Storytelling Renaissance--April Theme

by Naomi Kinsman

When the concept of book trailers first appeared on the scene, I didn't know quite what to think. The line between book and movie had already begun to blur. My author friends spoke of "the movie deal" as though it were the ultimate proof of a book's success. I remember frowning at my screen watching a trailer and saying, "But it's NOT a movie. It's a book!" For me, one of the major problems with trailers was the issue I have with all books-turned-movie, that the characters became that particular actor in my mind rather than me playing the part. I'm an actor first, writer second, so this may be an issue specific to my circumstances. But when I'm reading a book, I slip into the character's skin and see how I would play that part. I become the character--and as a writer, this transformation is what I aim to make happen for my readers. After I've enjoyed a book, I have no problem watching the movie and seeing how someone else might do the role. But the first time through, I want to see myself in those shoes. I want my readers to have that same experience with my books.

I resisted trailers because I felt making the characters so concrete in a reader's mind was a huge artistic sacrifice to make for what I felt was a marketing gimmick. Fast forward a few years to when the line between digital and book was starting to blur. Now, much of my highest level brainstorming was about medium. What medium is best for a particular story? Stage production? Movie? Book? Audio Book? App? Might a story be constructed differently if it were going to be a book-movie hybrid? These are fascinating questions to ponder, and as I opened myself to these new questions, the concept of book trailers came back around.

I took Katie Davis' fantastic Video Idiot Boot Camp and a brand new landscape of storytelling opened up for me. So many new apps have been created recently to help small business people and others who want to create stories via video. Some of my new favorites are PowToon, which uses simple animation to help tell stories and VideoScribe, which creates an animated whiteboard style of video. Of course, there are also the more traditional forms of video to consider, as well. I realized how small-minded I was being about the concept of "trailer." If I didn't want to put my characters out there in video form, fine. But ignoring video as a storytelling tool? Foolish.

As writers, these days, we need to engage in the online conversation. Video is a key way to do that. Video requires a new set of skills so it's definitely a learning curve. However, it's a worthwhile one. Even if a writer doesn't film or edit one's own material, we learn to storyboard and plan out the pacing, content and yes, story, of our trailer or other video. This realization created my aha! moment. Film is yet another tool for telling stories. A spectacular one, actually. Learning to use film does not only provide another storytelling skill set, it gives me a new way to think about stories. New angles are the best way, in my opinion, to see a story with fresh eyes and to bypass those pesky creative blocks.

I'm thrilled about the new surge of energy and creativity that's come along with my video renaissance. I haven't yet made a book trailer, but I have been exploring the world of possibilities video opens for me. I'm sure I will be able now, to conceptualize and create a trailer that showcases my books using my own artistic voice, maybe not using characters... and that's okay. Just because I'm using a tool (in this case, video) doesn't mean I have to use it the way someone else might. That's the fun of a storytelling medium. Each artist plays in that landscape in their own way.

For writers who are hesitating about trailers, I encourage you to explore the many, many options video presents. For librarians and educators working with young readers and writers, I hope you'll explore with your students, too. Video brings up excellent questions of pacing (through editing), tone (through music), action, dialogue and much, much more. It's a fantastic doorway through which to see stories with fresh eyes and learn essential storytelling skills, regardless of the ultimate medium an artist chooses to use.

photo credit: Loopsta via photopin cc


  1. If you want more information on using video, Katie Davis is hosting a webinar on April 15:

  2. Thanks for sharing your changing point of view on videos/trailers, Naomi. I'm looking forward to seeing where it leads you!

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and both of those sources! Students and teachers are using more and more digital storytelling tools, too...a new way to tell stories for sure.

  4. Thanks, Tamera and Deb! I'm definitely enjoying the journey.

  5. MAN, I love this: "Each artist plays in that landscape in their own way."

  6. Wonderful post, Naomi! I made a note to go back to it when I'm sweating my next book trailer!


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