Visual Narrative Assignment

 ENGL 3084 Visual Narrative Assignment

The assignment description here should only be used as a reference.

Please refer directly to the assignment presented in class for details on the requirements for a particular section or semester.

The Task at Hand

Write an essay, photoshow, movie, or other multimedia composition (no PowerPoint) that archives a particular place and time in your history or a particular event or issue that has (and should have) significance to us. Use both photos and text to create meaning and convey your overall purpose. Don’t be afraid to learn how to use new technologies. Make sure you give yourself adequate “play time” to experiment in low-stakes scenarios before beginning a major project for this course.

Narrative means your story will have a first-person narrator and should be true. Your story should serve as an extended feature on your blog, which means it should somehow relate to the blog’s overarching theme. For example, if I am writing about the culture of folk music festivals in Colorado, I might write a Visual Narrative that describes my own experiences with festivals I attended and what they meant to me at various points in my life. I would use a combination of words, images, and videos to connect with my audience and covey my message.



The visual narrative will give you the opportunity to use visuals as both an invention tool and a medium of expression and communication. Many of us are working (or will be working) in environments that require visual literacy—the ability to critically read and produce texts that include visuals. This essay will help us gain expertise in that area. Also, some of us use visuals (more than words) to make sense of and interact with our environment. Thus, with this assignment, we can become more aware of our assumptions surrounding certain images and the ways we create beliefs and meaning from those assumptions. Plus, composing this essay should offer us some playful opportunities to change the way many of us usually go about thinking and writing about issues or events.


Length Requirements

There is no strict ratio for the number of photos to the amount of text; however, the photographs should play a dominant role in the essay’s mood and should be carefully chosen and positioned. The visual narrative should include about five photographs and about 500 words. You will not be penalized for exceeding that word count on your final draft, but attempt to be concise.  Make sure all of your words serve a purpose. You may even be able to tell the story with fewer words if you select photos that evoke emotion and tell the story for you. You’ll want to keep the scope of the narrative very tight.

The class is the audience unless you specify otherwise. You will be publishing this piece on your blog, so please select subject matter that you are comfortable sharing with a wider audience. In some cases, I may approve requests to password protect your blogged visual narratives so that only our class and people of your choice can view them. Controlled access changes the rhetorical situation considerably.

Evaluation Criteria

In order for you to receive an “A” on this assignment, you should make sure that your photographs do more than simply illustrate what the text already says. The textual style should be appropriate to the content and purpose of the piece.

We will look at several examples of visual narratives in class together, and I hope you find models of your own and share them with the class. I will also be providing you with multiple student samples to analyze. I want you to think carefully about the placement of photographs and the modifications you make to them to evoke mood.

Your photographs must adhere to copyright and fair use laws. That means the photos you use should either be taken by you or a family member, should be filed under an appropriate Creative Commons License, or that you can justify the use of copyrighted material deliberately by referencing the fair use doctrine. We will learn how to find copyright-flexible media this term.


Grading Criteria:Visual Structure & Use of Photographs: 20%

  1. Visual structure / layout and design is effective for the audience, message, and purpose of this piece.
  2. Use of Photographs. Projects should be in first person and include a minimum of five images that add meaning and mood to the story. These images shouldn’t simply echo what the text is already saying. You select images that you took or that have flexible licenses that allow you to remix the content legally. You may take new and/or staged photographs for this piece if needed.

Content: 65%

  1. Vantage point is that of the first person narrator (the author at a point in his/her life), but may tell the story of another person in a journalistic sense.
  2. Employs a strong opening line
  3. Uses sensory detail (all five senses) to build engaging scenes. Detail should serve a purpose.
  4. Uses small bits of poignant dialogue to give us a closer view of particular characters and scenes
  5. Articulates strong and unique descriptions of characters to bring them to life and illuminate their essence
  6. Develops conflict in the story
  7. Illuminates the essence of the narrator through his/her unique account of the events/people described
  8. Uses original metaphors and similes (figurative language). Avoids cliché/hackneyed figurative language. Figurative language should be appropriate for the tone and subject matter of the essay
  9. Utilizes some exposition to analyze the meaning of a particular event from the narrator’s perspective

Formatting: 15%

  1. Illustrates careful editing and proofreading: Story should be nearly perfect grammatically; this includes paragraphing and punctuating dialog according to proper conventions
  2. Limited typos; Clear attention to detail, including MLA-style heading and page setup (MLA may be optional for non-essay formats.)

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