12 (sm)artwork Storytelling Lenses For Any scenario

a way to Be (sm)art About Storytelling

consider of your favorite movie. What involves your mind? The fascinating plot crammed with twists? The storyteller? The hilarious characters? The tragic scenes? The brewing battle with the remaining showdown? Scenes with one-liner speak? Or no talk? prices? Storytelling is a powerful tool to seize individuals’s consideration, connect with their feelings, inspire them to do anything. whether you’re sitting across the campfire, observing a movie in a theater, or playing a online game for your mobilephone, you have got absolutely experienced the magic.

Writing, although, is a completely distinct story. in the 12 months 2000, I wrote my first full-size screenplay. It took three months to write down and ten years to neglect. After receiving the judge’s feedback from the competitors, it turned into clear that I had to be taught much more about the craft: “incredible delivery. You sucked me into the story right away. The ending? by no means expected, like Sixth sense. but analyzing script in-between become such a pain.”

And he went on and on for 10 pages about my plot, characters, communicate, and many others. I spent the next six years gaining knowledge of the features of an outstanding story, and basically ten years writing the second screenplay. My screenplay, Waltzing Kingdoms, was a finalist in a world competitors. these in-between years, i was specializing in the elements that make a very good story. whereas there are hundreds of books on how to write a narrative, this article specializes in these primary aspects from a practical point of view.

12 Lenses

this article helps you’re taking your initial script or scenario you wrote to the subsequent stage. you are going to damage down a narrative into 12 points looking at your piece via 12 lenses. via each and every lens and the questions you ask, you could tweak your story. One ultimate notice, this article isn’t going to take care of gaining knowledge of ambitions. Writing a story for the sake of art is different from writing one for learning. it really is why we’re now not simply the use of artwork lenses frequently but (sm)artwork lenses which are more focused on practicality for L&D.

What Are The 12 (sm)artwork Lenses?

Writing a superior story for learning (whether it is situation-based discovering, short experiences, case studies, and so forth.) is a skill. for this reason, these 12 (sm)artwork lenses are gathered below in a deck of skill cards:

12 (sm)ART Storytelling Lenses For Any Scenario

reckoning on your story’s dreams, structure, length, and aim, you can also or may additionally no longer should spend time on all 12 playing cards with in-depth exploration. essentially the most complex situation for L&D is likely reside-motion capturing in a mini-sequence where you ought to be (sm)art about scenes, places, price range, communicate, and so on. however what if you simply have a textual content state of affairs between two place of work characters? that you can still use the playing cards to explore the scene, increase the speak, and perhaps fully trade the point of view…or not it’s as much as you the way you follow the cardboard deck below.

12 (sm)ART Storytelling Lenses For Any Scenario

Lens #1: Theme

The theme is the heart of the story: the emotional connection, the huge conception, the aim. what is the deeper that means of the story in one notice? Examples: love, inclusion, management, believe, exchange, innovation.

(sm)art inquiries to Ask

  • what is your theme in one word? This one word or expression is the underlying message for the leading researching element.
  • How do you start your story? Is your opening scene memorable? Does it emphasize the theme neatly? believe of non-verbal dialogue, descriptions, settings, locations, style, and so forth. as an example, if your theme is ready burnout and the scenario is a training conversation practice, you may emphasize that theme with a screensaver on a laptop: a hamster in a wheel.
  • Is the theme explicitly defined within the story? Do you spell out the theme or do you just hint? it’s no longer correct or incorrect, rather two distinct approaches. A less delicate situation with an open ending is an excellent crew huddle dialog starter.


  • You’re developing a narrative that exposes a message. If the story is merely a placeholder for the message, it could actually backfire. If the message gets too glaring, you may also chance losing the emotional connection.
  • You can be artistic about how themes are carried over to the workplace. maybe your character shows up on posters? Mousepads? Intranet pages? or even in real life all through an all-hands meeting as a reminder?
  • can you reuse your digital assets aiding the theme in quite a few other channels for pre- and post communications?

Lens #2: genre

How would you categorize your story? consider of genre as a mixture of story/action, plot, characters, and setting. Examples: drama, comedy, war, thriller, crime, and so forth. each of these genres comes with an anticipated plot, personality-forms, etc.

(sm)art questions to Ask

  • Your style will set the tone of your story. Who’s your target viewers? What genre would resonate most with them? What’s your simple price range?
  • who are the stakeholders for the task? make sure they are on board with the style and the theme. (HR and legal can commonly throw in challenges late within the game if they don’t seem to be consulted early on. And it can be expensive.)
  • What else has been accomplished earlier than? be sure you don’t repeat remaining yr’s advertising crusade.


  • Be creative in merging genres to fit both your budget and time. as an instance, if here is a sci-fi story (atmosphere), you can also now not wish to build out the way forward for your business for capturing areas. in its place, use two characters getting back from the long run (plot) and hold the latest time and context for the setting. Combining sci-fi and comedy could be an enchanting solution to inform the story without breaking your budget.
  • in case you can not suppose of more than 10 genres, check out Netflix’s collection of over one hundred,000 entries. as an example, “Biographical twentieth Century length items About reputation” is style 77,456 [1].
  • in case you’re not doing a reside-action film, somewhat digital storytelling with animated characters or stock pictures, you could be capable of have enough money different genre options.

Lens #three: setting

The environment is ready where the ordinary story takes vicinity involving time duration, region, and social context. The time period can also be ordinary, as in the past, latest, or future. once in a while it’s a time period that specializes in a particular yr or century. In workplace studying, essentially the most regular time period is current, as it can also be expensive to alter reality. location is the certain vicinity in time. The social context is the general cultural and social atmosphere where the story takes vicinity.

(sm)paintings questions to Ask

  • setting, theme, and style work together to set up the context of your story and create the common experience your viewers will move through. How were you aware what a good environment is?
  • the opening scene with the primary few seconds in a selected setting may still set the tone and the underlying message. To be conservative, that you can preserve your setting simple (time: now; area: place of work; social context: going through a metamorphosis curve with a reorg). besides the fact that children, you could also use the surroundings to depict the consequences of the day before today’s moves (time: pas; area: workplace; social context: choice-making, the place a person from today is making an attempt to persuade the previous to exchange their intellect with out revealing the mission).

Tip: When in doubt, hold it basic. take into account that your superior aim is gaining knowledge of (or enticing your viewers in pondering) and not leisure.


Lens #four: Scene

From a writing point of view, a scene is a definite unit with a set area and time. If either the location or the time changes, it is a new scene. every scene is a mini-story with a beginning, core, and end. From the audience’s point of view (in the genuine creation), a scene serves because the continuum or context protecting plot aspects together that pressure the story.

either case, a scene is one of the crucial essential storytelling elements since it creates a space in your characters, their dialogue, indicates the conflict, sets up the plot, etc. All these together create an emotional connection. (Ask americans what they bear in mind from videos—scenes are probably the most ordinary aspect: the bar scene from star Wars; “Oh, Captain. My Captain” from lifeless Poets Society; “I see dead individuals” from The Sixth sense; or, “I’ll have what she’s having…” from When Harry Met Sally.)

(sm)art inquiries to Ask

might You are available in Later in the Scene?

be aware, you’re not recreating reality, you’re imitating fact. In movies, you in no way see individuals circling round in the parking lot trying to find a spot (except this is a part of the plot). examine each scene. Would the scene make feel if you cut one of the vital communicate or motion out?

Tip: coming into a scene late not most effective saves time however creates suspense and engagement.

may You go away previous From The Scene?

once more, each scene has one aim: to flow the story forward. as soon as that second occurs, that you may exit.

Tip: The human mind has the extraordinary energy to fill the narrative gaps as long as the story is at all times told. (And this skill is commonly “abused” with the aid of writers to trick the audience into thinking a method until the twist happens.)

what’s the local conflict?

each scene may still have a local battle brewing. it’s like putting logs on the fire. If there is no anxiety between characters or inside a personality (consider hearts and minds), the scene can go flat.

What Do Characters desire in the Scene? What Do They really need?

think of a scene as an impartial little story with a beginning, middle, and conclusion. every character enters the scene trying whatever thing. They may now not be aware of what they need, notwithstanding. even if the viewers is aware about the difference is dependent upon the author. in case your state of affairs is ready protection, don’t simply describe the circumstance and ask what the appropriate component to do is. Paint an authentic scene of what basically happens on the job. We commonly must make a choice from priorities and never between correct or incorrect.

Tip: notice that you simply don’t want varied characters and extensive dialogue for a scene to work. truly, we be trained a great deal about characters just through staring at how they’re doing their frequent factor, and the way and when they’re now not asserting the rest. as an example, feel about the difference between here two scenes in the actual equal supervisor’s workplace. no longer a word is declared in both scene. How would you describe both managers?

  • Scene #1: The supervisor has gazillion tabs open on the computing device, submit-it notes far and wide the desk. He’s on the phone, nodding whereas texting. ultimately, he hangs up and turns to the grownup sitting throughout, shaking his head with the entire craziness occurring.
  • Scene #2: The manager has one tab open in a browser as he puts his popularity on do not disturb. The desk is despicably clear. as the mobilephone rings, he tests it for a 2nd and declines the call. at last, he turns to the person sitting throughout showing his gratitude for ready.

Lens #5: POV

The point of view (POV) is about who’s telling the story. here is a vital choice that must occur early on (or trade continuously later). whereas in movies you can also come across dissimilar POV methods, always in workplace gaining knowledge of we don’t have the time and substances to accommodate the complexity of it. The different change between movies and researching is that in films you identify emotionally with a character however do not manage it. In most learning experiences, you expect a job to interact with characters. The POV then determines the tips available so you might play that role.

There are 2 general the way to inform a narrative:

1. First adult

  • Protagonist
  • Villain
  • Secondary personality
  • Observer
  • Unreliable narrator

2. Third adult

  • Third grownup confined
  • Third adult omniscient

Tip: observe that “adult” does not suggest a dwelling human. It can also be an animal, an object, or even a method. POV strictly tells you who’s telling the story.

(sm)paintings undertaking To explore

because the same story can be informed from a special point of view, test with shifting the narrator:

  • Create an index card for principal characters, tactics, and equipment involved on your story. which you can try this just about with collaboration equipment similar to Mural or Miro.
  • In a small community, let all and sundry select a random card and provides a one-minute elevator speech about what the story would look like being informed from that standpoint. very nearly, that you would be able to let participants write their method on the card after which vote.
  • Don’t simply consist of americans within the pool. Does the story revolve round a method? How about telling the story from the manner’s viewpoint? Or the final product’s point of view? (“How the bill receives made?”)


  • selecting the villain because the element of view can give you an enchanting angle. And that villain may also be both someone or something extra abstract. for example, I pitched an idea of Pheed as soon as. Pheed is a fictional character representing feedback. What if feedback turned into a person? How would Pheed look at the world? Giving and receiving Pheed can also be a fascinating way of taking a look at how we treat feedback, and so on.
  • Switching POV is a powerful device when you’ve got the price range and supplies. imagine you’re constructing a story that explores human relationships (whether it’s sexual harassment, inclusion, vigor cases, and many others.). With the ordinary, linear storytelling, you see the pursuits unfold from one persona’s aspect of view. youngsters, what in case you could change the personality and see the same event from a special personality’s aspect of view? What in case you don’t know who you’re? think about you’re in a gathering in a virtual fact (VR) atmosphere the place people react to you, however you are not bound who you’re…
  • Interactive video clips can even be powerful for storytelling if you can switch between POVs. This example suggests a linear story a couple of boy who’s dreaming.
  • any place within the video, which you can change between reality and the dream. today’s know-how makes it possible for us to create interactive video clips within a finances.

Lens #6: viewpoint

whereas POV offers with who’s telling the story, the point of view is about how the storyteller perceives the realm. It’s the lens the narrator is donning to view themselves and the world around them. And as we comprehend, these lenses can distort our imaginative and prescient!

(sm)paintings inquiries to Ask

How Do I Create enticing, Yet authentic Characters?

one of the most commonplace mistakes getting to know experts make when growing stories is that they’re focusing on the researching ambitions first, then the scenarios to train these ambitions, and then eventually, the characters who “bring” that scenario. this can cause unhealthy dialogue and a scarcity of authenticity. The issue is that you just’re putting words into the mouth of a strawman. Create your characters first; give them a standpoint on how they understand the realm and themselves. Then, put them into a state of affairs the place there’s a conflict.

how to Create views?

a common trick is putting your self within the footwear of your character and answering these questions with slogans, prices, lyrics, titles, something… simply delivery the artistic juices movement.

  • How do I see myself?
    internal replicate. The reply describes your inner perception of your self and determines your emotions and pondering.
  • How do I see the realm?
    exterior window. The reply describes your belief of the external world and determines the interpretation of the activities and your reaction to them.
  • How do I accept as true with the world sees me?
    external replicate. The reply describes your belief concerning the affect you’re making. It determines how you internalize the reactions you experience on the earth.

think about the equal scene with the equal persona however diverse views:

standpoint #1:

  • How do I see myself?: Fish Out of Water→Why am I here?
  • How do I see the area?: colossal→i know how this ends.
  • How do I agree with the realm sees me?→gruesome Betty→next, please.

viewpoint #2:

  • How do I see myself?: “The Dude”→just chillin’
  • How do I see the area?: Honey, I reduced in size the kids→Me vs. the zoo. Who’s going to win?
  • How do I accept as true with the realm sees me?: Lion kinfolkg→We rule.

With these standard three solutions, your persona’s response to cases may be constant. if you watch The workplace, an outstanding recreation is to choose a few of your favourite characters, answer these three questions according to how they continually react, and then watch the episodes once more with this standpoint.

Lens #7: Characters

The heart of each story is the personality. Characters convey the story alive with their moves (plot), interactions (dialogue, non-verbal conversation, battle, disagreement), and emotions (tone, emotions, reactions). In place of work getting to know, the person no longer only identifies with a character but in fact plays an energetic role by using making decisions for them.

At a minimal, you want one character, the protagonist. every personality has a perspective (motivation and interpretation of movements) and a unique relationship with the plot. The plot is what drives the story ahead, however is a personality that initiates the plot. a standard mistake is to have an overview of what occurs in the story (plot), after which add characters to go throughout the plot features. while the audience will take note what’s going on, they’ll question why.

(sm)paintings questions to Ask

The main persona goes through a “personality arc” within the story. in case your personality doesn’t alternate by means of the conclusion, if the personality doesn’t gain knowledge of some thing that triggers a attitude shift, the story might fall flat.

in the beginning of the story, ask these questions:

  • What does your character desire?
  • What does your character really need?
  • What external limitations are holding the persona lower back?
  • What inner boundaries are maintaining the persona again?

The answers for a, b, c, and d will support you define right here dynamics:

  • character arc: a→b
    As your character goes through the story, they are going to understand what they desire isn’t truly what they need.
  • exterior battle: a/b→c
    The exterior battle is the tension between what the persona wishes (early on) or wants (later) and the obstacle that stands within the method (regularly represented through the villain’s dreams).
  • inner conflict: a/b→d
    The internal conflict is the tension between the character’s desires/wants and the interior flaw the character have to overcome with a purpose to reach the exterior intention.

Tip: discipline remember specialists might also now not be first rate actors. They may wish additional time and coaching for performing.

Lens #8: talk

by dialogue, we do not handiest imply individuals talking to every other. communicate is verbal and non-verbal interplay between two or more characters. communicate is where most of the basic error ensue in writing for getting to know situations.

(sm)paintings Challenges With gaining knowledge of Scripts

lengthy Sentences With best Grammar

remember, you’re imitating a true-lifestyles interplay. no one talks in perfectly orchestrated advertising sentences. There’s no Grammarly in precise-time conversations. This may also occur because the script is reviewed by way of SMEs, HR, prison, and advertising in the vacuum. They simply read what they got, so naturally, they center of attention on the text and the message in its place of the context.

Characters don’t React To each different; they say Their personal traces

In real existence, characters regularly misunderstand every other or ask probing questions. They react non-verbally when they don’t wish to say what they suppose. They don’t just wait until the different grownup stopped speakme, and so forth. all the time read out the talk are living with SMEs.

Does Your character Say What They consider And suppose?

in case your characters say precisely what they suppose and how they consider, your story can be boring and ridiculous.

Does Your persona Use The identical Tone speaking To All different Characters?

Do you talk the equal language with your lunch pal as with the CEO? Or together with your supervisor and criminal?


