Tag: storytelling

Do You Need a Villain in a Learning Story?

I recently attended an interesting webinar by Joe Ganci on how to use science fiction to improve eLearning. In the presentation, Joe talked about elements of storytelling common to science fiction and how to incorporate those aspects for better stories in elearning. If you’re attending the Learning Solutions Conference later this month, you can hear this presentation live. (You can attend my presentation on voice over script pitfalls too!)

One of Joe’s points was that great science fiction stories have a compelling villain that allows the heroes to be heroic. The same goes for storytelling for learning. Even if the major conflict is a tight budget or short timeline, Joe argued it’s better to personify that challenge. Provide a manager who explains the budget limitations or a harried customer who needs an project finished quickly.

To some extent, I agree with Joe. Instead of simply an abstract challenge of time or resources, you can humanize it by showing why the budget is tight or how being late will impact a real person. Stories help you make learning more concrete.

Bearded businessman with evil expression

However, I’m not quite convinced that a “villain” is what we need in learning. In the real world, the bad guys and good guys aren’t always so clear cut as in the movies. Real people are rarely motivated by simply being evil. They may be confused, misguided, angry, or disorganized. That doesn’t exactly make them a villain though.

I’m worried that forcing a villain into a story might make it too over-the-top or comical. That can work if that’s what you’re going for, but I think that’s challenging to pull off well in most corporate environments.

Maybe my problem is with the word “villain.” If we call that character an “antagonist” instead, then it works well. The antagonist doesn’t have to be evil like a villain; they just have to create the conflict or challenge that drives the story. I think that’s really what Joe is getting at. The harried manager telling you the budget is tight isn’t really an evil villain, just someone doing their job in a way that creates a challenge for the learners.

What do you think? Is it beneficial to include villains in learning stories? I am ambivalent and looking for your perspectives. Answer the poll and let me know. (Email readers, you may have to click through to the site to respond to the poll.)

If the none of the answers in the poll fit, or you want to explain more, leave a comment and tell me what you think.


ID and E-Learning Links (4/3/16)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

ID and E-Learning Links (5/24/15)

  • Descriptions, example, and research questions for four types of storytelling for learning: case-based, scenario-based, narrative-based, and problem-based instruction.

    tags:storytelling research scenarios pbl

  • In a comparison of narrative and expository format for video instruction, learners retained more information with the narrative format.

    tags:storytelling research video pacing

    • In a controlled experiment, participants listened to videotaped instruction presented in either narrative or expository form and presented at either a normal or a moderately compressed rate. Results indicate a relationship between organization and retention such that audience members retain more information when it is presented in a narrative style and when it is presented at a normal presentation rate. Practically, the results suggest advantages for narrative form in the everyday practice of instructional communication.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

ID and E-Learning Links (1/12/15)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Formatting Tips for Voice Over Scripts

If we as instructional designers write scripts that are easy for voice over talent to understand, the voice over professionals we work with can record and edit those scripts faster. We’ll end up with a better end product. A few formatting guidelines can make our scripts clearer and easier to use.

This is part 2 in my series of posts on tips for creating voice over scripts.

Jill Goldman of Goldivox shared several tips with me about what she looks for in scripts from her perspective as a voice over professional.

Formatting Tips

  • Readable Font, Size, and Spacing
  • Pronunciation Guides
  • Screen Names
  • Table Format
  • Dialog Format
Photo Credit: ErnestDuffoo via Compfight cc

Readable Font, Size, and Spacing

As is a good idea for any written communication, use a clear, readable font in decent size. Jill says 12- or 14-point fonts are usually good.

I’ve worked in organizations that had specific requirements for fonts and spacing. For example, I’ve been asked to double space scripts. If your organization has standard practices, follow those guidelines; they probably work fine and are what people are accustomed to working with.

Pronunciation Guides

What elements need pronunciation guides in a script?

  • Jargon or unfamiliar words, including complicated, technical, and medical terminology
  • Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Numbers (2010: two thousand ten or twenty ten?)

Jill explains that the best pronunciation guides:

  • Type it out phonetically, with capitals on emphasized syllable
  • If possible, provide an audio link to the pronunciation of word.

Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com include pronunciations for many words in their dictionaries. You may find other sources for pronunciations as well. Jill notes, “sometimes these are not the best pronunciations, so be sure to listen first and know it’s as you want it. If the script is in English, do you want a British English pronunciation? North American? Australian? Please try to provide a link to someone reading it in the accent you’d like to have it.”

Example Pronunciation Guides

  • Vivitrol [voice over: VIH-vih-trohl. Listen here]
  • NIAAA [voice over note: Say N-I-Triple A]

Think about the regional accent of your audience as well. Jill pointed out:

If your intended audience is North American, but the script is about Australia, you may want to consider using North American pronunciations for words like “Cairn” and other Australian places. Also, if you are using slang in the script, be sure it makes sense to the intended audience. If the audience might be world-wide, you may want to leave out any slang that may not be understood by varied listeners.

Screen Names

Jill shares that it makes her life easier when the screen names are clearly marked in the script. Voice over professionals often edit their recordings into separate files for each screen. Making the divisions between screens clear and noting the screen name or number helps them keep everything straight. If you have preferences for file naming conventions, be sure to explain your system and make it match the script.

Table Format

I don’t use a table format for my scripts, but Jill explains that it can be helpful (although she doesn’t consider it necessary). This format uses one column for screen names, one for voice over copy, and one for pronunciation help.

Screen Name Script Pronunciation
Module 4 Frame 67 The oral version is known as Revia; the sustained-release version is Vivitrol. Revia: reh-VEE-uh.
Vivitrol: VIH-vih-trohl. Listen here

Dialog Format

If you’re writing dialog for multiple characters, check what format is preferred. I tend to use the character name in bold at the beginning of each line, but I worked with one individual who preferred a TV script format with the character name centered in all caps above each block of dialog. I include notes about other sounds, actions, or tone of voice inside brackets and italicized, but as long as they are clearly set apart you don’t have to follow this format exactly.

The examples below are from the video script for my Story-Based Coaching and Mentoring course. The tips for writing voice over scripts generally apply to video scripts as well, although there are some differences, such as describing actions.

Example Dialog Format 1 (Bold Character Names)

Michael: What’s the problem?

April: Well, when he pushes and wants the delivery date moved sooner again…

[Phone buzzing]

Michael: [cutting April off, looking at phone] Hang on…I just got a text message. Let me just reply to this real fast. [texting] OK, where were we?

Example Dialog Format 2 (Centered Character Names)


What’s the problem?


Well, when he pushes and wants the delivery date moved sooner again…

[Phone buzzing]


[cutting April off, looking at phone]

Hang on…I just got a text message. Let me just reply to this real fast. [texting] OK, where were we?


The main goal for formatting your scripts is making it clear. Think about how to make your scripts more readable and understandable.