Chapter 3: Page 19

Faculty Spotlight: Professor Nick Sousanis of Comics Studies at SFSU

“Storyline – a drawing activity” for a Visual Writing Process

Step 1: Scaffolding the Foundations

Serge Bloch’s delightful picture book The Big Adventure of a Little Line is a great visual introduction to the concept of lines, showing the progression of the little boy’s line as it takes on different characteristics through each page, characteristics that we can all immediately identify.

More ways to think about lines…

Kurt Vonnegut’s work helps us connect lines to stories in The Shapes of Stories. Watch the 4:36 video below.

Step 2: Time to Draw!

Having set the stage for how much we can express with the simplicity of a line, we’re now ready to draw! Make sure you all have a sheet of paper and are ready to follow along with a number of speed line-drawing activities.

In 7-10 seconds, draw a line to represent the following:

1) A happy line.

2) An angry line.

3) A strong line.

4) …

You can do as many of these as you want and solicit suggestions from students for more prompts. Then we all share the different drawings everyone has made – noticing the similarities between them and ways others approached it differently.

An additional follow up – draw your self-portrait as a line. We typically take 60 seconds, to a few minutes to think about this more complex line.

Step 3: The Personal Storyline Project

Having seen these examples and gone through the scaffolding activities, I ask students to create a “story line” of their own. Think of an arc of your life – either recent months, the past year, your time at university, path to school, or even your whole life, and make a line that represents your experiences – the ups, downs, all of it as indicated by the movement of the line. Select the time frame you wish to focus on and interpret the way of drawing and labeling it as you wish. This is typically done out of class so students have time to reflect and consider different approaches to how you want to formulate your lines.

“I am always floored by the inventiveness and meaning that pours out of students in making these.”

Professor Nick Sousanis

Step 4: Use this for other writing projects

After sharing these Personal Storyline Projects, we encourage you to think about using this strategy for other writing projects to see your reading, research, and writing process in new ways:

  • take 5 minutes to plan the “storyline” or arc of your essay before starting your research or drafting your body paragraphs.
  • metacognitively reflect on your reading, writing, and research in various stages of these processes, in visual and creative ways.
  • create a visual storyline of your essay to revise the structure and organization, and create transitions and better ‘flow’ where needed.

More from Nick Sousanis:

*See Professor Sousanis’ full Storyline Activity HERE.

*and next, Grids and Gestures Lesson/Challenge HERE.

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