of the curriculum is the story circle, with the feedback from others in group. Helps hone in the story.. generally smaller groups, 10-20 minutes of feedback. “Listen deeply – tell stories”. Give affirmation… “If this were my story, I think this would be a good idea…”

Story example has a great hook. The end, target, needs to be a surprise. What is the big insight? What is the payoff, that is not what I thought about at first?

Storycorps first set up booth in Grand Central station to tell stories about 9/11. The power of real voices.

BBC Capture Wales

murmur place based storytelling:

a documentary oral history project that records stories and memories told about specific geographic locations. We collect and make accessible people’s personal histories and anecdotes about the places in their neighborhoods that are important to them. In each of these locations we install a [murmur] sign with a telephone number on it that anyone can call with a mobile phone to listen to that story while standing in that exact spot, and engaging in the physical experience of being right where the story takes place. Some stories suggest that the listener walk around, following a certain path through a place, while others allow a person to wander with both their feet and their gaze.

onBeing “a project based on the simple notion that we should get to know one another a little better. What you’ll find here is a series of videos that takes you into the musings, passions, histories and quirks of all sorts of people. The essence of who they are, who we are.”

CurrentTV producer training get the skills you need

Photobus tutorials

Oral Histories from Studs Sterkel “this web site will provide a host of educational tools and documents for students, teachers and the general public. Below are some sample documents about doing oral history and using Studs Terkel recordings in the classroom. More materials will continue to be added so check back often.”

National Writing Project resources

Story prompts:
“Tell me a story about your love of an appliance”
“Tell me a moment when your life took a different direction. e.g. ‘The phone rang…'”

If this kind of stuff has any value, please support me monthly on Patreon or a one time PayPal kibble toss
Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. This reads like you “live blogged” the presentation. Did you? Just curious. It’s utterly fantastic. A mind blowing array of techniques/ideas/starters – stuff to get you into a meaningful story. And the killer resources!, bookmarked, shared, evangelized, favorited! Thanks, Dog!

  2. Yes, Cheryl, I live blogged 3 sessions today, something I’ve not done for a while. While I enjoy the ease and simplicity of sending tweets from a a session, there is not a whole lot of permanence in the end. This is as much for my own references as anyone else.

    Joe is truly an artist and a powerful, yet humble human being…. just being around him inspires me to dig deeper, go farther, and just appreciate life.

  3. Hi,
    I’d like to write an email to you und talk a little bit about security in feed2js.
    Sorry, I couldn’t find one on your page.

    Could you please write to me and delete this comment? Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *