Stories have the power the relay emotion and meaning from teller to receiver. Even when you think you’re not telling a story – you are. We tell stories every time someone asks us “how is your day?.” On a slightly larger and visually documented scale, screenwriters adhere to a strict story arc to keep viewers locked in. And to ensure that the all beats within the hero’s journey are crossed, narrative maps are crucial in plotting character and story development.
This is narrative map for a short dramedy about a girl who loves Serena Williams so much, that she aspires to be just like her. After several failed attempts at makeovers, workout regimes, and tennis lessons, T finds a new goal in the bottom of a whiskey bottle with no identity of her own. And after a conversation with her father, she realizes that there’s already a Serena Williams, but there’s only one Tunisha – so she learns to live for and love herself.
Goal – Be Serena Williams.
Problem : Can’t be another human being
Transformation: In failing to be somebody else, I discovered my own identity & how to love myself.
Resolution: Love yourself
In case my horrible handwriting is unreadable, here’s a transcript of the story and emotional flow notched above in the story map.
Story Map Transcript:
Beg: Awkward girl uncomfortable in her own skin.
Goal: Be Serena Williams.
Problem: Can’t be another human being.
– Tried looking like her via makeovers (hair/makeup) & fail.
– Tried working out like her – quit/fail.
– Tried to play tennis – fail.
– Devastated by failing in everything Serena does; Self-destruct mode. Drinking/smoking/depressing.
– Mentor figure reiterates love for Tunisha & not Serena.
– Quit drinking/smoking
– Start working out for myself and not anyone else.
Resolution: Love yourself
Visually, this would all be filmed original footage with myself cast and a couple friends. Voice over will be used to flow the emotions and actions of the story.
POST NARRATIVE INTERVIEW REFLECTION
What is the essential story behind the piece you created?
The core story of 5 Steps to Serenity is about the tasking process of learning to love and be yourself. Narrative structure allows storytellers to explore this concept of self-identity by positioning life’s events as part of a plot (Polkinghorne, 1991). While this piece was developed as a dramedy and not solely autobiographical, the story elements behind the fiction are in tune with my personal values – journey, individualist, uniqueness, carefree. Therefore the essential story behind this project is a coming of age tale parallel to that of an “explorer archetype” (Allegory Studios, 2014), where our hero is in pursuit of her own self-concept by breaking away from the bond she has to an idol.
The core desire of any explorer-driven, self-concept story is allowing the hero the freedom to find out who they are by exploring the world (Mark & Pearson, 2001). Mark & Pearson (2001) explain that the goal of such stories is to “experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life” (p.72). In 5 Steps to Serenity, Jackie (our heroine) has a shift in both desire and goal. While first seeking to be just like her idol Serena Williams, a series of progressive complications ultimately lead to her failure. This defeat becomes an inadvertent blessing because through her fall, Jackie rises to find her true core desire and goal – the peace to find and be herself.
What was your purpose in creating this piece of new media narrative? Do you feel you were successful in communicating your purpose?
My intent was to create something light hearted, funny, yet still get the message across. I wanted to find a way to present the values that I hold personally close in a comedic fashion rather than a serious or stern narrative approach. Over the last couple of years, I have dabbled in stand-up comedy, open mics, and local improv groups. And having studied this field through observation and practice, it is understood in comedic groups that there is humor in heartache; the best remedy to trying times and the figurative fork-in-the-roads, is laughter. This concept was on the forefront of my mind while developing this project.
To provide a little bit of backstory, a very good friend of mine (also named Jackie) was a large motivator in developing our heroine Jackie in 5 Steps to Serenity. Polkinghorne (2001) says that the basis of personal identity and self-understanding are the stories we use to answer the question, “Who am I?” (p.136). What I decided to do is take the stories from my personal relationship with Jackie and develop a protagonist that is representative of both of our identities. We both admire Serena. We both wish we looked like her. And we both never miss a match. However, while I am guilty of telling my hair dresser to ‘give me the Serena do we both still maintain our own identities. I do know people that take idolizing another human being a bit too far, so much so that they lose site of who they were actually born to be. So with all of this in mind, my purpose was to communicate that admiration of others is ok, but at the end of the day, the best person you can be is yourself.
Overall I believe that my end result is effective in getting this message across. Aside from the narrative content, I believe there are two production tools I employed that help in communicating the story – transitions and music. The transitions I used were not an accident and were strategically placed based on the part of the story. And honestly, selecting the music took almost half of the entire time in completing the project. Semiotically, music is extremely powerful and can change the same scene from horror to romantic. The beginning of the project is establishing the ordinary world and where the comedic approach takes the driver seat. The music is bouncy, upbeat, and in combination with the visuals, this (hopefully) gives the viewer a smile or laugh, setting up a lighthearted setting. The transitions work the same way to move the pace forward. The story then moves to the hero’s fall in character arc, where I now used longer, slower cross dissolves and changed the music to more emotional sad audio. The change in music establishes a change in story and character. The final change in audio comes in the third act. In my production documents, I even labeled the audio as ‘reborn, refreshing track,’ which represents the hero being reborn and ultimately transformed from the story’s events.
Who was your audience? Do you feel you were successful in reaching your audience?
In the beginning of developing 5 Steps to Serenity, I had those within the 767b course in mind as the only audience of this. I did not plan on publishing it as something bigger than it is for the world to see. But having completed the project for the class, and being a little proud of what I created with nothing but an idea and a budget of zero, I went ahead and published it on YouTube. I feel that my audience now can extend beyond those within 767b and could be understood by anyone, particularly youth or young adults, that are struggling in esteem and individuality. Celebrity worship syndrome is a legitimate condition that some people suffer from, and is an exaggerated form of what my hero Jackie experiences. Therefore given the core story and narrative approach I took, I believe that this project will successfully reach those who might endure similar issues.
Why did you use your particular approach to media production and media selection? Were you successful?
As I addressed earlier under Question 2, the production aspect of this project was entirely deliberate. The music and transitions largely assisted in representing the stage in character arc. Similarly, the images and video were also chosen to match the audio.
The one aspect that I would alter to improve the overall project is the voice over. It’s ironic that I have a radio broadcasting background and despise my own voice. And I could not even buy a friend to read and record the script for me. So given a do over, I would re-record my voice over to space it out a bit in order to not have the story feel rushed.
What did you learn during the process of crafting your media piece that you can use in creating future new media narrative?
Out of leisure, I enjoy creating small new media narratives like this that are mostly developed from trending topics and inside jokes for family and friends. Around the holiday times when money gets tight, I tend to make small videos or trailers as gifts for people instead of re-contemplating life’s meaning in a crowded mall. So the idea of creating a new media narrative during this course was welcomed. However one thing that I did learn during the process is to not underestimate the pre-production process. The production and post production phases are exponentially easier and actually looked forward to once the dirty work is completed in pre-production. I often jump from idea to production to post – then back to production when I think of something else I could add in post – then back to post. I don’t think I have completed an actual story table (or storyboard) outside of film school. But the process of making 5 Steps to Serenity completely gave me a new homage to story tables and the pre-production process in general. And in the future of creating new media narratives, I will continue to spend an ample amount of time in pre-production to ensure that the rest of the process is done smoothly and enjoyably.
Allegory Studios. (2014). Explorer – Archetype. Retrieved from http://www.allegorystudios.com/explorer-archetype/
Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw: Building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Polkinghorne, D. E. (1991). Narrative and Self-Concept. Journal of Narrative and Life Hitory, 1(2-3), 135-153.