Ten Principles of Narrative Design

  1. Narratives communicate meaning.

  2. Writing, images, videos, objects, colors, strategies, experiences, opinions, fears, hopes, histories, identities—all contain narratives. Consider all means when designing a narrative.

  3. Emotion, memory, knowledge, wisdom, empathy, and self-identification are narrative tools useful in every media.

  4. Meaningful designs, written or visual, begin with meaningful inquiry.

  5. Implicit structures—subject/object relationships, bias, oversights, semiotics, rhetoric—will make or break your design.

  6. Writing is essentially a subtractive art. Excess weakens. Editing strengthens. Get it all down first, then cut.

  7. Ask “Who benefits?” and “Who is exploited?” Know who you write for and why.

  8. Observe, listen, research, test, analyze.

  9. Silences are as meaningful as words. Consider negative space, rhythmic pause, and what you leave out by choice, oversight, or accident.

  10. Design to sustain focus. People will read exactly as long as a narrative sustains their attention.