Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Plotting Storyboard

Each card is one scene.
Tah dah! As promised, here it is, my storyboard. No lecture on the crappy pictures, 'kay? I know the shots are a kinda dark and a little blurry. They looked far better on the camera, but when I did my magic and resized them (they were enormous) it did very little to make them beautiful. But for the purpose of this post, the resolution and crappiness is just fine.

I'm pretty sure you can click on these and see them larger, but I haven't tried that, so if you do it, you're on your own. Moving along...

If you've read any number of craft books on plot and structure, you probably already know what the story board is and what it's for, so take a gander and...I don't know, admire the index card rainbow, I guess. There probably won't be much for you to see here. 

Anyway, I cut my books into four parts when plotting, although some people stick with a solid three act structure, I can't seem to finish a story when I do it that way. Also, cutting my story into four parts is what helped me to defeat the sagging middle problem I was having with my stories.

Right now, there are 22 scene cards on my board, and by the time I have enough scenes to get to 50k, I will probably have double that many, and I'll likely have to turn all these cards sideways to fit them all on the cork board.

Before I start talking about what I'm using the colored cards for, and why they're where they are... If you haven't read any craft books on story structure, I highly recommend Syd Field's Screenplay, (which is super cheap on Amazon), or Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! - which was actually recommended to me by a NYT bestselling author after I asked her what I should do to push my stories from novellas and full novels without compromising the story. 

I've literally read dozens (and I do mean dozens) of books on structure and plotting, and to me, those two books listed above are the easiest of the easy to understand, and they are relatively short, so you're not left reading for days and days, trying to figure out what you need to know. Also, the Blake Snyder book has a section on story boarding in it, although I don't do mine quite like that. I'm going for simplicity. Too, I'm not writing a screenplay, I'm writing a novel.

Using a story board helped me get through Wicked Obsession, but I've gotten more organized with it in the past 6 months or so, and I've changed the way I do things when charting my scenes. Used to, I would use nothing but plain white cards or nothing but green cards, until I needed to add new information that wasn't in the draft, but that was too confusing. I ended up having to rewrite many of the cards, because I couldn't remember what Act they came from. 
Now, using the neon rainbow cards, if I move a card to a new section, I can easily identify where I took it from. This is majorly helpful when tracking subplots, or moving around major story events, characters, anything like that.

Okay, I added a picture of the board marked up into sections. Now for a general run down of what I'm doing. Please note that this is not the be all end all of story plotting, or story boarding. This is simply what I'm doing. The yellow cards are for the beginning of the story, of course. The scenes run from the opening scene of my book, to the inciting incident. The inciting incident is some major event that more than likely screws up your characters nice serene life, and leads to the next stage of the story - the (often dreaded) middle. 

Now let's move on to the green row of cards. Before I do anything here, I split the middle of my book in half. 

The scenes from the first half of your midsection go into the green row. There are many screenwriting books that divide the middle, I can't think of all of them, but again, the Syd Field book explains it in the very simplest way possible. (Buy that book, darn it!)

Dividing the middle of your book into two sections is also a really good way to get rid of the sagging middle problem many books/drafts/novels/novellas have. The green cards in my picture are what I call middle scenes #1. This is where your character starts on their new journey to fix whatever crap hit the fan during or because of the inciting incident. This section leads to the literal midpoint of your book or novella. When creating the mid-point, to explain it in a nutshell, you should have an event that changes the course your character is currently on.

The orange cards are the #2nd half of the middle of your book. This is where your character begins to successfully pick up the pieces of their life and put them back together - this time, for good.

The hot pink cards on the final row represent the ending scenes of my book. If I have an epilogue, I include it in this section. In the pictures above, you can probably tell I still need to fill out the ending on my story, probably more so than anywhere else in the book. Usually you can look at your board and tell if you have too many scenes in one area. Also, you can read through the cards, and see where you have plot holes. That comes in handy when you're on a deadline. 

Okay, here's a secret about doing scene cards like this. When you finish your book, you can take the cards you used, and sum up each card into no more than, say, two sentences. Anyway, summarize those scenes. If you do that, you can type up all the sentences in chronological order, and you will have a rough synopsis of your book from start to finish - no brain-busting involved. That alone makes story boarding worth the effort.

For some general information on screenwriting (I adapt it to novels) and resources like books and how-to articles, The Script Lab is a good place to start:

Squidoo also has a very good article on script writing books: 

There is also a free Teach Yourself Screenwriting lens here:

Also, you can see another example of storyboarding with index cards here:

Anyway, that's pretty much what I'm doing and where I am with this current book. I hope to have the rough draft finished within the next two weeks. I guess we'll see soon enough. Wish me luck! 

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