When J.K. Rowling was penning her now-legendary Harry Potter series, one of the tools she used was a version of storyboarding: She mapped out her chapter outlines and plot points using vertical columns on a sheet of paper. This gave her an at-a-glance visual road map that she could follow as she was writing.
Storyboarding is a technique that’s always been widely used by script writers. It’s a great tool if you’re a visual person, as a friend of mine noted. She’s started using index cards to map out the plot of her story and pinning them up where she can see them easily.
I’ve done this myself with chapters of my novel. Index cards or large PostIt notes are perfect for this because you can write plot points and/or scene descriptions on them and then add additional notes as ideas crop up. You can also move them around easily, which allows you to play with the order of scenes in a chapter, for example.
One writer who uses storyboarding all the time is Janet Evanovich. Since the characters and relationships in her series are well established, she uses storyboarding instead of outlining as a tool to manage action and plot. As she noted in a Writer’s Digest article, “When I’m plotting out a book I use a storyboard — I’ll have maybe three lines across the storyboard and just start working through the plot line. I always know where the relationships will go, and how the story is going to end. When I storyboard, they’re just fragments of thoughts. I write in three acts like a movie, so I have my plot points up on the preliminary storyboard. Another board I keep is an action timeline. It’s a way of quickly referring to what happened a couple of scenes ago. The boards cover my office walls.”
Storyboarding is more scene-oriented than an outline: it allows you to create a blow-by-blow map of your action points. It can be a great tool if you are wrestling with a plot and if you need to see how the arc of your story is progressing. Whether you find outlining to be helpful or not, creating a storyboard can be a fun way to get your story out of your head and onto your wall and the page. Write on!
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