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Teams & Expertise for Narrative Projects

As with many digital projects, you can make a narrative project on your own, but you will have an easier time and a wider choice of tools if you build a team.

Published onMar 06, 2020
Teams & Expertise for Narrative Projects

As with many digital projects, you can make a narrative project on your own, but you will have an easier time and a wider choice of tools if you build a team. If you will be working alone, add time to your schedule and make a plan to acquire any additional skills you need. Read the section on tools to help you evaluate how your choice of tools or platforms will affect the skills you and/or your team need to have.

The two most essential skills for most narrative projects are storytelling and the ability to use the platform or tool you select to produce the story.


Many people have some experience writing coherent narratives or telling stories, and most of us have experience seeing or hearing other forms of storytelling like film, animation, graphic cycles, podcasts or radio shows, or video games.

If you will be working by yourself, look for books, online videos, or tutorials that explore the details of your chosen format. Don’t just look for sources that tell you how to use a particular technology; seek out sources that describe how artistic elements of that technology type can be used to tell compelling stories. Search phrases like [medium] + “storytelling techniques” will get you started (e.g., “film storytelling techniques” or “map storytelling techniques”).

If you want to hire an expert to help with this, you will want to seek out someone with expertise in storytelling for your particular platform. In many cases, this person will also have experience with the technological side of your platform or tool, but not always. Make sure to talk to collaborators specifically about both the storytelling and the technological aspects of the role. You might find someone who has written scripts but never filmed a movie, or who has developed custom maps or timelines but never developed content for them. You will want to be very clear about what you are expecting collaborators or freelance help to do.

For some types of projects, especially audiovisual projects like podcasts or films, you may find students who have experience writing active, performance-based narratives, even if they haven’t worked with a tool like yours. This kind of collaboration can be useful to both of you: you provide research and a sense of the story arc; they develop the way to tell that story compellingly. Departments like Film Studies, English, Drama, Studio Art, Education, Journalism, or Communications can be a great place to start. You can also think about the kinds of topics your narrative will cover and consider departments where students will have familiarity with the kinds of research you will use, perhaps departments like Anthropology, History, American Studies, African American Studies, or similar social sciences departments. An increasing number of faculty use projects like this in their courses, so you may even find students who have developed similar projects for class assignments.

Whether you work with external freelancers or students or other collaborators, make sure to be clear about the scope of work, deadlines, editing process, compensation, and credit. Will they be listed as an author, editor, consultant, or something else? What will you do if the project takes longer than expected, or more rounds of editing? Will you expect them to be closely involved in production?

Technological Expertise

You will also need to make sure you work with someone who knows how to use the tools or platforms you have in mind, or that you can learn the new tool sufficiently to create polished work. The guidelines in the tools section include ideas for approaches that don’t require previous experience.

Other skills

For many projects, you will need additional skills to prepare materials for use in your project. These might include things like graphics, short animations, timelines, maps, or sound editing -- things that can be their own narrative projects, but that can also be embedded into larger projects. The process of storyboarding described in the planning section can help you figure out what kinds of additional media processes you might want to include. For a large project, you will probably work with collaborators or hire someone external for these parts of the project, but it is not uncommon to need to do them yourself. Explore the tools section to determine which kinds of media might be feasible for you to make yourself and which you will need help to do. Don’t forget that some of these features may be available already to purchase, like stock photos, maps, or sound clips. Buying something off-the-shelf may be cheaper and faster than trying to build something custom.

You should also consider whether you need any special skill sets to get your project to its intended audience. You might need to work with a web developer to get your project onto a website in a form your audience can view, or you might need someone to help you distribute a 3d environment or video game module through third-party hosting platforms.

Continue Reading: Documentation for Narrative Projects

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