E-Learning Module

Unit 3 Grain 10
A pratical method to develop your idea
60 minutes

The objective of this lesson is to understand the possible methods to develop an idea, so as to start a story.

By the end of this grain, participants should be able to realize “embryos of stories”. They will experiment with different methods thus exercising their imagination and creativity.

Table of content

Multiple-Choice Method. A Concrete Example

By applying the Grain 9’ concepts to our main objective, which is to structure a useful model for STEAM education through the Escape Room methodology, let’s try to define what an example of a story concept could be:

“Involving students in a story in which a series of open questions concerning mathematical notions are proposed”

We are at the starting point of our route, defining what characteristics our “story” must have and therefore this objective could be pursued in multiple ways. It is as if we were in front of a DEPARTURE sign but in front of us, we had multiple paths to take.

Our concept speaks generically of a “story”, now we need to understand what kind of story it should be.

The genre of our story will depend on the choice of the path and only the author, with his propensities, tastes, previous knowledge will be able to decide which is the most correct one to take.

The basic concept proposed can already be developed with some valuable details:

“Involving students in a detective story in which solving a mystery requires collecting clues and solving mathematical problems.”

The goal now appears quite clear, but we need to develop the plot. We propose to be inspired by the typical and essential elements of a detective story, for two main reasons:

  1. It is one of the most codified genres and allows to proceed through a rather rational and programmatic procedure
  2. Compared to the objective of our project (to apply the ER model with a specific didactic purpose), it is the one that is most congruent, representing an intellectual challenge between the writer and stimulating the problem solving skills of the reader / recipient.

Follow these points, we can identify 5 elements, which can also be considered valid in the case of other genres:

  1. Who is the protagonist and who is his/her antagonist? And what are the other characters in the story?
  2. In what context does the story take place?
  3. What relationship is triggered between protagonist and antagonist? What event puts them in conflict?
  4. What is the cause of this conflict? What are the reasons for their clash?
  5. How does the protagonist deal with the story?

The method we want to propose could be called the “Multiple Choice” and aims to put to work creativity and imagination.

Let’s imagine not one, but at least three possible answers (or more if we are willing) and after filling a simple table, we think about each opportunity and then choose the most convincing answer.

The goal is to come up with ideas and evaluate possible alternatives. The answer to these questions must be inspired by the starting idea: will allow adding elements to the initial concept. It is an important choice and therefore there is no need to rush to an answer. The “multiple choice” method aims precisely to set creativity and imagination in motion, requiring you to imagine at least 3 plausible answers to the various questions before choosing the most convincing one! In parallel, we try to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each opportunity, never forgetting who our final target is. Imagining answers already presupposes imagining a certain scenario, since the protagonist, with his actions, his/her choices and his/her way of seeing things, will determine the evolution of the story, from beginning to end.

Now let’s try to give a concrete example, related to the STEAM subjects of the STEAMER project. These proposals are only exemplary hypotheses, which have the goal to give examples for better understanding and absorption of the methodology.

1a) Who is the main character?
Let’s try to imagine characters connected in some way by the theme of the concept and evaluate their strengths / weaknesses
A shrewd and surly policemanAn elderly lady passionate about puzzles and games of logicA group of students bored with math
Strengths / Opportunities
Possibility to be inspired by a stereotype known for fiction / television series. Character that in itself inspires credibility and respect.Comic character, focusing on the exasperation of some character traits and the dichotomy “funny character / fanatic with enigmas”.Easy to identify with the students. In writing, it is easy to recreate a well known situation / character. Ease of generating an effective call to action by suggesting experiences and situations that are likely and well known to our target.

The author will have to “take this responsibility” and choose which of the proposals is the one most congenial to him, given that through this exercise he will have been able to evaluate different scenarios and possible evolutions in his mind. Let’s imagine that our evaluations lead us to choose the third idea. At this point we need to ask ourselves: against whom could our protagonist “clash”?

This element contrasts the achievement of the protagonist’s goal. It can be a person, a situation, an entity, such as a force of nature, a fear, a feeling of the character.

1b) Who is the antagonist?
Let’s try to imagine which or which characters can interfere with the protagonist and his goals
A group of older pupils, socially problematic math geniusesA bizarre math professorA gang of criminals
Strengths / Opportunities
Possibility of drawing inspiration from news stories related to the problem of bullying. A possible subplot to be developed.Character belonging to a family context and likely.Elements to generate curiosity and mystery. Breaking an expectation, novelty.Ease of finding inspiration in literature and movies. Identification in the fight against the bad par excellence.

