Most data stories are built around one metric. Other metrics will likely be included, but one metric will be the main focus of the story. This metric is compared either across time (in Event data stories) or across characters (in Character data stories). It's important to understand what type of data story you would like to tell so you can collate the right metrics.
Event Data Stories
Event data stories compare one metric, for one character, at different points in time. I’ve created the below Event Data Story Canvas to help filter and organise information for a narrative built around an event.
Character: Who will the story focus most on? This can be your business, a customer group, a product, a country, etc.
Event: What happened to the character to make their story worth telling now? Focusing on a single event will help to keep the resulting narrative concise and compelling.
Event period: If an event has occurred, it’s occurred over a certain period of time. This could anything from billions of years to milliseconds, depending on the event affecting the character.
State before/after: Your focus metric is used to describe the character’s state. Ideally, you want to include information showing the change in the character as a result of the event.
Impact: What kind of an impact does the event have on the character? The more impact the event has (positive or negative), the more powerful the story could be.
Reason: Why did the event happen? Sometimes this can’t be explained, which is okay if the narrative states this.
Reaction: Is there anything that could be done in the future to continue a positive impact or reverse a negative impact? This may or may not be able to be told from a data level.
Background/Further Research: This section involves an understanding of the audience you’re attempting to communicate with. What is their current level of understanding of the topic and what other information do they need to know to be able to understand the character or event? What further research could be undertaken to further understand the event?
You can download the Event Data Story Canvas here.
Character Data Stories
Character data stories compare one metric, for multiple characters, at the same point in time. I’ve created the below Character Data Story Canvas to help filter and organise information for a narrative comparing characters.
Characters: Who am I trying to compare in my story? This can be customer segments, products, countries, animals etc.
Metrics: Your focus metric is used to describe each character’s state. Ideally, you want to include metrics showing the differences between characters.
Background: This section involves an understanding of the audience you’re attempting to communicate with. What is their current level of understanding of the topic and what other information do they need to know to be able to understand the characters?
You can download the Character Data Story Canvas here.
When I look for data stories I find myself filling out a few copies of these canvases at once. Each canvas page contains the information for one data story. The canvas sets the data story scope, making it easier to write a high-level single narrative from.
Videos to help explain these concepts can be found here.