Pinocchio taught us that lying gets us nowhere. Dory taught us to ‘just keep swimming.’ Popeye taught us the importance of eating spinach (though we’re still not convinced).
For centuries, fictional characters have been the go-to tool for teaching. We retain content better when it’s wrapped in a narrative and steered by an inspirational protagonist. This is used in The Method of Loci, which is an ancient memory recall technique that uses storytelling to remember content.
The world of eLearning has also adopted this method to successfully share content. Growth Engineering use this method a lot in our mission to create engaging online learning that makes its way into your learner’s brains and changes their behaviour. Check out our fantastic ‘Night of the Learning Dead’ download, for example.
To help out on your narrative journey, here are 5 tips on how to create compelling, realistic and likeable eLearning characters.
1. Know your Audience
Maintain a befitting tone by researching your audience and colleagues. The more your learners relate to the character, the more knowledge they’ll retain. The best way to analyse your market is to devise a list of questions. Some of which could include:
- What is the average age of your audience?
- What is the industry?
- Are the learners mostly male or female?
- Are your learners fans of technology?
- What are their hobbies?
- What movies/books do they like?
These questions will help determine an outline of your character. For example, you may be creating a learning module for an industry which attracts a notably younger crowd, such as social media. In this case, an older character probably won’t be as relatable as a young and trendy scenester!
2. Create a Character Bio
The second thing to do is to create a brief character bio. To gain a basic understanding of who they are, ask yourself a few questions. If you can answer the following, you’ll have a much better understanding of who your character is:
- How old are they?
- What’s their gender?
- What’s their name?
- If their friends could describe them in 3 words, what words would they be?
3. Stay in Character
The world of eLearning is not expecting the literary extravagance of J. K. Rowling or J.R.R Tolkien, but your e-characters have to be believable for the learning to be effective.
Once you’ve established who they are, focus on their actions and reactions. Try and maintain a common set of actions and reactions.
Consider Bram Stoker’s Dracula. You know he’s to be feared. You know he kills people. You know he’s a villain. If, halfway through the story, the famous bloodsucker suddenly broke into the Macarena whilst clucking like a chicken, it would ruin all the hard work Bram had invested to make ole’ Drac seem menacing.
Hero Vs Villain…
Have you decided if your main protagonist will be a hero or a villain? Maybe you want both in your eLearning story? A villain can be used to push a narrative forward and to take it to areas it might not have gone otherwise. Take Darth Vader for example! Star Wars would be pretty drab without him. If your narrative is a continuing series of modules, then inserting a villain to counterbalance your hero will keep the plots versatile, fresh and compelling.
4) Write Realistic Dialogue
Dialogue is very easy to get wrong (just consider most television soap operas). If your dialogue sounds forced and robotic, then your learners will find it hard to devour. For believable dialogue, there are a few simple rules that can help, such as:
- Read your dialogue out loud:
Reading your dialogue aloud should tell you instantly if it sounds wooden and forced. If it doesn’t sound natural to you then it won’t to your learners. Punctuation, pace and flow can all be improved by reading your dialogue out loud.
- Become nosy:
This may be music to the ears for some, but listen to conversations you hear in public. Some writers are known to sit in cafes for hours simply jotting down examples of unplanned, natural speech. This will hopefully sharpen your dialogue rhythm.
- Avoid the Dreaded ‘Explainer.’
This is a biggie in writers circles. NEVER use the dialogue to inform your readers of storylines.
‘Hi John, sorry I’m late. My new job as an astronaut, and the new house that I’ve just bought in Mexico are both taking up a lot of time.’
It sounds like it’s written to tell the reader something, rather than poor old John.
5) Design it Consciously
Did you know that social media posts which contain images result in a 650% higher engagement level than posts without?
In a world where visuals have become an essential part of the content, you may want to illustrate your characters for your eLearning content.
Consider what your characters will wear. This could save a lot of time explaining what they do and who they are.
Colour psychology plays a massive part in illustration. The Simpsons. Spongebob Squarepants. Minions. Topcat. Pikachu. What have they all got in common? They’re all yellow! Yellow sticks out. Yellow represents joy, happiness, intellect and energy.
Use a colour chart to decipher what colours you want associated with your eLearning characters.
We hope you’ve found these basic principals for creating eLearning characters helpful. eLearning can be dull without narrative. We need narrative because it provides emotional resonance which helps give a more engaging experience.
It’s important to weigh-up your audience first to discover what kind of character they will find most relatable. Create a character bio and stick with it throughout your storytelling. Create realistic dialogue by reading aloud and noting the conversations of others. Additionally, use the psychology of colour to help complement the traits of your character.
Creating eLearning characters and narrative for your content will go a huge way to engaging your learners.
Want some tips on plots? Check out what our very own Juliette Denny has to say about the 7 basic plots:
To find out other awesome ways you can engage your learners via Epic Meaning, click here for a free download