Developing a Character-Driven Story

Tool | Step 7 | View All Steps

When developing a character-driven story, one of the things one looks for is a unique person or “character” to be the center of the story. Find a person or “character” who is knowledgeable about their group, but also shows excitement when talking about the job they do—and can break their work down in such a way that a child understands. It also helps if the person can demonstrate what they do—if applicable. In the story itself, you may need someone else from the organization to describe what the company does overall, but focus on the “character” to help draw folks into the story. The “character” in most cases will be able to help the viewer relate to what he or she does.

While interviewing the “character,” it’s okay to ask how local inclusive innovation efforts are helping them to achieve their goals—or what impact this work is having towards them achieving their goals.

In developing the story, it’s usually good to conduct the interviews first so the interviewer can get a better idea of what the company does. If there is something you’re not clear about, you can ask a follow up question. There is nothing wrong with asking—“Help me to understand what you meant by …” The interview is also helpful in determining additional video you need to support the story. For example, if the interviewee talks about a specific machine—or project—you could get video of these things after the interview. Before the interview starts, talk with the interviewee to relax him or her if they seem nervous. Sometimes, just giving a general idea of the questions you’re going to ask will settle them down some. When the camera starts rolling, another approach to calm an interviewee down would be to ask them to give you their name—to spell it, because sometimes folks have unique name spellings—and their title with the organization. It doesn’t hurt to ask how long they have been with the organization.
When asking questions, stick to leading with WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY AND HOW. Sometimes, a good way to “shock” someone into giving a passionate answer about what they are doing is by asking, “Why should the average person on the street be concerned about what you are doing? What’s in it for them?” Another question that sometimes invokes an interesting answer is after you’ve finished asking your questions, ask “Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you believe people should know about what you are doing?” That often leads to a follow-up question and a tidbit of information you weren’t expecting.
In putting a story together, having moving video to supplement the interview is helpful (called “B-role”). It’s also good to include vintage photos when referencing historical events. When selecting a place for an interview, find a spot where there is some activity connected to the story going on—but not too noisy. Try to stay away from white-walled rooms and offices—they come across as too sterile on video.

The goal by the end is to produce a compelling promotional story that reinforces the narrative of the city’s growing inclusive innovation economy.

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