Telling your story

Storytelling is key when moving into a digital space. You don’t want to be part of the noise that is filling the digital sphere. People need to quickly get what you’re about, what to expect, and what the promise is that you’re delivering to them. When you are creating a digital story, ask why you want it to be told in 180/360, animated VR, AR or having it streamed. Make sure you use the chosen medium to its fullest.

What is storytelling and why is it important?

Interview with Dr Alison Norrington, storytelling expert, Founder & Creative Director at storycentral Ltd. Transcription of Storytelling – Why is it important (txt).

Your why and theme

Listen to Dr. Alison Norrington (storytelling expert) talk about the importance of storytelling in digital performances. Transcription of Your why and theme (txt).

There’s a responsibility in going digital and you will need to know your WHY – why do you want to go digital. What makes you different from other digital experiences? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want to tell this particular story?
  • What is the core theme that I will be exploring?
  • How would I like to interact with my audience, and what is success for me?
    For example, will ‘going digital’ widen your audience demographic, will it extend the window that your performance is available for the world to see, are you exploring a new artistic idea, or are you going digital to start to build a loyal community of fans?

Separate the core theme from yourself. Once you have the theme, the other design elements will be easier to work with. It will also give you a compass to check all your decisions against. 

Remember who you are creating for

When creating a digital art experience, you need to remember that you are designing it for other people. Make sure there is no disconnect between who the audience is, and what the creation is.

Communicate with your audience

You can communicate with your audience in different ways. You can invite them into your world and have them discover, play and experience it, but not be able to change anything. Another way is to welcome them into the digital realm and let them add to it, remix it, build on it and collaborate with others. Find the way that suits your creation the best.

Photo: Dainius Putinas for Lithuanian Dance Information Centre.

Things to consider in storytelling

Interview with Dr Alison Norrington, storytelling expert, Founder & Creative Director at storycentral Ltd. Transcript of Storytelling – 5 things to consider (txt).

Preparing the audience

Prepare the audience for your story, and experience, by creating a pre-setting that reflects your story or theme. Once they are in your story, provide the viewer an establishing shot to give them a sense of where they are and what is happening in the scene.

Story arc

Great stories are based on a structure. With the story arc, you have a line that follows your story from start to end. That line can curve up to be a rise, down to be a fall, a fall-to-rise, rise-to-fall, rise-fall-rise, fall-rise-fall. There is also the classic story arc – one that consists of five elements: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Consider the arc that you want to use.

Get the audience invested

With an inciting incident, the viewer or the main character is spurred into action, and the audience will be brought into the story. You then have to get them emotionally invested in your story. You can stir their curiosity and empathy, create tension, excitement, motivation, a sense of wonder, fear etc. Do something that makes them want to stay in your experience.

After the experience

Decide how you want the audience to feel at the end, and when they leave you experience.

5 tips for storytelling:
  • Know your platform and use it for the strengths that it offers.
  • Know your audience, and go to where they are.
  • Understand pace, timing and duration. Make it digestible.
  • Understand the overarching experience of your story.
  • Be clear on the experience you want to deliver to your audience.

Working with experts from other sectors

As a performing artist you know your craft better than anyone – the pacing, timing, rhythm and energy of engagement with a live audience. Those harmonies, symphonies are hugely important to an expert – as it will help them work with you and hit the ground running more quickly. You and your experience are integral in building your digital/online brand. An expert in virtual reality, filmed, live or semi-scripted entertainment, will know how to help you leverage your unique artistic brand and storytelling to another level. So, make sure that your goals and expectations are crystal clear from the get-go. Make sure to really hear each other out, see to it that you have a common vocabulary and that you respect the respective areas of expertise.

Common mistakes in storytelling

Interview with Dr Alison Norrington, storytelling expert, Founder & Creative Director at storycentral Ltd. Transcription of Storytelling – common mistakes (txt).

Diving deeper into the subject of storytelling

If you would like to understand storytelling on a deeper level Alisons says: “Check out what companies that are producing ground-breaking immersive theater are doing, also check out the principles of experience design and storytelling – as they’re going to be intrinsic in design-thinking around your performance experience.”

Recommended books by Alison

  • Evil by Design, (Interaction Design) by Chris Nodder
  • Seductive Interaction Design – creating playful, fun and effective user experiences by Stephen Anderson
  • Little Bets by Peter Sims.

Download the Checklist for storytelling (pdf)
Download the Terminology sheet for storytelling (pdf)


Alison Norrington Founder and Creative Director of storycentral. Alison is a writer, strategist and helps create stories and experiences worldwide. She has over 25 years’ experience in professional storytelling and entertainment working with working with such companies as Walt Disney Imagineering, SundanceTV/AMC Networks, CBS Interactive, Coca Cola, XBox (Microsoft), Schleich GmbH, FOX International, Penguin, Harlequin Mills & Boon, F&W Media, Eurovision Broadcasting Union, Cedars Sinai Medical Centre and is a member of the International Academy for Arts & Sciences of TV, Writers Guild of Great Britain, Women in Film & TV, Romantic Novelists Association and a featured member of the BAFTA Guru Series.

Alison runs a 12-module program called ‘Supersize Your Story’ which walks creatives through the process of their WHY, identifying their audience, mapping their experience and story and offers insights into distribution opportunities and commercializing/monetizing your project. It’s all about storytelling, experience design and emotional design