Storytelling formats

Last updated
February 14, 2018

Here are an array of different formats that your work may potentially take. If you have an idea or a story but are feeling stumped about the best way to tell it, have a look through this list. You may even want to include a proposed format with your pitch

The list:

Research paper translation article

This is the foundation of Massive's writing training. The template you'd use is here, and here are a few great examples of pieces.


This is step two for those participating in a Massive training group. The template you'd use is here, and here are some fabulous examples.

Hot take 

This is a timely, short, opinionated reaction to something happening in the news cycle. For example: "The Science Nobel Prizes are sexist, racist, and misleading. Let's rethink them." 

Q&A (interview)

This can be in any medium – video, audio, written. Read co-founder Nadja Oertelt's great Q&A with Max Tegmark here.


A story told in bullet points, listicles can be an engaging, efficient way to share information. We use it often for our "Science Heroes" pieces. (Here's a more BuzzFeedian example of the genre.)

First-person essay

Read Massive's first-person theme, "It's All Subjective," here.


Be it written, video, or audio, a conversation between two (or more!) people can be a great way to dig into a meaty topic. Here are examples of visual, written, and audio dialogues. 

Narrative nonfiction 

Another word for this is longform. It compiles a group of scenes to tell a larger story, with a narrative arc, characters, and deeper themes. Getting all these pieces requires interviewing sources, visiting sites, and doing whatever else needs to happen for you to experience or hear everything that ends up in your work. Scientists that do this well include physician-researchers Atul Gawande and Siddhartha Mukherjee (both, in this case, in The New Yorker).

Photo Essay/slideshow

Visual events or discoveries can often be best represented visually. Here's a photo essay from the 2017 science march; here's one from Cassini's mission to Saturn. 

First-person video journal/vlog

The Green brothers have elevated this format to an art. It would be a great personal essay alternative.

Animated explainer

See Massive's occasional explainer series, Condensed Matters


We love xkcd, Dinosaur Comics, and anything drawn by Massive contributor Matteo Farinella.

GIF essay

Sometimes the best way to articulate something is in gifs. Yes, really.