Mapping out critical moments and turning points

Activity: Drawing Out Critical Moments w/ Moment Maps

One activity we have used to help people think about the story they want to share digitally involves an activity we call “moment mapping.”

During the moment mapping process, participants are asked to think about critical moments in their lives, and then to “map out” or creatively represent those moments on paper. Afterwards, everyone presents to the group their map and tells the story of their moments.

We find that this activity is helpful because it gives people a chance to think not only critically about a particular story, but orally, as they think of how they will tell the story, and visually, setting them up to think about how they will aesthetically represent their story in digital form.

Moment Map Tools:

  • sketch pad paper
  • art supplies (pencils, pens, crayons, markers, paints and brushes, construction paper, glue, wire, scissors, magazines [for cutting out images], pipe cleaners, etc.)
  • tape (to hang maps on the wall)

As a way to get people thinking about possible story ideas, we use this exercise to focus in on time periods in their life that became defining moments for them. Usually, the events, people involved, or eventual outcomes from these moments end up being part of a larger story that can be developed and turned into a digital story.

This activity starts off in a group setting, where participants are asked: “What have been critical moments in your life?” Follow up questions to emphasize the critical moment aspect of this exercise can include “What moments in your life helped to define who you are?” or “Which moments in your life do you think have been important in forming who you are?”

Participants are given a few minutes to think and reflect about these moments quietly. It is important to emphasize that this question is open for interpretation in any number of ways, since everybody has unique experiences, and that they have the freedom to think about and answer the question however they see fit.

After the quiet reflection time, each participant is presented with their own piece of sketch pad paper which they will use to create their moment map.

Using the art supply materials, the participants are given 20-30 minutes of time alone to artistically represent those moments in whichever way they see fit. Again, openness and creativity are stressed in this process – they can draw, paste images, or use clay and pipe cleaners to give texture to the story of their critical moments.

Once the creative process is complete, participants are asked to tape their moment maps onto the wall of a large room as a way to create a gallery of maps.

When everyone has completed their map, and all the pieces have been placed on the wall, the group travels from piece to piece to listen to each person tell the story of their critical moments. As members of the group listen to each story, they are encouraged to ask questions of the presenter as a way to draw out and develop the story.

Source: Digital writing 101


A Few Memoir Prompts


–Allison K Williams

Memories, memories! Help me get started!

Here are some ideas on excavating your memory for new material.

• Your first day of school.
Buffy tails. A navy-blue sailor dress. Matching navy leotards that made me itch. “Buster Brown” shoes I was not to scuff on pain of death. A hand-made, purple corduroy book bag, my name stitched on it in squiggly yellow ribbon. Mom took my picture in front of our house in Winnipeg with a film camera that sported a flash cube. This is what I remember of my very first day of school. I was terrified. What do you remember about your first day of school? Where were you living? What did you wear? How did you feel?

• Mine a grudge.
You must grudge to write memoir. If things had turned out exactly right, as your due, there would be no story to tell. You must know that you grudge, and that here, unlike your diary, you are probably not a hero (If you are a hero, let someone else write you). You earn the right to write the pettiness, the silliness, the nasty selfishness of others, as you write your own.

Recall a time you felt disrespected, passed over, unappreciated, or “less than.” Now write a story, poem, or bit of flash non-fiction about it.

• It was the best of times.
Write about your best day, ever. What about that day makes it a happy memory for you? Leave no awesome detail behind.

• It was the worst of times.
If you feel like you’re in a strong enough place, write about your worst day, ever. What made it so horrible? How did it change you for the better? For worse? How have the events of that day changed or influenced your perspective?

• “I remember…”
The timed writing exercise. If you’re feeling a bit free-form and not sure which memory to reflect on, let your subconscious be your guide. Set a timer for a minimum of five minutes. Write I remember at the top of your page or screen and… just write. You might write fifteen sentences that each begin with “I remember,” or, you might write of one or two memories during that time. Try not to judge, just allow your fingers to type, or your hand to write.

• Go meta-memory.
If you’re not ready or inspired to write about a specific memory, write about the quality of your memories in general. Are they shape-shifting and ethereal, constantly evolving in your mind as their molecules merge and dissolve or, are they brilliant, detailed, and in sharp-focus?

• A memory of your choice.
Many regular readers, (I’m looking at you, @LittleMissMenopause, @Bumblepuppies, and @Philosophermouseofthehedge) often come up with their own fantastic, creative twists to the weekly writing challenge. Choose the memory you will write about and the way in which you’ll share it, be it a haiku, a prose poem, a stream-of-consciousness piece, a bit of flash non-fiction or a story. (Be sure to check out the comments on this challenge throughout the week for twists that readers suggest! One of their ideas may become the germ of your next great piece.)

Source: Digital writing 101

Story prompts from life stages

Re-posted from:

Welcome To Episode Seven of Create Your Life Story

So you want to talk to someone or you want to record yourself, but what are you going to talk about? Sure it’s a conversation and we have conversations all the time so how hard can it be. In the shower and driving in the car you think of a constant stream of subjects to talk about. You remember the time you broke your collar bone or the time Dad came home rolling drunk, the birth of your children and the passing of your parents, your excitement of heading off to university and that stunning holiday in Europe. Oh, and all those special loves and adventures not to mention the achievements in business and work.

