Storyboarding is an old tool used to arrange the flow of images in film. It involves time (what happens first, then second, then next, etc.) and provides an opportunity to imagine and evaluate ideas for the project.
How can you use storyboarding in your writing? Get some post-it notes or 3 x 5 index cards (whichever you prefer) and determine your working space. You can use a whiteboard or poster board for post-it notes or lay out index cards on any flat surface (floor, bed, table, etc.).
Jot one idea about your book per post-it or index card (example could be Jennie hears gunshot, peers out her window, and sees person look toward her). Write another idea on a different post-it or index card (example could be Jennie’s coworker asks her if she was home when the shooting occurred in her neighborhood). Write another idea on a different post-it or index card.
Don’t evaluate your ideas as you capture them. Wait until you’ve got a bunch of ideas (let’s say, up to twenty), and then lay them out in sequence so you can begin to see your story unfold.
You’ll find gaps that need filling in. You’ll find scenes that need fleshing out. You’ll discover new things about your characters, and may even find some that don’t belong in your story at all. When you find things that don’t fit in this story, save them to use in another one you’ll write.
As you work, you’ll get new ideas, which means you’ll create new post-its or index cards. As you do more research for your story, you’ll get even more new ideas to add to your story sequence. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with ideas, take another look at each idea and ask these two questions:
- Why does this belong in my book and why does it belong in this spot?
- Where else can I use this idea (think book series, short story, etc.)?
These two questions will help you decide what stays in your book and what will serve you better in a different story.
What do you do when you’re done with your storyboarding? Use the notes to help get you writing. For example, if you need an outline of what happens in each chapter, use your notes to help you create your outline. I caution you, however, to not spend so much time getting ready to write that you never actually get around to writing.
Consider this new use for an old tool and decide if you want to add it to your writing toolbox. Happy writing!