  • What is not noted in a talk is as critical (if no longer much more) than what is asserted

    • Use silence like white house on the monitor to emphasise the primary point.
    • Characters maintaining lower back tips is a powerful tool. Use it in the script, as people do in actual life (sometimes on purpose, sometimes no longer).
    • Be creative with how and what the audience knows. Most comedies encompass storylines where the viewers is aware of greater than the character on the reveal. (“Don’t go there! How come that you can’t see he’s lying?!”)
    • How a character says some thing (or doesn’t say anything) is as crucial as what they say.
  • all the time read the talk out loud
    What sounds first rate for your head is regularly ridiculous should you say it aloud. here’s commonly genuine for any narration or audio script. It sounds way faster to your head than in true lifestyles. you are going to also be aware the circulation of the language just doesn’t work.

Lens #9: Plot

The plot is a series of movements that turn up to drive the story within the most positive manner. believe of it because the structure, while the story is the building. a standard application of the plot constitution is Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s event. Written for screenplays in accordance with the hero’s experience is Christopher Vogler’s booklet, The writer’s event: Mythic constitution For Writers [2]. The creator’s journey is probably more purposeful for visible storytelling.

(sm)artwork questions to Ask

Can Two movies Have The equal Plot And Yet tell Two distinctive stories?

Two videos with practically identical plots may also be two fully distinctive studies. an outstanding illustration is Wings of desire via Wim Wenders and its US remake metropolis of Angels. The plot is almost identical: an angel documenting people, as complicated as they are, falls in love with humanity and gives up eternity for the human adventure.

however, Wings of want is about humanity, while metropolis of Angels is about Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan (i admire Meg Ryan btw) getting collectively. There’s even a scene, similar in the two motion pictures, that doesn’t make feel in city of Angels. The plot aspect is the same, but the story has modified (within the usual, each actor speaks their personal language, whereas in the remake everybody speaks English).


  • look at the plot constitution of author’s adventure (according to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s experience*) to bear in mind the flow. besides the fact that children, here is a kind not a formula. Don’t take it actually by way of hanging your story aspects on the plots and expect a good story on the end.
    1. The common World: the hero is seen in their widespread life
    2. The name to event: the initiating incident of the story
    3. Refusal of the name: the hero experiences some hesitation to answer the name
    4. assembly with the Mentor: the hero positive factors the elements, competencies, and self belief necessary to begin the experience
    5. Crossing the first Threshold: the hero commits wholeheartedly to the adventure
    6. checks, Allies, and Enemies: the hero explores the particular world, faces trial, and makes friends and enemies
    7. strategy to the Innermost Cave: the hero nears the middle of the story and the particular world
    8. The Ordeal: the hero faces the most effective problem yet and experiences dying and rebirth
    9. Reward: the hero experiences the penalties of surviving loss of life
    10. The highway back: the hero returns to the usual world or continues to an most excellent vacation spot
    11. The Resurrection: the hero experiences a closing moment of death and rebirth in order that they are pure after they reenter the normal world
    12. Return with the Elixir: the hero returns with whatever thing to improve the usual world

*Strictly following the components for every story has been facing a lot of criticism. Use it when applicable in your situation. Storytelling is ready fixing a problem not at all times a non secular journey of rebirth.

  • function screenplays are always two hours lengthy. You don’t have that time to build out your hero’s journey in element. however, that you could observe the journey to even an easy workplace state of affairs in a condensed kind. a couple of seconds of silence can also be an impactful manner of depicting the refusal of the call.

12 (sm)ART Storytelling Lenses For Any Scenario

Lens #10: Story

The story is the stream of scenes within the timeline with one or numerous plot facets. which you could have essentially the most refined plot crammed with twists and turns, and yet the flattest story ever. The plot is what occurs. The story is why we care about the plot. a great story isn’t just told however shared! So, technically, it’s story sharing. a narrative comes alive with the support of your audience. And so, you ought to recognize your audience.

(sm)artwork questions to Ask

Do you’ve got at least The three most important add-ons Of an outstanding (learning) Story?

