For the Narrative project, we explored telling stories without dialogue and further developed our characters and storyline in our media classes with our own music productions and digital illustrations. Beginning in English, we drafted a "Flash Fiction" piece, no longer than 750 words, that showed a snippet of our character's life. Then, in Digital Media, we developed an audio book, which included a narration of the story and three music pieces total that we produced in Pro Tools. Finally, in our Design class, we took a spin on the main character from our Flash Fiction and instead created a hybrid animal, using creatures that represented our personality traits. In total, the illustration had our hybrid animal character set against a background related to our Flash Fiction.

Looking back on the narrative unit, I enjoyed exploring creative writing and storytelling techniques, with the added challenge of making a compelling piece without any dialogue. My favorite part of the unit was the time we spent in Digital Media. I spent hours playing around with different concepts on the keyboard and on my piano at home, and eventually translated them into longer pieces that used several instruments. Composing and producing music that I felt accurately and wholeheartedly reflected the tone and message of my story was a very fulfilling process.


In preparation for the Flash Fiction English assignment, we read short stories like an excerpt from "The Things They Carried" to study how powerful stories are written without any dialogue. We had an early brainstorming session, where we came up with a character, created their backstory, and conceptualized a talismanic object, or an object meaningful to the character that helps further the story. We also held an in-class brainstorming session. I knew that I wanted to write a story from the perspective of a child, and I also tried to pull memories from my childhood in writing the story - playing video games, getting an iPod, and other things that carry significance when you are a child I settled on a story that centered around a location: a school bus. My narrative tells the story of Lily Blanchard, narrated by her friend who she meets on the bus. I tried to capture the growth and loss of a childhood frienship through my storytelling.

The Bus Ride

When I met Lily Blanchard I was in the second grade, seven years old. I remember she walked onto the bus wearing black wheelies; and as she moved her way to the second step of the staircase, she wiped out. Her wheelies went rogue as she flailed for the handlebar and fell backward. We all sort of stood up from our seats and saw as the backpack broke her fall. Lily Blanchard’s little red face scrunched up, her fists tightening around the drawstrings of her brilliantly blue sweater as she retreated into the hoodie like a turtle in its shell.

Then she picked my bus seat.

I shuffled over toward the window and let her scooch in. She spent the first ten minutes of the bus ride quietly untying her shoes, picking at the laces with her nubby, nail-bitten fingers. Then she quite unceremoniously attempted to stuff her lumberjack-sized shoes into her Finding Nemo backpack, sweetly suggesting that the shoes get in with a lot of shoving, zipping, and kicking.

The wheelies had these cool red and yellow flames on the side.

I offered to take them off her hands.

“Only if you give me your shoes,” Lily Blanchard said.

I loved my shoes. I bought them from Adidas; so instead I pulled out an old pink Nintendo from the front pocket of my bag and proposed a trade.

She fidgeted with the drawstring for a moment, also chewing on her right pinky nail. But Lily Blanchard didn’t wait for more than that one moment before kindly accepting. I saw the smallest, most resolved smile.

Each day after that Lily would step onto the school bus at Stern Street, wearing her iconic blue hoodie and sensible sneakers, and I would scooch over toward the window, third seat on the left.

I would try and bring a new game for every bus ride. Most of the time it was Mario Bros, but sometimes my sister would lend me her things and we would play Zelda, Dragon Quest, or her Disney games.

Lily loved to play Mario Kart, and she would elbow me if I held the Nintendo for too long.

When she was in fifth grade, her parents bought her an iPod. Lily carried earbuds and it with her to school so we could listen to hype music while we played Nintendo. Sometimes if playing the same games got old, we would look for the weirdest music her parents had downloaded or listen to her favorite songs.

Lily never talked to me when we were at school - and I didn’t really see her around - but when she was on the bus I think she might have been my best friend.

I also think that as we got older Lily grew out of her shell. She would make jokes and laugh with the kids sitting behind us and come up with little songs to sing on the bus rides.

Lily sang from her nose and sometimes sounded nasally. Other times, though, when we would have our soft-spoken conversations on the bus, she whispered in a singsong rhythm, her voice like little bells ringing melodiously.

One time in seventh grade Lily wanted to sit with a few other classmates so she wrapped her fingers on my jacket sleeve and plodded us over to the back row. I remember watching the gravelly ground that ran under the bus in a scribbling motion from my view out the window on that day. Lily forgot to play the iPod music so I just hummed songs in my head.

In eighth grade Lily Blanchard’s visits became more sporadic. Sometimes she’d sit on the third seat on the left; other times in the back or elsewhere. I felt fine with it, though, because Ned and I would then sit together and we’d talk.

Lily Blanchard didn’t take the bus anymore freshman year. I recognized one of her friends on the bus at some point during high school. I asked her if I could have Blanchard’s phone number, but she just looked at me like it was such a strange request. Acting on a stupid urge, I pretended I wasn’t actually talking to her, swiveling away and walking back to my seat.

I sat down, third seat on the left, and I hummed for the rest of the bus ride.


