Grisham-esque narrative in a course... ideas for design?

I am hoping I can draw on some ideas from you fantastic folks!

The author of our online continuing education courses has started incorporating his dream of authoring a novel into the course content. He's developed a character who is a verteran claims adjuster and he incorporates a Grisham-esque story into the course. So we will have a bit of story, then go into the material, and kind of flip back and forth.

We are taking this course from being totally text-based in an very old LMS that pulls from word documents as source files to being an interactive course. The problem is trying to figure out how to tell the story... I've looked at all the transparent photographic characters I could find to try to nail down one of them to represent this guy. But the author just doesn't really like any of them. So I can't really use a visual of a person to represent him during the story-telling moments. I'm trying to come up with some other interesting way of displaying those portions of the course.

Any cool ideas out there?

11 Replies
Bruce Graham

Hi April,

Why not go to one of the sites such as fiver.com, and get a few ideas for an illustrated character out of the "Graphics and Design" section?

You might want to get some ideas from the author of what he DOES want?

iStock have an interesting characters lightbox running at the moment which may provide you/then with some ideas.

You could get some very minimal drawings (cheaper!) created.

Hope that's useful.

Bruce

April Hilbert

Thanks for the suggestions.

He's really particular about this character. He has this image in his head but can't really articulate (haha) it. He'd almost rather this character not have a face so that people can create their own image in their mind as you would do when reading a novel.

So, with that said, I've considered the silhouette idea, but I'm not sure how I feel about that... seems kind of boring.

I'm also considering just a layout that looks like a book for those parts of the course. But it kind of stinks to not have any images, at the same time...

April Hilbert

Dawn, that's a good idea. I kind of like the old-school typewriter idea. I'm not sure how to use animations to pull it off (I'm totally self-taught on all of this stuff and learning as I go!) but that idea/design might be interesting....

I'm going to mull this one over! Any other ideas still totally welcome and appreciated!

P.S. You guys are awesome... I love this community.

Dawn Russ

You wouldn't have to worry about animating the hands typing, you could show hands on the keys, but then zoom into the the type/paper and animate just that with the paper moving up. Still, not a super easy graphic. MS clipart has good typewriter image: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=typewriter&ex=2#ai:MP900289913 . You'd have to use two images of the typewriter with the roller bar being cropped on the top image so you can order the images with your paper in between. Then animate the text typing and paper moving up. Still pretty complicated. Maybe someone has this type (pun intended) of animation already built? Good luck with your project.

Jerson  Campos

Can you at least provide a couple of samples of what you mean by Grisham-esque?

What came to my mind where the old fashioned storybook animation I used watch as a kid. You know where the whole character would move (but not indivitual limbs) and somebody would narrate it. Think of Curious George on TV.  I'm don't know if this was the direction you were planning to go with.  There are several tools that would make this a breeze (if you know how to use them) Flash, Anime Studio, Toon Boom, and Adobe Edge (which is free if you have a Adobe ID). A good understanding of animation basics is required.

If you are looking for something specific as far as looks, you could get something that comes close and then make some modification. If not then you will have to create it yourself. If that isn't an option, you could outsource the work. If you would like to go this route, message me with what you are looking for you and I'll reply with a bid.

Here are a few examples I found on youtube that come close to what I was thinking about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=pfxf_iwS4Nc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=wKnfFyOEkNs#t=187s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Sj3HHEpxYP4#t=42s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=1MvNF4502EM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=cgk53xx902Y

Holly MacDonald

April -

It sounds like you are trying to maintain first person perspective with this character, some ideas to consider:

  1. Maybe you can show the back of an image (back of a head type of thing), if you can't find an image that resonates.
  2. Are you using audio? The right voice might be a way to convey character, like old radio shows...
  3. Create a persona out of the character to flesh him out a bit more, you may discover ways of adding character without a picture of a character. What does he like? What phrases does he use? What does he do in an average day? What are his goals? Here's some ideas on persona writing: http://www.usability.gov/methods/analyze_current/personas.html 

Hope that gives you something else to chew on.

Sounds like a fun project!

Holly

April Hilbert

What I mean by Grisham-esque is the style of writing... the main character is a veteran insurance claims adjuster. The "feel" of him would be in his 50's but very rugged and handsome... a ladies man. In fact, in one of the other courses the author has even started developing a little romance between the character and a receptionist.

Cartoon-style really wouldn't work. It has to have a more serious feel to it. So far I am leaning towards the type-writer idea or something along those lines... maybe having one of the photographic characters who is the narrator and kind of go into the author's mind... something along those lines. The only problem I see with the typewriter is that it gives it an old-fashioned feel, when the story takes place in current times (or this particular one actually during Hurricane Katrina.)

Here's a short excerpt from the opening narrative... this is opening with an insured who is riding out Katrina. The story continues in this type of writing style...

"Looking again at the roof across the street, the sheathing had now torn up all across the south side of the building to the awning that covered the front entrance.  The separated roof and awning appeared to be hanging together like a great sheet blowing in the wind -- and then a great screeching sound erupted from across the street as the sheathing separated from the building -- headed straight for him.  He turned and ran as fast as he could, scattering table and chairs as he made his way to the back of the restaurant.

The rooftop and awning from the bicycle shop crashed headlong into the front of the building, exploding both bay windows and send shards of glass throughout the interior.  Flying glass pelted his back as he threw himself into the hallway that led to the dance hall and bandstand.  Gale force winds now cut throughout the restaurant, exploding the side windows outward.  Napkin holders, condiment bottles and knick knacks flew through the air like missiles, smashing into mirrors and walls.  Something struck him in the back just as he crossed the dance floor, sending him sprawling onto the bandstand.  Dazed, he rose to his knees and crawled into a closet at the rear of the building as the maelstrom began to tear the restaurant apart from the inside out.

The roar of the wind was now constant, and he recalled those who had experienced tornados describing the sound as a train.  “No train was ever this loud,” he muttered to himself as he pressed himself further into the back of the closet.  No, he mused.  He was sitting inside dual jet engines that racing across the skies at hundreds of miles per hour.  He held out his shaking hands…and then buried his face in them as he said a silent prayer to whoever might be listening."

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Holly MacDonald said:

April -

It sounds like you are trying to maintain first person perspective with this character, some ideas to consider:

  1. Maybe you can show the back of an image (back of a head type of thing), if you can't find an image that resonates.
  2. Are you using audio? The right voice might be a way to convey character, like old radio shows...
  3. Create a persona out of the character to flesh him out a bit more, you may discover ways of adding character without a picture of a character. What does he like? What phrases does he use? What does he do in an average day? What are his goals? Here's some ideas on persona writing: http://www.usability.gov/methods/analyze_current/personas.html 

Hope that gives you something else to chew on.

Sounds like a fun project!

Holly


Thanks for the link on persona writing on a non-thread related note. There's my bedtime reading.