Rance Greene’s new book, Instructional Story Design: Develop Stories that Train, provides a systematic process for creating stories for training. Even if you don’t consider yourself a storyteller, you can create stories to support learning with this book.
The best stories show rather than tell. Rance follows his own advice by starting every chapter with an example story. Dayna, an instructional designer, must incorporate a story into compliance training. She’s never done anything like that before. Fortunately, she has a friend who guides her through the storytelling process. You learn alongside Dayna through her conversations with her mentor and her examples at each step along the way.
The craft of writing stories
My favorite section of this book is Part II: Design. These 3 chapters show the process of writing the story.
- 5. Develop Relatable Characters
- 6. Create Action and Conflict
- 7. Build the Story
I think that our industry as a whole doesn’t focus enough on good writing. It’s not included in most master’s or certification programs. It’s such an important skill though. That’s why I loved this section of the book so much: it focuses on the craft of writing compelling stories.
Rance has narrowed the focus of storytelling to two critical elements: relatable characters and their action or conflict. The book doesn’t expect you to master the hero’s journey or to juggle a bunch of other elements of creating a narrative. You’re not writing an award-winning novel, so you don’t need all the tips you might find elsewhere. Instead, you stay focused on what’s truly critical.
Good writing involves a lot of revision and rewriting. The examples show that process. Dayna starts by writing a very weak story, and then she iteratively improves it based on specific suggestions. This kind of example is so helpful, especially for anyone who hasn’t had much explicit training in writing stories.
Develop in any tool
This book is tool-agnostic. Rance discusses the pros and cons of different multimedia treatments, but the book doesn’t rely on any particular elearning tool. After you design and write your story, you can develop it in whatever tool you have available.
Part III: Deliver includes examples of a single story built with several different treatments. You have the opportunity to compare visuals and styles, as well as to see how the content can be delivered in different ways.
Worksheets and more
At the end of the book is a complete collection of worksheets and guides. These worksheets are referenced and explained throughout the book. Each section also includes practice activities to apply what you’re learning by using these worksheets with a sample scenario. Review the completed story design plan to see how the worksheets can be used together as a cohesive whole.