Friday, April 3, 2020

Three Different Storyboards to Map Your Book's Structure

I love the random approach to writing a book (islands, a term coined by Kenneth Atchity in Write Time, appeal to me most).  

Storyboards, however, keep me honest.  

They tell me when that random writing has veered too far off my book's purpose. 

These past weeks I've been very focused on storyboards (a welcome distraction), teaching two virtual classes on the art of storyboarding a book.  I feel a writer is ready for storyboards when they've played and explored enough and they're craving some organization.  For those just starting out, storyboards can also be useful for brainstorming--an alternative to outlining.  Or for figuring your way out of stuck places.  My classes have all three kinds of writers.

I tell them the storyboard process is more linear than the "flow" writing we imagine to be most creative.  I promise that storyboards will also yield tremendous insights--why that sucky chapter feels so out of sync or what kind of ending might work best.   

I teach the three storyboards that I personally use for each book I write.  This week, I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you, maybe giving you a welcome distraction as well.

I'll list them in the order I work on them, myself, as I build my book.  

Storyboard #1:  Outer events.  This is basically an outline of your plot points (fiction and memoir) or your information (nonfiction)--the sequence you'll present them to the reader.  I first explore the five main points in a storyboard, represented by the W in the video below.  Watch the video to learn more about what each point represents.  This is the first and most important part of a storyboard:  if you don't have the outer events or information sequenced well, the rest is hard to organize.

Storyboard #2:  Character or narrator or reader growth.  This storyboard is based on the changes a person goes through during your story.  It can be your main character, yourself as narrator, or your reader.  Each comes to the story with a wounding event and a false belief about life, created by the wounding event.  In the course of the story, there will be change and possibly resolution.  The false belief will be examined and discarded, perhaps, or transmuted into acceptance and understanding.  Each of the five points decided above (outer events) also marks a moment of change for the person who experiences them.

Storyboard #3:  Setting.  You've probably heard writers or teachers say that a setting can be so real and vivid, it becomes almost a character.  Settings change to reflect the emotional changes in the people.  A town may start off safe and become dangerous (To Kill a Mockingbird).  When I've completed the outer event and character storyboards, I track the "location arc," or how the setting arcs through its own changes.  You can practice this in books you read--it's a subtle but fascinating process.

Here's the video, a refresher or a new lesson for your storyboard training.

Your Book Starts Here - Storyboarding for Writers
Your Book Starts Here - Storyboarding for Writers

If you want to try one or all of the storyboards, get a posterboard and some Post-It notes. Draw a big W.  Start with the outer events.

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