  1. Relatable characters with entertaining personalities, desires, and beliefs (aligned with the studying or efficiency dreams). in case your viewers cannot see themselves in the characters, they could not care about the instances, and the story becomes an information examine.
  2. conflict each inner and exterior (that exposes the discovering or performance goals). without conflict, there isn’t exchange. without exchange, there is no drama.
  3. authentic situations and challenges where the characters find themselves in a conflict naturally (to provide plentiful reflection time on a way to apply the adventure to the office). this is the toughest one to drag off. If the cases do not apply to your viewers, it would not rely how first rate your story is. Why would this take place? as an example, if you should create an ethics practicing for all and sundry, and one among your cases is ready accepting gifts, a ticket for a cruise ship around the world could now not be probably the most genuine context for a lot of. (No, I did not make it up.)


  •  studies are attractive as a result of our mind is actively taking part in inserting collectively the “puzzle pieces” to look the huge graphic at the conclusion. if you supply away all of the items, or worse, with out even shuffling them, your puzzle is just too convenient and too boring.

12 (sm)ART Storytelling Lenses For Any Scenario

Lens #11: battle

conflict is the anxiety between two or dissimilar characters. feel of conflict as a brewing storm with all the signals getting more advantageous and more advantageous. war of words is the peak of the battle. if you rush into confrontation with out increase the anxiety in a battle, you risk losing the audience. probably the most engaging studies build up conflicts both externally (storm coming) and internally (finding the braveness to damage up an unhealthy relationship before it’s too late).

(sm)artwork questions to Ask

You don’t need to budget for “high priced physical damages” to display brewing conflict and its impact. Silence, non-verbal expressions, and difficult selections we are able to relate to will also be used to build up the tension.

When growing a narrative for studying, we’re beneath giant time constraints. We don’t have two hours to build out a conflict. therefore, center of attention on the leading supply of battle, the one with the largest affect. You might also want to suppose in episodes protecting distinctive cases each and every, in preference to a posh film constitution.

12 (sm)ART Storytelling Lenses For Any Scenario

Lens #12: disagreement

It’s showdown time! The brewing battle results in the unavoidable event of a disagreement. it is the height of the anxiety. battle isn’t about two characters pitted against each different. It is about potent wills to achieve their desires. The second their roads pass is the disagreement. If any of the characters are weak and are inclined to step apart, the story is useless. be certain their integrity is at stake.

 (sm)art inquiries to Ask

In discovering and construction, we don’t often take care of lethal conflicts and confrontations. The tension and penalties are constantly more nuanced. for this reason, be sure you build a story round one clear battle. It can be advanced in layers, just as truth is, but spoil it all the way down to one vital difficulty.

the way to prevent bad Confrontations?

make certain the confrontation isn’t over-hyped with feelings like a foul stock photo. Your scene should still be in keeping with the theme, genre, and plot elements resulting in the remaining countdown. A confrontation devoid of battle is most likely a foul one. with out brewing conflicts, there isn’t any anxiety. devoid of anxiety, confrontations may also seem to be construed.

how many Confrontations Do you have?

always, there is one closing confrontation correct earlier than the decision. You may also be artistic the usage of the peak of anxiety to interact the audience:

  • What in case you stopped the story and asked the viewers what occurs next?
  • What if you built interactivity within the condition with branching?
  • What if you “teased” the viewers with meantime confrontations (in case you feel the hero is going to do it, but they trade their mind at the ultimate moment…)

Confrontations In are living taking pictures Mini-series?

if you’re doing a are living shoot, you film scenes by way of areas, not in chronological order. here’s to save time and elements for constructing. make certain you have a “script supervisor” who notes any capabilities deviation from the script. The story will be informed in chronological order, and mild changes filmed in a special order can throw off the plot when it comes right down to the confrontation.


how to use this aid? come to a decision which ability cards are applicable to your story. practice the chosen abilities by using exploring your story throughout the associated (sm) lenses. Play what-if with the playing cards: collaborate with others by means of asking the members to throw in as many what-if scenarios based on the card as they can. Go for quantity, not quality. Then vote for the premier alternate options. here is a realistic e-book on the 12 lenses and the knowledge they characterize. if you want to dive deeper into storytelling for working towards, i like to recommend Rance Greene’s publication, instructional Story Design [3].

in case you are looking to use the actual deck of those competencies cards, suppose free to join with me on LinkedIn.


[1] comprehensive searchable record of Netflix Genres with hyperlinks

[2] The Writers adventure: Mythic structure for Writers

[3] academic Story Design