A New Way To Tell a Story

When Paulien Bakker, a seasoned journalist who has traveled through the unpredictable streets of Iraq and dedicated years of her life to understanding the even more perilous paths of the human mind, encountered the opportunity to experience a new way to tell stories, she knew that this was the change she had been longing for.

In Paulien’s background, we can find a solid and robust assortment of tenacity, dedication, and an unquenchable need to figure out the most effective way of communicating a story. “I studied journalism, then psychology.” Eventually, her adventurous spirit drove her out to the field—to Iraq, Rwanda and other places, where she came to the conclusion that “to get people here to care about people there, I needed storytelling.”

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Photo by Marieke van der Velden

After nourishing and enriching her storytelling skills for years as a freelancer with her own company Bureau Schrijfkracht, Paulien gathered enough insights and experience to build a foundation in the Netherlands where she could coach other journalists on how to write better narratives: Stichting Verhalende Journalistiek (Initiative for Narrative Journalism in the Netherlands, which is in fact affiliated with Boston University’s College of Communication Conference on narrative journalism.

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Create a magazine that touches | Writing power (schrijfkracht.nl) - Photo by Marieke van der Velden

Okay, she’s seen the world, brought some of the world back with her, written a few books, and then built a coaching platform. We’re officially awestruck… and so were Dephion’s recruiters. But why would someone leave a life of journalism to become an interactive storyteller?

It all started when Paulien was still working as a staff writer for a magazine. “I was asked to do the same job over and over again. And I wanted to develop myself further as a writer, and as a journalist.” She craved the freedom to pursue the paths that her endless curiosity ached to follow.

Freelance work seemed promising at first… but it proved to be too limiting for her aspirations. And that’s when opportunity knocked on her door. “What drew me in [to Dephion] was, this is a place for experiments, and trying out new things. And now I’ve been making my first animation, and I’m really looking forward to creating a podcast, or maybe stop-motion, or video… to try it all out. Because I think all of us, not just in journalism, are looking for new ways to engage our audience.”

Still, the work is vastly different. Rather than observing and reporting, independently and with short procedures, Dephion writers work in teams, receive feedback before each rewrite, and have little direct contact with the final user.

On the other hand, there are also some aspects in which the two lines of work are not so different. “When you look at stories, the basis, it’s the same six elements as journalisms: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.”

Who = Character

What = Action

Where = Setting

When = Chronology

Why = Cause

How = Process

(From the book Writing tools, by Roy Peter Clarke)

Paulien decided to join a pack after having been a lone wolf for so long. She chose team collaboration and expert feedback and found herself in a warm nest where her colleagues still felt that desire and passion to put everything into each project. “It’s wonderful to have all these people in-house with all these different backgrounds.”

As one of Dephion’s newest interactive storytellers, Paulien still gets to set her own hours, but now she has the resources and the support of not just her team, but all of Dephion. Now she has an outlet for all that built-up, insatiable need to explore the limits of a narrative to its fullest. Now she has found a new way to tell a story.

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Paulien in Bagdad - Photo by Marieke van der Velden

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