Storyboarding isn’t just for screenwriters. Storyboards also work great for writers because they allow us to view the Big Picture, something that’s hard to see while hunched over our keyboards. A storyboard is like a visual map that allows a writer to see the whole gamut of plot and characters as we bring them to life.
If you’re like me, before you’ve gotten very far into your story, you’ll soon find it feels like some kind a monster, albeit a pleasant beast, but unwieldy and quickly growing out of his suit.
Early in the writing stages of my next book, I’m wondering where was the exact point Marco, my feline hero, unknowingly met his future nemesis? When did he run into the ghost knight, a seemingly minor character who will reappear later in a more important role. When did poor Marco get banished from the library? Was it before he met young Daniel for the first time?
To keep a story running smoothly, without glaring plot errors such as ‘how the Main Character came to know a certain fact when he hasn’t even met the character who gave it to him’ can drive a writer to consuming more chocolate chip cookies than really necessary.
I’ve found I can only flip through so many screens on my computer looking for answers to these questions before getting dizzy and bug-eyed.
So how can we keep the Plot and Structure of our story handy for quick visual reference? Storyboarding, a visual tool most often used by screenwriters, works well for me. And I don’t even have to draw!
Here I’m in the process of creating index cards for each scene. Once I’ve gotten the scenes in order, I’ll tack them on a large foam board on the wall. Judging from the number of cards I have so far, I’ll need one board for each of the three acts, also, known as the Beginning, Middle and End.
Each card contains the characters, setting, what needs to happen and how the scene will end. I number the cards to keep them in order, but I will often rearrange them and re-number them before I’m settled on the order. One great advantage of having each scene on a card is their portability. I’ll take one with me while I’m running errands in town, stop for coffee and a quick writing sprint.
All you need to create a storyboard is:
- index cards (one per scene/chapter)
- push pins
- foam board
Optional items are sticky notes in various sizes (to mark important events) and colored markers for highlighting characters.
On each card, write:
- the characters
- the setting
- what needs to happen
- and hopefully how the scene will end, the hook
Here’s a storyboard from a previous book where I was experimenting with sticky notes in combination with index cards. I used extra large push pins to attach it to the dining room wall, which made it easy to remove when we had company for dinner.
Have you used storyboards? Think you might try it out? Let me know.