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Working with Story Arcs

Thu Sep 21, 2023

Identify the emotional shapes of your 3 favorite stories that you picked in week 2. Draw them out and annotate the key moments that create those shapes.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

'Man in Hole'

Stalker (1979)

'Which Way is Up?'

Cure (1997)

'From Bad to Worse'


Create a 3-act story spine of your favorite "What if.. " scenario. Fill it in with the beats for each of the acts, but no need to go into small details. A paragraph or a few bullet points per act would do.

What If?

'What if humans could only see in monotone vision?'


Read Nielsen's "From User to Character", select 3 quotes and write one paragraph response to each one.

“Why use descriptions of users that the reader can't engage in?”

This quote stood out to me with resounding accuracy to the majority of commercials I've seen that feature a generic, unrelatable character living in a typical two-story modern house with a happy family and dog. Without fail, regardless of the product this character always shows up and once again puts on the same performance. It may be that this is the result we end up with when creating a character who is second to the main focus, often the product or story, and fail to imagine who they are and why the character is in that scenario in the first place.

“He especially mentions the fear of being stupid as a common human trait, but not everyone is afraid of feeling stupid."

This statement reflects the flaws of using wide assumptions to guide us in our design process. If we design from our perspective on a matter relating to the user without considering that they may think differently than what we assume to be generally known, we may run into this problem of ignoring users who engage with it opposite to our expectations. This is where it may help to add more complexity to our user description and scenario to consider their motives.

“When a trait is mentioned the character immediately acts on the trait. This makes the character highly predictable and creates what is called flat characters."

This explanation of why these types of characters feel one-dimensional or uninteresting pinpoints the issue with poorly written characters. If the character only acts in predictable ways that have been brought up as part of their description, they often lack any impact. A well-rounded character, on the contrast, may be given a description but act in ways that are not always consistent with their description. People in reality often have conflicting thoughts and actions, as well, which may be why we are able to relate more when we see those conflicts.


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