Let’s imagine choosing the second option and that the main characters are very clear in our minds. We can leave the decision on the inclusion of other characters at a later time when the plot is better defined and we proceed with the second question. The procedure will be similar.

Where does the story take place?
Let’s imagine in which space our protagonist can move and which space could allow us to create a mystery
A suburban schoolThe apartment of a mathematics professorA pub, a meeting place for young people
Ease of transposition of reality into history. Family atmosphere. Connections with teaching and the concepts to be treated.Possibility to play on the breaking of expectations, to deepen details on the protagonist’s personality through his objects, to create an atmosphere of mystery. The protagonist moves on his own space where he is the “master” of doing what he wants.Elements that predispose to an attitude of openness on the part of the target, assimilation with a context considered to be fun.

Similarly, after evaluating the possible implications/evolutions of each answer and not neglecting the proposed goal, it will be time for the choice. Let’s imagine that in writing the answers we have already prefigured in our mind a certain apartment where we happened to go when we were children.We accompanied the grandmother to the house of a distant cousin and the memory of that experience, the sensations, images and smells are still vivid and suggestive, such that they can be told with extreme clarity. But, in particular, we will never forgetthe flavor of that unusual almond-flavored candy that, out of embarrassment, we could not refuse … A pinch of imagination will be enough to recreate around all thisthe perfect setting of our story: the apartment of Professor De Vitti!

What is the triggering event that puts the protagonist in front of his antagonist? What moves the latter? And how does the protagonist manage to overcome the conflict? These three aspects are obviously closely linked to each other.

Since our goal is to define the basis of an Escape game, searching for possible answers let’s try to insert the “escape” theme.

3, 4, 5) Relationship / motive / resolution
Let’s imagine how our story can develop and what the best conclusion could be
Relationship The boys go to the teacher’s house for regular math repetitions. At one point the professor disappears and they discover that they have been locked up in the apartment which turns out to be a sort of trap. Motive The professor has a hatred towards students for being bullied. It has a misguided psychological profile. He wants to show his intellectual superiority in a crazy way Resolution The professor has designed a series of tests to pass, based on the notions that are the subject of the repetitions, to be able to leave the apartment. In order to regain freedom, the boys must be able to find the code that unlocks the exit door. Thanks to teamwork they succeed in their goal.
Relationship The professor is known in the city for being the owner of an important patent in the technological field. In reality, the kids know that he has taken over the research of their historic computer professor since his university days and they want to help their teacher find the evidence to frame him. Motive The professor deceived his university friend by stealing an important research that allowed him to achieve success. Resolution The boys together with their teacher conduct an investigation that allows them to get to the teacher’s apartment. Their goal is to find the key to his safe.Relationship The professor is not a real teacher but he uses this cover to mask his true identity as a criminal. The boys live in his own building and suspect that he is hiding something. They decide to find a way to enter his apartment and discover clues related to his true identity. Motive The man everyone believes to be a quiet professor is actually wanted by the police. He uses his logic skills to carry out bank robberies. He uses this identity swap to escape the police. Resolution The boys manage to enter his apartment. They pass a series of mathematical tests to find out the password of his computer and obtain the proof that they frame the criminal.

Through the methodology of multiple choices, a creative mechanism will be set in motion that pushes to hypothesize different scenarios, each of which can have different implications. It is obvious that the choice of the path to take ultimately rests with the instinct of the author: which of the ideas developed has the greatest potential? Which turns out to be more original or provide more ideas for the development of a story?

To make the choice, you must never lose sight of the initial goal and envision how the various opportunities identified allow you to pursue it in the best possible way.

We can conclude that if we have clear the fundamental elements and passages of our history we will be able to:

  1. more easily create a credible and interesting scenario for our Escape Room;
  2. more efficiently identify the most appropriate props, clues and puzzles;
  3. make the experience more engaging, interactive and suitable for our target.

It is therefore very useful to start by defining the story behind our Escape Room, following this simple and practical methodology.

Materials and Resources

Q1. What is the multiple-choice method’s function?

a. Help to choose the relations between the characters
b. Stimulate the author’s creativity and imagination
c. Decide what is the best ending of the story

Q2. Why can the detective story scheme be taken as model for the development of the plot?

a. It is the most popular
b. It allows to proceed through a rather rational and programmatic procedure
c. It is the most schematic and allows to create realistic scenarios

Q3. Why do we talk about “conflict” in the narrative structure?

a. Because to write about a conflict is the simplest and most immediate way to increase user engagement
b. As a practice method to develop the plot
c. Because it is present in every story, representing the element of “rupture” that pushes the protagonist to complete a path of evolution


Q1: b
Q2: b
Q3: c