Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Storyboarding for "Plodders" and "Mist-Flyers", Storyboarding Part I

As I'm plotting and researching my new novel, I'm leaving you with my first post for the Alley. For my second WIP I have used The Book Buddy from My Book Therapy. I think both methods have worked well for me. 

Storyboarding is a way of visualizing and ordering your story in a compressed way.

“But…I’m a fly by the seat of the pants writer. Do I really NEED to use storyboarding? I’m character-driven.”

Yes, my name is Julia and I’m a plotting addict. I not only managed to enjoy the process of plotting, but I am finding it has helped me avoid “stuck middles.”

I plotted my women’s fiction WIP using storyboarding software, Dramatica Pro. Admittedly this software is on the expensive side, but as this series continues I will include some information on some free and free-trial version software you may be interested in testing out.

Even if you are a self-proclaimed “pantser”, I think you might have fun playing around with at least one technique of storyboarding. It may help you in an area where you are stuck. It can help you to get a more in-depth view at your characters. There are so many different methods of storyboarding, chances are you will find one that works for your personality and writing style. My hope in this series is to provide some ideas as a jumping off point.  So grab your parachutes all you mist flyers and pantsers.  Storyboarding just might be able to save your plot from hitting wreckage.

Is it necessary to write your story in order?  Some authors, including our Alleyite, Pepper, write their scenes out of order. Storyboarding ahead of time can free the author up to perhaps be even more spontaneous during the writing process.

Booker Prize winning historical author Hilary Mantel has a seven foot tall bulletin board in her kitchen filled with scraps of dialogue, plot ideas, and descriptions. When Mantel finds a way to use these pieces she removes them from the board.

Kazuo Ishiguro, also a Booker prize winner, for the bestselling The Remains of the Day, would most likely be considered an obsessive plotter. He spends two years researching his novels and one year writing them. That seems extreme to me…but its worked for him. His flowcharts kept in giant binders, include not only plot but character emotions and memories.

The Wall Street Journal online has a fascinating article entitled “How to Write a Great Novel,” from which I found these fascinating author facts.

Why storyboard?

- It prevents dead endings and stuck middles. I’ve learned along the way that plotting isn’t limiting, my characters can still take the story in new directions (and often do).

- Action is the basis for our plotline, storyboarding keeps us focused on the action.

- It helps us to view our story as scenic, rather than expository (the whole show versus tell factor)

- It helps us to find the arc of our story.

- Storyboarding is a “visual” representation of story. It is right-brained and creative by nature yet storyboarding also allows the writer to view the logical progression of the story (left-brained).

- Storyboarding can help us to remove scenes that don’t advance the plot.

- It can allow us to write faster.

- It can help us to find the right pacing and rhythm for our story.

Whether as simple as J.K. Rowling’s single-page method for plotting out Harry Potter’s fate or as complex as Kazuo Ishiguro’s extensive notebook system, I believe even the most devout “pantser” can find some benefit from using a method of storyboarding that fits their personality and writing style.

Have you used any method of storyboarding in the process of crafting your novels? Has it worked well for you?


Renee Ann said...

Okay, so reading this made me feel like I should give the whole storyboarding thing a try. I've been an avowed lit lover forever but only recently attempted crafting my own stories. I do see how this could help . . . and the article did give me a great idea for a project for my junior high English class (which is reading The Bronze Bow right now)--so thanks for that, Julia!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Renee Ann, I think this would be fun with junior high English :). Let me know how it goes if you decide to do it. I have a lot of respect for Jr. High teachers, BTW :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Very interesting, Julia! I'm a fellow plotter, so I love learning new ideas to let my left brain do some work. :) Look forward to learning more!

Pepper said...

Great post, Julia. So - storyboarding is basically setting up your novel visually before you write it? Is that right? Like what Camy Tang does with sticky notes on the back of her door. She places each main character in different color sticky notes, then plotlines on different colors, and puts them in order on the back of her door.
Is that storyboarding?
I sometimes will do the 13 point plot outline - but most of the time my plotting happens in my head.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Sarah, That's what I enjoy about it. I'm almost exactly equally right & left brain so I love setting it up visually.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Yes, exactly, a visual representation. Not that I am an expert, but I took a great class on this over the summer.

That's great that you can keep it in your head, especially with 5 kids!! I have such bad mommy brain, especially since I started homeschooling.

