Writing scripts for learning videos. What makes a conversation or scenario feel real?

We use a lot of videos in our e-learning. Sometimes they’re used to demonstrate behaviours, sometimes to set a context or bring in a leader to inspire (or at least enthuse) you. Sometimes we use a Guide to help make things relevant to your everyday reality. But whatever we do, the scripting is crucial, and it’s that which I want to focus on today.

We’ve explored before that there are two elements to normal conversation: the ‘ideational’ part, which is the hard messages, and the ‘phatic’, which is the fluff around the edges. I don’t want to get technical, but it’s always worth remembering that for a conversation to feel ‘real’, we need a mixture of the two. You can read more about these two elements if you check out the article here: (http://wp.me/p1gGpJ-dm)

When writing scripts for e-learning, we can tend to go too heavily towards the factual, resulting in encounters that sound more like a narrative through an instruction manual. This is very commonly done. It’s done because we try to squeeze the maximum possible amount of information into the minimum possible space, which is fine in text, or even with a presenter led video, but not realistic in a typically paced conversation.

The most effective use of video is where we treat it like theatre: where we are able to build empathy and understanding for each of the characters. If we don’t care about a character, then we won’t care what happens to them. I mean, it’s not Shakespeare I know, we’re not building deep empathy over time, but we are, nonetheless, relying on people engaging with our characters in a meaningful way.

The process of scripting is, in and of itself, of interest. It’s something that I find is best done with two of you, and best done ‘live’. I find that it helps to constantly read through the pieces, taking a character each, and to constantly refine the words to make it more conversational. It can also really help to involve other people in this, because (if you are anything like me) we have a tendency to make characters talk with our own voice.

I end to use phrases, softer, phatic ones, that I would use myself. I tend to make my characters talk like me, which is fine if you want a middle class white male with an English public school accent, but less good if you want anything approaching a breadth of characters. Sure, I can flex my style, but probably not as far as I should. This is where having two of you helps and, for a bigger piece, if you have the chance, it’s worth getting actors to read through it with you too.

You see, people speak in certain ways: a phrase that I would use and can say easily, someone else will stumble over. We all have different word patterns and styles that we can make sound familiar. Even simple things: if I write ‘hey, how are you doing?’ as the introduction for a character, you will pronounce it differently from me. ‘How ya doing’ is different from ‘hey, how you doin’ or ‘you good?’. They’re all interchangeable, but only if they fit with the character.

So the trick is to be aware of the different nature of different parts of the conversation. Flex your style, but involve other people and read it all out loud. And at the end, decide if it sounds like you, or if it sounds ‘real’. Scripts need more editing and tweaking than just about any other type of writing. Try to ensure you keep your style and writing partners fluid, the strength comes from diversity.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in E-Learning, Stories, Storytelling and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Writing scripts for learning videos. What makes a conversation or scenario feel real?

  1. Robin says:

    Have you got the 2 definitions of Phatic and ideational mixed up here? Isn’t phatic the fluffy social stuff? It’s the way it reads in your other blog referenced here, ‘hasn’t the weather been lovely…’
    Not being picky, but as an avid reader, i’d like to get some consistency with the integrity of what i’m reading : )

    • julianstodd says:

      Ah yes, well spotted! So much for my quality assurance processes… ‘phatic’ is the softer part and ‘ideational’ the harder elements. You know, when i wrote that i thought ‘is it right?’ but took the easy option and didn’t check. Always remember: google is your friend!

      I’ve updated the text in the article to correct it – royalties on the way to you 🙂

  2. Pingback: Reflections from IITSEC 2014 | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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