Got a good clinical story to tell? Or are you staring at a blank piece of paper with writer’s block? Either way, here’s some expert advice from Emma Coats, a Pixar storyboard artist:

  1. "What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there."
  2. "You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be very different."
  3. "Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about until you're at the end of it. Now rewrite."
  4. "Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard. Get yours working up front."
How can you use these nuggets of wisdom while creating your DecisionSim simulation? Before developing anything online, take a few minutes to write a story abstract. This can be a simple paragraph that outlines the five elements of story: characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution. This will give you the essence of your story. Then check for two things: will the story develop the right skills and will learners find the story interesting?

Once you’ve got a compelling story that is aligned with your learning goals, elaborate on that story by determining the ideal path. Try following Emma Coats' advice by identifying the ending first. That is, if the optimal decisions are made for this patient, what would be the outcome? Then, work your way backwards and identify the decision points that would lead up to that optimal outcome. Create a flowchart of this ideal path. You can do this with pen and paper, with a mind-mapping tool, or in DecisionSim itself.

Once you have your ideal path identified, it’s time to create the alternate paths. To do this, ask yourself what would happen if learners made choices that were less than optimal. What are the consequences of those decisions? Add these alternate paths to your flow chart. Will there be different endpoints? Or will you loop learners back to the ideal path?

By answering these questions, you will have a flowchart of your story. As Emma Coats indicated, you’ll know your story a lot better at the end of this process than you did at the beginning. So, you may need to adjust that flowchart as your story unfolds. Once you’ve got the flowchart articulated, be sure to run it by key stakeholders, such as your subject matter experts and your learners. Taking a little time up front to evaluate your design work, will help ensure a more effective simulation at the end.

To learn more, see 22 Rules of Storytelling