Keli Gwyn said...

Julia, I'm a born again plotter. I wrote my first five stories as a pantser. It was fun and freeing, but the stories, to be frank, stunk.

Three years and three major rewrites later, I finally got one of those stories ready for submission. I learned a valuable lesson: plan before I begin so I don't have to face the grueling task of rewriting later.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I hear you, Keli. If I didn't plot I would probably forget my main characters names, that's how my brain can be somedays :)

Pepper said...

Okay, Julia & Keli,
I'm going to play alittle bit of devil's advocate here - ;-)
I learn a LOT from rewriting. My story is stronger - and (I'm cringing as I write this) I enjoy the process of going back and fleshing out the skeleton I just put on paper.
I DO have the major plot points in my head. Usually, before I write one work, I know the ending - and some major scenes in between.

I think it's AWESOME, Keli, that you gave Rachelle a novel that didn't require rewriting - and I'm learning some valuable insights about shortcuts to writing a cleaner first draft, but I still enjoy going back through the novel.

Yes, I'm weird - but Julia already knew that :-)
As an unpubbed author, I have the flexibility to think this way :-)

Casey said...

Great post Julia and yes like you, three years on a project would NEVER work for me! I would be done with the story before I even got to the writing part. :) I bet he doesn't do rewrites though. :) Storyboarding definately seems like a good resource. I did do a bit of plotting out my story before starting. A rough character sketch and outline of where I wanted the story to go, but then pretty much just wrote. I never liked outlines even in school! :)

Awesome introductory post, can't wait to see what you come up with next in this series. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Pepper, :). I agree with you, being an unpubbed author does give us extra flexiblity. And that's what I think is neat about this group, we all write differently. And maybe when I have more MS's under my belt I'll be able to pull this off.

@Casey, Yes, I'll bet you are right about Ishiguro not doing rewrites. When I read about some of the prize winners my thought is I wonder how much is talent vs. pure obsession. Seems to be a common thread among prize winning authors.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I love this post--and the idea of storyboarding. If I had found this option about two years ago, I would have been drooling. Even now, I'm kind of in awe and think it's pretty amazing.

I'm a huge plotter, with steps and all. Oh yeah...you might have read about my 9-step process :) Anyway, I love plotting my stories. There's still room for spontaneity for sure, but this way I avoid plot holes and saggy middles and it makes me feel so much more tied to the story. The ONLY bad thing I've found so far is that it helps me write my stories so much quicker and the faster I write the stories, the faster they're over :( And then I miss my characters because I didn't get to hang out with them as long as I wanted :) Solution? Write a sequel.

Unknown said...

My hubby's an SOP and I admire that so much. But I need helps like this. Thanks so much for software recommend and the 'reasons why' list. Glad I stopped by.

Janet C Bly

Joy Tamsin David said...

I have a huge poster hanging in my bedroom next to the bed (dh just looooves it...not). It's divided into four sections and has multicolored post it notes all over it. :) Plotters unite!

Julia M. Reffner said...

@Cindy, I can't wait to read more about your process. I agree that it does help speed up the writing process, even though sometimes my characters don't want to follow my storyboards :)

@Janet, I admire SOP'ers, too. In the next installment I will be sharing some freeware that you might be interested in checking out if you like using software.

@Joy, That's great! Are the 4 sections 4 different novels you're working on?

Joy Tamsin David said...

No, I'm using a four part story structure instead of three part. It just works better for me.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oooo, I love this! I'm not sure how I missed this post this morning though. I'm a little late to the party.

I am not a big plotter, but I am trying with this next story. I really want the writing process to go faster and not get stuck. We share see how I do.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I've always winged my stories, but with NaNoWriMo almost here I thought I'd try storyboarding for the first time. I'm having a lot of fun with it. It's quite freeing. I'll definitely keep this up for future novels.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@Joy, Very nice. I look forward to hearing more about your story. I guess I need to make time to stop over the Christian fiction boards :)

@Sherrinda, let's just say I accidentally left it in draft mode so it wasn't up at 5AM.

@Lynda, Yeah, I'll bet storyboarding would help with NaNoWriMo and your speed. BTW, every year I have thought about doing NaNoWriMo, I guess someday when the kids are older :).

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited that you're doing this. I've asked some people about story boards before, but haven't gotten any solid suggestions on how to do it.