Then you turn on the microphone and recorder and you say… Nothing. All you have is a void, all of a sudden, those subjects are gone, vaporised… funny that!

Having something to talk about is the single greatest fear and subject that concerns people when it comes to creating a Life Story. Either it’s “I don’t have anything worth mentioning” or “I don’t know where to start”. Either way, here is a start and something to talk about to help you on the way.

Rather than you having an endless list of questions to ask here is a list of prompts to get you thinking. Read through this list and think of the times, situations and people that pop into your memory. Carry a notebook and as ideas appear to you write those ideas down to work on later. Ideas will come to mind as you travel somewhere, hang up the washing or walk to get lunch, any and everywhere.

In the first instance just write down quick notes of the times, people and events that you want to talk or ask about. These are just memory grabs to remind you for when you get a moment to return. Then when you have time pull out your notes and flush them out into a more useful form to use when actually recording.

Here are some general ideas of time and situation in the average life to get you started….


* Where, times, culture, climate
* Toys, games and playing
* Celebrations, birthdays, Christmas and gatherings
* Hobbies, activities, chores, clubs and groups
* Good and bad times
* School, education, talents and skills
* Illnesses, hospital, dentist and accidents
* Parents and Grandparents
* Changes form today for children


* Friends and social groups
* School, activities, social, academic
* Work at home, volunteering, paid
* Family and other holidays trips
* Relationships with parents, siblings, relatives and friends

Early Adulthood

* Additional education or training
* Work, people, friends and skills
* Dating, Intimate relationships and love, who, what, where and how
* Meeting partner, marrying and settling
* Family life and relationships

Turn the question, person or subject into a leading question to provokes a response, then create a response to answers that question as a statement. This is all outlined with an example in the previous episode. Now you have a chain of events that has evolved from:

* a general idea
* to a specific time/situation/place in life
* to a question of that time/situation/place
* to a statement in response to the question

Action Summary

1. Read through the list of prompt subjects
2. Carry a notebook to write new ideas that come up away from the main list
3. Write down specific situations, people and events that come to mind
4. Generate conversational prompts to lead into the conversation from your specific situations
5. Start recording

Source: Digital writing 101

A variety of prompts for CDS-style digital storytelling

ABOUT THIS PROMPT: The prompts below are from Joe Lambert’s book, Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community, with some modifications to adapt them to a handout. Lambert is a founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling and author of the Digital Storytelling Cookbook (PDF), which serves as a guide to creating your own digital stories.

For more prompts, view other posts in the same category of RESOURCES: Storytelling Prompts

Tell a story about a time when you were given permission to express yourself through your own creativity. Bring us to the moment of awareness that you felt supported to fully explore your creative voice.

Write a story about a creative process gone wrong: a meal, a hobby or craft project, a community campaign, an event or production.

Try to take us to the moment of realization that things didn’t quite turn out as planned.

Every one of us has a moment before the big change – a low before the high, a setback before an accomplishment, a loneliness before the connection, a bad day at work before the perfect vacation.

Thinking back on one of the developmental shifts in your life, share a story about a moment of darkness before the light.

In our lives, there are moments, decisive moments, when the direction of our lives was pointed in a given direction, and because of the events of this moment, we are going in another direction. Poet Robert Frost shared this concept simply as The Road Not Taken. The date of a major achievement, the time there was a particularly bad setback, meeting a special person, the birth of a child, the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one are all examples of these fork-in-the-road experiences. Right now, at this second, write about a decisive moment in your life.

There are images we take from childhood, snapshots of ourselves as a fully formed character. Sometimes, even at the smallest age, we knew we were destined to be ourselves. Share a story of the child you were, and where that child still resides in who you have become

We all have stories about the surprises of our bodies, tests where our body has somehow survived…times when our bodies disappointed.

Endurance, frailty, strength, limits, beauty, shame – these are all words we associate with stories we tell about our bodies. Share a moment when your body taught you a lesson.

All of us have scars – small ones from the scrapes along the road, large ones from the major bumps and spills. Some we can wear as badges of survival, some are not visible and are beneath our skin, beneath the surface, but have left their mark all the same. Share a story about a scar.

The Fictive in literature, poetry, film, and theater are stories that present a reality that could have been, and a truth that is often more clarifying that the the real events. We are often changed by the fictional stories we have experienced.

Tell a story about the moment a fictional narrative – book, movie, theater, etc. – changed you.

In our lives, we see moments where our old stories inform our new ones; a childhood fascination with snails, our love of baseball heroes, or our getting lost in academia in college become the way we come back to nature with our children, become the way we make sense of our need for heroes, become our renewed appreciation of the joy of discovery through hard messy learning.

Tell a story about re-discovering an earlier enthusiasm. It could be a old favorite subject or topic, a childhood hobby, a place of adventure.

