"Visual storytelling" is storytelling communicated by utilizing visual stimuli and it presents unique opportunities to the artist. For centuries, literary storytelling has been dominant, and, as a result, "visual storytelling's" rich traditions are now largely misunderstood. In recent years, categories used to describe literature such as: "linear" and "non-linear" storytelling, have sometimes been used in an attempt to breakdown "visual storytelling" into categories. "Non-linear" storytelling is often misapplied to interactive media and gaming media. The terms do not seem to address the ways in which what is happening in modern media relates to humanity's cultural history and its past civilizations, which, for the majority of their existence, relied primarily on visual stimuli and the oral tradition.
We are now entering a new era of "visual storytelling" being dominant and this means that artists need to re-acquaint themselves with its traditional use and its unique capabilities.
The terms that I would like to propose, as an alternative to terms used for categorizing literature (such as "linear" and "non-linear") to describe the categories of "visual storytelling," are the terms "narrative model" and "ritual model." The names given to these two models are derived from how the information, is meant to be communicated to the audience, rather than our perception of the quantity of possible experiences the audience can have. While the two may contain aspects of one another, in their purest form, they are differentiated by their emphasis: "narrative model visual storytelling" primarily utilizes the orchestration of characters portrayed as various archetypes to serve as surrogates for the audiences indirect experience and "ritual model visual storytelling" primarily utilizes the orchestration of environments and circumstances with the intention of creating specific archetypal scenarios that the audience responds to directly.
Storytelling that utilizes the written word is largely a solitary experience for the reader. The sharing of the experience happens within breaks between reading or when the story has been fully experienced. If we compare this to the cinematic experience, the difference is obvious.
"Non-linear storytelling" speaks to cinematic and literary works wherein the events of the stories are not portrayed in strict temporal sequence.
This is why it is important for "visual storytellers" to avoid categorizing our work by how events play out along the points of a linear temporal axis. "Visual storytelling's" value is not derived from the amount of possible courses it creates, or in its ability to establish the illusion of "self-determination." By the nature of our own temporal experience all storytelling works will have a beginning and an end, and how "linear" their fictional reality is holds little value unless it serves an audience need. How we need to define our work as "visual storytellers" is in terms of whether it serves the human need for "ritual model" or "narrative model" experience, and, in doing so, measure how effectively the experience of the works address those needs.