Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tales of Newbie Storyboarder

Storyboarding: Not An Extreme Sport But An Exercise in Extreme Patience
By Karyn Good (who’s filling in for Anne)

In the last couple of weeks I’ve started revising my 2009 NaNoWriMo project loosely titled, Complicated. It’s a mess, in every sense of the word. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my NaNo experience and I can’t wait until this November to write Grace and Mike’s story. It doesn’t change the fact Seth and Kate’s story is a confused muddle of dialogue, backstory, half thought out bits of setting, some very steamy lovin’, and way too many secondary characters.

It’s a good thing I love revising.

I did, however, want to figure out the most productive way to start my rewrite. I resisted the idea of jumping in headfirst with page one and plowing ahead. Since I’m still experimenting with what methods work best for me I thought I’d give the storyboard idea a shot. I needed to reread the first draft anyway and decided I might as well storyboard as I went along.


I learned this is not an endeavor to be taken lightly or pushed through quickly. The sticky note expense alone is not to be discounted. Neither is the space needed. Have you ever Googled storyboards and came across those pictures of beautifully organized end products? So have I, mine looked nothing like them. I will admit mine was pretty, the color-coded element alone added to the overall appeal of the end product but, in the end, the wall-sized mural was rather disturbing and not at all in keeping with the theme of my dining room. Note to self: switch to smaller sized sticky notes. I used 4x4 inch ones, 2x2 inch ones would have been plenty big enough.


But I digress. After researching the storyboard idea it seemed to me the most important thing was to decide what information you needed to include on those sticky notes. I settled on the following:

Orange: Setting, Date, Time and POV character.
Purple: Scene/Sequel. Scene: Goal, Conflict, and Disaster. Sequel: Reaction, Dilemma, Decision. According to
Green: Plot Points, Pivots, and Threads.

Days later…

Was it a worthwhile use of my time and did I learn anything useful, besides my need to use smaller sticky notes?

I did learn something. It revealed the amount of time it took for the story to unfold, about a month, which is not bad considering its length. It gave me the percentage of scenes in the heroine and hero’s point-of-view, which can be important when targeting certain markets. It told me, within the confines of the overall setting, where specifically the majority of the story took place, which scenes lacked action and which sequels lacked emotion. Where the plot fell down, disappeared, and how it played out, which I found very useful. It led to a Revision List and Research List and a Backstory List. By the end I had my themes and a handle on the hero’s character arc. For me, the storyboard idea has potential, especially for messy projects.

What I would do differently?

I would keep the information recorded on the orange and green sticky notes; perhaps add a Conflict line to accompany the Plot line. Previously, I had recorded the information included on the purple notes in a ringed notebook. Deciding a scene’s goal, conflict and disaster, or a sequel’s reaction, dilemma and decision is a system that’s compatible with the way my brain works. Using a notebook gives me room to doodle down ideas and play the ‘what if’ game as I rewrite. It works for me.

Obviously, use smaller sticky notes.

Do you storyboard? Do you have any tips or suggestions? Couldn’t be bothered?


Helena said...

Wow, Karyn. What an project you undertook to create order out of your NaNo chaos.

I have never really understood what storyboarding is all about. Thank you for describing in such detail how you are using it. I'm still not sure how to apply it to a specific story. My NaNo 'creation' is still sitting in all its disorderly glory. All I have done since November is try to follow up on some of the research that I identified as necessary, but didn't take time to pursue while pushing for the word count.

(Would this be a good topic to discuss/demonstrate at an SRW meeting or retreat???)

Thanks for another great post, Karyn. Very informative. Yes, 2x2 inch stickies -- I'll remember your advice on that. Impressive photo, by the way.

Vince said...

Hi Karyn:

I’ve been using storyboards since 1971 in my advertising career. We had artists and our cards were mostly pictures. This let us see the commercials we were working on. I understand that Disney invented storyboards so the executives could view a cartoon idea, from start to finish, almost instantly -- with little explaining required.