Choose a time in your life of emotional upheaval and change. Write about an event at that time that reflected the inverse of the feelings of loss, confusion, or despair; where you observed something, heard something, read something, or did something that provided a glimpse of contrasting light against the darkness. Take us into this moment of possibility.

We all have moments when we have been called from our ordinary existence to wander into the lower world and explore the depths. Share a story of your call, where it took you, and what you learned.

Implicit in the return from the underworld is a sense of self that is capable of new insight. Sometimes that is a sense of understanding that which was not possible before. Share a story of a moment when you brought the boon of forgiveness back to share with someone in the world.

Source: Digitalwriting101

Reflecting on moments and memories

ABOUT THIS PROMPT: This page compiles together a variety of prompts I’ve used in previous classes, most of which fall under the category of “moments” or “memories.”Many of the sample student projects from my Storytelling Through New Media class were inspired by these prompts.


Pick one of the prompts below and brainstorm a response in your private journal. Use whatever approach to brainstorming works best for you: free writing, making lists, sketching ideas, etc.


In our lives, there are moments, decisive moments, when the direction of our lives was pointed in a given direction, and because of the events of this moment, we are going in another direction. Poet Robert Frost shared this concept simply as The Road Not Taken. The date of a major achievement, the time there was a particularly bad setback, meeting a special person, the birth of a child, the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one are all examples of these fork-in-the-road experiences.

Right now, at this second, write about a decisive moment in your life.

— Joe Lambert, Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community

A DECISION: A small decision that turned out to make a big impact in some area of your life.
What led up to the decision? What made you choose the option you did? How has that decision made a big impact in your life?

AN EPIPHANY: A moment when you had an epiphany (a sudden understanding of something previously murky to you).
What led up to the epiphany? What did you finally understand? How has that understanding influenced you?

A FRUSTRATION: A time in your life that you felt really frustrated about something (a relationship, an activity, etc.).
What led up to that frustration? How did the frustration impact you and those around you? How did you resolve it?

More Moment Prompts

  • A time when things in your life were not going so well and you felt really scared.
  • A time in your life when things worked out much differently than you expected.
  • A moment in time when you knew you would never be the same again.
  • A choice you made in the past that set you on the path to who you are now
  • A moment in your past you wish you had the chance to do over, in light of what you know now
  • A lesson you learned the hard way
  • A moment when you felt different from everyone around you
  • A turning point moment when your beliefs about some aspect of your identity started to change


OBJECT: An object in your living space that has personal significance to you.

Why is the object significant? What does it reveal about who you are and the story of your life thus far?

OBSTACLE: An obstacle you’ve overcome on your path towards a goal.

What led up to the obstacle? How did it interfere with your goal? How did you overcome the obstacle?

FIRSTS: A first love, first day on a job, first time trying something really difficult, the first time you read a favorite book, heard a favorite song, saw a favorite movie, etc.

What did you feel going into your “first,” and did the experience meet your expectations? What did you learn from the experience?


For more prompts that fit into the moments and memories cateogry, take a look at these memoir prompts from the daily writing challenge blog as well as this collection of prompts from the Center for Digital Storytelling.


Look through the moments and memories you came up with and take a moment to journal about: Which might work better for a story conveyed primarily through words? Which might work better for a story conveyed on the screen, using cinematic strategies? Would any of them be well-suited to the graphic memoir format?

Source: Digital Writing 101

Using images to prompt creative reflection

ABOUT THIS PROMPT: I have no idea where I got this one from, but I’ve modified it slightly for readability. Many apologies to the original source!

Some people are more creative in a visual mode, so another way is to find an image that moves, inspires, disturbs, or affects you, and build a story around the image. For example, if you found images of the following (perhaps on the Flickr Creative Commons collection), you might brainstorm emotions associated with the image.

Sunrise- a time to re-energize, start over…
Road – a theme of travel, movement, going somewhere
Traffic accident – devastation, loss of hope, travesty
Elderly person – someone special in your life

Once you’ve found a photo that you like, brainstorm answers to this list of questions:

* What’s happening right now in this image? What happened 10 minutes before the picture what taken? What might happen next?
* What do you know about the people in the picture? If there aren’t people there, where might they be?
* Create a list of adjectives to describe what you’d see, feel, smell, touch, or taste if you were IN the picture.

Any story you develop in response to an image you find on the web will fall into the realm of fiction, so this is a good warm up activity before you apply a similar process to your own photos.

Source: DigitalWriting101



I’ll start by thanking God,    and @beewol too because without them I swear I would never have pulled this off. Yesss, I did say I would never participate in anything related to blogs but who am I to turn down such a challenge? (Is what Besigye should have said when he was asked why he was standing again).  Also, it’s free (at least for now) and we all know how Ugandans have a thing for free stuff.

Anyway, when I first heard about blogging (from my aunty KYOMUHENDO GORETTI), to me it was just one of those things for intelligent people because everyone that was doing it then to me was intelligent. For those that don’t know her, Kyomuhendo Goretti is a Ugandan novelist recognized for her “internationally renowned novels” such as (The first daughter, secrets no more….) and also founder…

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