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How To: StoryBoard

Storyboarding is a technique I’ve heard a lot about lately on blogs and in other resources on novel or short story writing. Truth be told Storyboarding is a technique that has been used for decades in all creative fields from Movies and Animation to Comic Books and Performance art. Storyboarding is a way for us as creators to get the story out without actually having to write the whole thing. It helps give us a goal with every scene. It lets us know where we are going and what place we are trying to get to.

Using a Storyboard isn’t for everyone. I know a lot of people who feel that fully laying out and describing a story can completely stifle creativity. But for those who would like to try it a Storyboard can be an extremely valuable tool. Here’s how it goes:

For my storyboards I like to use post it notes. They’re portable, pre-glued, and cheap. Plus, since they are just paper you can either use words or pictures to describe the events of your scene story or novel. The idea is to jot down a couple of simple words or a basic picture to cover the rough idea of what you want to accomplish at each moment in your story.

You start with the big pieces: like a main characters death, or the defeat of the bad guy. Jot a few notes about it and stick it on a flat surface. Any flat surface will do. I have even used a box top at one point while moving. I use sticky notes and a flat surface because I’m cheap, but just about any touch screen or tablet has a good sticky note program you can flick around the screen and edit and rewrite with simple ease.  (Or you can use an online tool such as: http://www.storyboardthat.com/ )

Then you jot down a few notes about the beginning of your story, nothing overly specific. Just something like: Village, Spring, Attacked by monsters.

You don’t have to have any specifics in mind at this point in time, leave it as rough as you want. When you have it written stick it on the same flat surface or tablet screen as the other one. I usually go left to right with the start of the novel to the left, but whatever works for you. Now think of something else that happens in the novel: Main Character turned into frog, for instance. Then you decide if that happens between the two events you already have or after or before. Then you put that on the flat surface in the right order.

Keep doing this until you have all the main events you want to include in your novel. When you’ve got all the really big stuff, move on to some smaller stuff that happens between the big stuff. And when that’s finish move on to the smaller transitional scenes that happen between the interesting stuff.

Soon you’ll have most of your novel laid out on a flat surface in front of you. The whole story in your hand. Now, here comes the really useful part. Just by looking at the random scraps of notes you have arrayed in front of you, you can begin to edit, revise, and rearrange your novel before you begin to write. Get rid of those scenes you liked at first, but no longer fit with the theme of the novel. Add a few scenes that cover the exposition you need about powers or sciences or whatever. Shift the order of when things happen to keep the reader’s attention. Storyboarding is especially handy for suspense or mystery stories so you can see all the information at once. You can take all the clues your character needs to solve the mystery and scatter them backwards throughout your novel to hint at the final ending.

Once you have everything planned all you need to do is fill in the details. Take each note and expand on it until it becomes what you want it to. Then move on to the next note. You don’t even have to try and write the whole novel at once, just note by note. Then when you have all the Notes covered, just string them together. You can even write the scenes in the same order you wrote the notes. Start with the big events, then move to the lesser events, and finally, link all these parts together by writing those transitional scenes you’ve plotted out.

Take it section by section, link it all together, and suddenly you have your novel.

Good Luck and Happy Writing.