Multimedia Storytelling Vocabulary

You should be able recognize and seek out the following elements of multimedia storytelling. (Chap 1, 2, and 3 review):

Anecdote – A personal account of a series of actions.
Example: Julio Diaz shares his experience of being robbed in a surprising, two-minute anecdote. ( audio)

Character – An individual who undergoes change or takes action.
Example: Photographer Luis Sinco goes beyond the iconic image of the “Marlboro Marine” and takes the viewer on an intimate journey into the soldier’s emotional and psychological struggles. ( audio slide show)

Complication – An event or development that forces a character to respond or react.
Example: When the Gulf Oil spill hits the small town of Venice, Louisiana, the residents must decide whether to stay or leave. ( video)

Contiguity – How all of the media elements on a page or website work together. The best multimedia pieces combine text and visuals in meaningful ways and avoid extraneous elements.
Example: The Highrise Project is a series of interactive documentaries about urban residential buildings that pays particular attention to the integration of text, images, video, sound, design and animation. (National Film Board of Canada interactive documentary)

Day-in-the-life – Records the activities of someone through a period of time. Does not necessarily have a theme, a conflict, or a resolution.

Detail – Distinct observations, facts or moments included for the purpose of conveying character or plot.
Example: This story of the world’s largest religious festival in India is told through intimate snapshots of the spiritual pilgrims. (Bombay Flying Club)

Dialogue – Conversation between two or more characters that allows the audience to see and hear characters interacting with one another.
Example: The back-and-forth between two adult daughters and their father who has Alzheimer’s disease helps provide insight into a family’s struggle to hang on to memories. (StoryCorps audio and photo)

Dramatic question – An overarching question posed at the beginning of a story; audience wonders how it will end.
Example: An award-winning 2007 article by columnist Gene Weingarten starts with a question, “If the world’s great violinist performed incognito in a Metro station, would anyone stop and listen?” (Washington Post article and video)

Establishing shot – An opening visual, often a wide-angle view that provides location and setting.
Example: The opening shots of an interactive documentary about Canon City, Colorado, a town built around 13 prisons, provide a sense of landscape and place. (Prison Valley interactive documentary)

Moment of reflection– A clear statement of what the story is about, often following an anecdote.
Example: The radio show This American Life sent nine reporters to a rest stop for two days to see what kinds of stories they could find. The episode is structured around anecdotes and reflections on travel. (This American Life audio)

Motivation – A reason or inspiration for the character’s action.
Example: What motivates someone to walk 10,000 miles a year? This profile of Dr. Marc Abrams, known as the Silver Lake Walker, seeks the answer. ( audio slide show)

Narrative – Features a character, a complication that forces the character to act or respond, a climax, and a resolution.
Example: This story about an aging swimmer takes the viewer through this common storytelling structure. (California is a place)

News report – Relates the facts of something that happened, but generally doesn’t engage with characters or plot.

Opening – The beginning or start of a story that hooks the audience.
Example: The opening seconds of this multimedia feature about traumatic brain injury draws the audience into the lives of soldiers who suffer from it. ( multimedia feature)

Profile – A concise biographical sketch of an individual or group of people. Different from an event or issue-based story.
Example: Rosie Rios, a woman who runs a service for the homeless in Los Angeles, is profiled in this audio slide show. ( audio slide show)

Resolution – An ending that provides closure to a story.
Example: In the final quote of this profile, an ironworker describes cycling as therapy. ( audio slide show)

Slice of life – Dissects the ordinary life of someone or some place.
Example: A Portrait of Coney Island: Absorb the sights and sounds of a famously rough-edged amusement park that is in danger of going upscale. (Washington Post)

Sound bite – In audio or video, a short phrase or quote that captures an essential point in an interview.
Example: Three short sound bites in the first 30 seconds of video draw the viewer into the story of one family’s journey through the U.S. immigration system. (San Jose Mercury News multimedia package)

Soundtrack – Music synchronized to images or video. A powerful tool for setting the rhythm, tone and mood of a story.
Example: Music is the key element that ties together a web film called “Words.” (RadioLab video)

Universal theme – Focuses on common experiences: birth, death, fear, joy, etc.
Example: The theme of rivalry is explored in a story about two small towns that are crazy about football. Once a year the neighboring teams play each other in a heated rivalry that began 86 years ago. (Austin American-Statesman)

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