Perhaps you could use some pictures – even stick drawings. I also like to use shapes. A triangle shape post-a-note might indicate ‘choke points’ where the hero/heroine can no longer go back on his journey. A round note might indicate the introduction of a new character. A diamond shaped one could be scenes which include both the hero and heroine.

Storyboards are meant to be seen and not read. Use more graphic elements (even little inventory dots of different colors pasted on the cards) so the story tells itself from a distance at a glance.

Creating a storyboard is much like designing a database. You need to know what information you want to know and how you want to access it and what the report is going to look like. Once you know this, designing the software is much easier.

With storyboards: Think graphically. Also think: “What would be the ideal end product? What would I want it to tell me at a glance? How would I use it?”

Anyway, I hope this helps. Your post helped me see a different way of looking at storyboards.


Karyn Good said...

Hi Helena. For me doing a storyboard was mostly about reaquainting myself with the story itself and breaking it down into manageable bits and starting the revision process from there.

We'll have to bring up it up as a possible topic at the next meeting. See who's interested!

Karyn Good said...

Hi Vince. Adding different shapes of sticky notes would certainly play into my sticky note addiction.

With storyboards: Think graphically. Also think: “What would be the ideal end product? What would I want it to tell me at a glance? How would I use it?”

I think as I work with the storyboard idea more, these are the things I will look at defining.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn
Storyboarding is totally uncharted territory for me. Vince's explanation and your pictures helped to explain how they work(your board is very pretty by the way!). Would I try it? I don't know. My revision methods are messy and kind of complicated but they seem to work for me, so I think I'll stick with them.


Janet said...

OK - I had no idea I was storyboarding when I revised Lady Bells the first time around. Sticky notes were my friend and allowed me to chop and change without losing track of my plot or subplot points. I also used the flag sticky notes to 'flag' pages in the manuscipt that contained great lines, dialogue, description. My plastic tub, marked Lady Bells, is filled with my process - taking pictures of it seems like a good idea.

Sounds like you're on your way to brilliant revisions! Good luck with them and keep us informed as to how the story board helped or hindered.

BTW - your 50 pages are on my weekend's To Do list. Sorry I'm late with them.

Silver James said...

Okay, Karyn. You are far more organized (and braver!) than I. As much as I love my sticky notes, they are a haphazard mess compared to your color-coordinated masterpiece. :D

Me? I think I'm born to be disorganized. But it seems to work.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Jana. Everyone should do the thing that works for them. Especially, if it's proven successful!

Karyn Good said...

Hi Janet. It definitely sounds like you utilized some sort of storyboard idea and combined it with your exceptional organizational skills. It shows in your writing!

No worries over the next 50 pages. Whenever you get to them is fine by me.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Silver. One person's disorganization is another's organized system! And if it's a system that works, fabulous. It's finding one that works that counts.

connie said...

Hi Karyn

I kinda sorta used a story board once, when I was writing my non-fiction book. It was pretty loose.
I used several large sheets of paper taped together to give me lots of room. I drew a large circle for each chapter and labelled it. Every time I had a thought or research fact etc, I used sticky notes pasted with gay abandon on the appropriate circle. Lots of them got moved around, u at last, everything seemed to be about right and I tackled the computer.
I don't think I want to do anything more complicated than that though. I keep a sort of running story line in my head and add to/delete from after I have the first draft.
Sloppy, but it works for me.
Thanks for a good explanation and a diningroom mural par excellnce.

Molli said...

I've never done storyboarding, Karyn, but I have a greater appreciation for it after reading this post.
I like what Hazel said about having this as a topic for an SRW event -- hmmn, wonder who'd be good to lead us on that (she said, tongue firmly planted against the inside of her cheek).
Thanks for sharing your experience on this.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Connie. Hum, the circle idea sounds interesting and if it worked for you, that's great. The most important thing is to find a system or style that works for you.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Molli. Hum, I wonder. Perhaps when I'm past the experimentation stage!