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Storyboarding your novel (1 Viewer)


Space Lord
This is something I've been thinking about lately, because I saw how important it was when I spent a summer at a USC film school camp (this one time, at film school camp). While I didn't do it for my current novel, I still think when I begin my rewrites (end of June) I'll try it. Seeing it together all in front of you could help when cutting, editing, moving chapters, scenes, all the usual rewrite fun. Lets begin:)
Storyboards are an invaluable tool for some of the world's most famous filmmakers. Certain movies, such as special-effects-laden spectaculars, and cartoon features (such as Disney productions or computer-generated family movies like FINDING NEMO or THE INCREDIBLES) rely heavily on storyboards. Filmmakers realize that by using storyboards they can save on costs, since they will be able to settle on ideas before cameras even begin rolling, rather than to just hope for the best in the middle of production.
Storyboarding your novel can help you to avoid similar disappointments as you produce your work. Fortunately, you don't have to be an artist to create a storyboard, and storyboards can even be put together out of words rather than images. What you are interested in is that your storyboards can form a backbone for your planned work. All you need to begin with is a few specific images or ideas. (The storyboards can later be changed or redeveloped.)
Let's imagine that you want to challenge yourself to write about something fantastically dramatic, like a shipwreck. You may not know where to begin. Well, the first thing you can do is loosely storyboard this idea. Remember, you don't even need to draw anything. All you need to do is to focus on a few images; therefore, you may want to write or even sketch your ideas onto index cards to substitute for full-fledged storyboards.
Here are 5 images you could start with:
1.) Waves crashing against the side of the ship, spraying over its deck.
2.) Items in the cabins falling to the floor.
3.) One passenger grabbing another to safety as a large piece of furniture crashes against the wall.
4.) People jumping overboard in confusion and desperation.
5.) A huge hole being torn in the bottom of the ship by sharp rocks underwater.
These storyboards illustrate action, and they only vaguely suggest a story. However, you can create characters on the basis of these images, you can imagine their feelings, and you can speculate about what will next occur. Very easily, you are able to create a visual outline for your novel which will allow you to improve or modify aspects of your work without inhibiting your creative process.
Creating a general plan for your work through storyboards is something you can set aside 30 minutes a day for. Once you have dispensed with this work, then you can move on to the real work of your day, which is to continue writing your novel itself. Allow yourself to burrow into this creative process. Refer to your storyboarded ideas, but don't let them hamper you. ( It's very hard to be creative story-wise if you're obsessed about tiny details; thus, some things are better to take care of in successive drafts of your work. ) What makes art so interesting is its spontaneity, so you have to make sure to give spontaneity room to occur.
In drama, many of the most wonderful and memorable moments are often slightly premeditated, even if they're improvised. By storyboarding our work, we can see that the pre-production process can actually enhance the results of our creativity rather than to suppress it.


There's this book that I've been reading for the past few days (;)) that recommends using a similar technique. The author calls it a beat sheet. Using said beat sheet allows you to make something of a blueprint of your novel, so that when you actually get down to the nitty gritty of writing, you know where you're going and how to get there.

Example (given by the book):

"1. Prologue--preview of forthcoming problem.

2. Intro character and his life prior to facing problem.

3. Show character's present pre-First Plot Point life, what his stakes are.

4. Off-stage flash of approaching antagonism (foreshadowing).

5. Hero's first hint of inner darkness.

6. Hero timidly confronts that darkness, we see it's his Achilles' heel."

And it goes on from there, but I'm tired of typing. And then, it gives the example of a more detailed beat sheet, which thereby gives you more direction.

"1. Man and woman in hotel room, wildly making love; we see her wedding ring on the counter next to the man's wallet. This is a prologue--we aren't sure who is who.

2. We meet our hero, who runs a successful retail boutique founded and owned by his wife. She's the face of the business; he does all the hard work.

3. We see that she gets all the glory and money, while he gets little credit or appreciation. But the employees know. There's trouble afoot.

4. Wife says she's got a meeting downtown. Kisses him, leaves, but goes to hotel rendezvous with lover. One of the other employees sees her there.

5. That employee tries to tell the hero what's up, but without betraying the wife, who is the Big Boss. She has a crush on the hero herself (foreshadowing)."

You get the picture by now, I think. It sounds to me like a really useful technique in planning scenes, twists, etc. I think I may have to try it out on my next novel, whenever I get around to that one. :)
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Kyle R

WF Veterans
Yeah, Beat Sheets are useful!

I don't storyboard by drawing visually, but I do make beat sheets.

They are common knowledge among screenwriters, though many novelists (at least the beginning ones) unfortunately have never even heard of them.

The craft of screenwriting tends to demand more base knowledge about plot structuring than fiction writing, which is one of the reasons I read (and recommend others to consider reading) screenwriting books. Combine them with an active approach to improving prose, descriptive abilities, characterization and setting, and you've got everything you need to write a terrific story! :D
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Space Lord
I've heard of beat sheets, but have yet to use one in my work. Sounds like a great way to get your head straight on where your story is going. But, it's way more detailed than storyboarding. Since my WIP is more action/horror oriented, the storyboard will help at letting me see the specific scenes (big and small) and their placement in my work. It will be very useful in finding big lags between scenes, or too many at once. I want the action to unfold at a specific tempo, rising and falling, and seeing it laid out in front of me will make it easier to keep it flowing like I want. It would have been fantastic if I had done it at the beginning, but if ifs and buts were candy and nuts. . . :icon_cheesygrin:


Space Lord
I'm kinda thinking this technique is going to be genre specific. Since it's mostly about showing action, and creating the story around those types of scenes, I don't think it would work with something dramatic, or romance. I'm looking at Tiamat on this one, since she's the chick-lit expert:)


Hardly the expert on anything of the sort, but thanks anyways. :p As far as storyboarding goes, I can see why that might be action-specific, but not necessarily. Action doesn't have to mean guns blaring, karate-kicks flying, car chases, and bombs going off like fireworks on the Chinese New Year. Action could simply refer to the intense scenes--such as a husband finding his wife in bed with his boss, for example. I could see it working for almost any genre, because despite the niches in the market, for any story to be...well, a story, there needs to be some kind of conflict, some kind of emotional reactions from the characters, and some kind of high point (or several such pivotal moments).


Senior Member
I don't think it's genre specific at all, since all stories have to proceed from event to event, even if all those events are emotional. I'm using a version of a beat sheet (a web-based checklist) that I can add to and re-order as a go-along. It contains both action points and emotional beats, whatever I need to keep my story on track.

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