The Design assigment was to create an illustrator of our main character from our Flash Fiction, with a twist. Instead of simply illustrating a person, we brainstormed characteristics of our character and matched those personality traits to different animals. Our character in the illustration was actually a hybrid-animal, an amalgamation of various parts of different animals, morphed into one. In Illustrator, I began by creating two artboards, one for my character and the other for my backgrounf. Next, I found images of animals online and placed them into Illustrator, then creating a new layer and using the pen tool to trace an outline of the animal on top of the image. I eventually created several other layers to draw details - ear, eyes, nose, fur, shadows, highlights, and so forth. There were approximately 20 to 30 layers for my character When I was finally happy with my character, I switched to the other artboard to draw my background. I started with a simple horizon line - ground and sky. Then I started to develop the location, I created a long dirt path that trailed off at the horizon line and a bus driving up to the bus stop. For all this I used the pen tool. I also created grass by creating one patch with the paintbrush and making it a symbol in Illustrator so I could simply add the same grass patch to my work several times over. Now I was able to add detail. I used the paintbrush to add some shadows to the bus; I added lines on the dirt path, and I sprinkled the sky with a whimsical representation of clouds. The entire process for illustrating my character and background took several hours but was well worth it.

Initial sketch of my character from our brainstorming process
Initial sketch of my character from our brainstorming process

Early on in the narrative project, the Design teacher Ms. Parkinson gave us a day in class just for brainstorming. I wrote down a long list of personality traits for my character and then thought of different animals that could represent those traits. After having some idea of our illustration, we sketched potential looks for our character. My original concept of a bear body with dolphin fins and a turtle shell as a backpack remained mostly unchanged, looking at my final illustration.

Examples poses I used as a reference while illustrating my character
Examples poses I used as a reference while illustrating my character

Ms. Parkinson encouraged us not to show our character from eye level, and instead to think of interesting angles to show our character. She also wanted our character to have an interesting and natural posture, rather than a stiff-bodied character. To understand how different viewpoints would affect the look of the character, we took photos of another person at different angles and in different positions to help us later when we had to draw our character.

My character Lily as a bear with dolphin fins and a turtle shell, standing by the street as she waits for the bus.
My character Lily as a bear with dolphin fins and a turtle shell, standing by the street as she waits for the bus

My Flash Fiction tells the story of two children in elementary school that meet on the bus. The narrative details the growth and loss of their friendship, all of which takes place on bus rides in the morning to get to school over the course of several years. The two characters bond over playing video games and listening to music - a quiet friendship. Written through the eyes of her friend, the main character Lily grows to become more extroverted, and, consequently, moves on to new friends by the end of the story. To create the hybrid-animal illustration, I first brainstormed personality traits and matched those to other animals. I wanted to focus on her growth from shy to outgoing, her humor, and innocence. I chose a turtle for her shyness, a dolphin for her outgoing and lighthearted qualities, and a bear cub for innocence. I sketched different angles and looks for my character and created different versions of my background. I chose a bear cub body with dolphin fins and a turtle shell, waiting for the school bus to arrive in a woody meadow. Then, I went into Illustrator. I traced images of animals and references for my background with the pen tool, and used the pen tool, paintbrush, and/or symbols to finesse the details. We also had to apply our knowledge of linear perspective in this piece. As such, my path tapers off near the horizon line and so does the body of the bus. I’m pleased with the fur that I created for my animal and my color scheme. I also wanted to create a sense of whimsy, so I used silly shapes to represent clouds in the sky and made wave-like symbols on the fins as a nod to the ocean. If I had time to make changes, I would add a small tail to my bear!


In Digital Media, we produced music inspired by our Flash Fiction. This was one of my favorite assignments as we had complete artistic freedom, with no hard requirements for the actual songs we produced. We were instructed to produce 3 songs in Pro Tools, a theme for the main character, a theme for the whole story, and a theme for the climactic part of the story. I used various instruments in my songs including a drum track, piano, synth, guitar, bass, and wind instruments, all of which were sounds produced using a keyboard.

Main Character Theme:

Story Theme:

Story Climax:

This is a screenshot of my Pro Tools session for the story theme.

This is a screenshot of my Pro Tools session for the story theme.

Later in the unit, we produced an EDM song (Electronic Dance Music) using Reason, another music software. Each of us produced 8 bars individually, and every part was strung together to create our Exquisite Corpse, or something assembled through a collection of parts. My part plays from 1:36 to 1:51. It includes a drum track, bass track, synth for the melody, and other unorthodox sounds that I used for the intro.

EDM Exquisite Corpse:

This is a screenshot of my Reason session for my EDM music.

This is a screenshot of my Reason session for my EDM music.

Audio Book

The main goal of producing music in Digital Media was to incorporate it with other elements into a final audio book recording of our Flash Fiction. I recorded myself reading the Flash Fiction I wrote, and then added my different music files and sound effects into a Pro Tools session. My full audio book is about five minutes long. I enjoyed capturing the emotion of the story in the music, and pairing the music with the narration definitely added more value to the story. Listen to my audio book below.

This is a screenshot of my Pro Tools session for my audio book.

This is a screenshot of my Pro Tools session for my audio book.