The Joy of Storyboarding and Meandering Through the Murky Subconscious - Jo-Ann Carson

The Joy of Storyboarding and Meandering Through the Murky Subconscious

joy-3First the Joy:
I’ve fallen in LOVE with Blake Snyder’s storyboard. As he explains in Save the Cat:

“The Board is a way for you to “see” your movie [think manuscript] before you start writing. It is a way to easily test different scenes, story arcs, ideas, bits of dialogue and story rhythms, and decide whether they work–or if they just plain suck…And the best part is, while you’re doing all this seemingly ridiculous time-wasting work , your story is seeping into your subconscious in a whole other way.”

Brilliant! The system is tactile, colorful and communicative right down to the murky depths of creativity.
How does it work? You start with a “board” which can be a piece of chart paper, blackboard, whiteboard, wall, or whatever flat space you have and create four long rows which represent: Act One, the first half of Act Two, the second half of Act Two and Act Three. For me this translates to:

  1. the first quarter of my story ending with the first turning point,
  2. the second quarter ending with the second turning point,
  3. the third quarter, during which the bad guys gather, ending in the black moment and crisis and
  4.  the denouement.

Scenes are jotted down on index cards and placed on the continuum. You color code them and detail the emotion and conflict changes in each one (nb. he details and easy system for this in the book). The cards are placed where you think they belong and then you move them around as your story begins to takes shape adding and deleting scenes as needed.
Snyder recommends using 40 cards, 10 per line but I’m not going to worry about numbers yet. It will be interesting to see how many it will take and where they tend to bunch up.

“One great part about using The Board is the easy way you can identify problem spots”

In other words, you find the black holes that are sucking the life out of your plot and screwing with your pacing. I think of it as a my story shoelace, it pulls together all the bits and pieces that are floating in my head to give me a solid footing. How cool is that?

I’m about 19,000 words into the story I’m putting up on my first Board. Below is a picture of my first attempt. I haven’t added much detail to the scenes, or noted the emotion and conflict yet.
Then You Take the Plunge:
41zE6Pp83tL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX285_SY380_CR,0,0,285,380_SH20_OU01_Snyder describes the experience of the writer:
“We’ll be the guy up on the dock that feeds the oxygen tube down to you, the deep-sea diver, as you descend into the depths of your subconscious mind. Make sure that in your life you too have similar support from friends and loved ones. Because as you drop into the depths of your story, trying to capture the thoughts and the feelings you need to accomplish your mission, you have to trust that those up in the real world are supporting you and are watching your back. It’s weird down there! You’ll see all manner of wondrous and strange things, be amazed by what you’re capable of handling, and surprised by how great an experience it can be. But it’s also dangerous; doubt and anxiety will plague you, and , like the bends, it will cause you to see fearful things that aren’t even there.” (p. 116, Blake Snyder, Save the Cat, Sheridan Books Inc. 2005))

Have you experienced “the writer bends” lately? Been story boarding? Love to hear from you. Have a great week.


0 Replies to “The Joy of Storyboarding and Meandering Through the Murky Subconscious”

  1. So impressed you’re doing this, Jo-Ann. I hadn’t been writing long when someone pointed out this process. I could no more wrap my mind around it than breath under water. There’s also the issue, I can barely read anything I write by hand. LOL I’ll be interested to see how this works for you. I know people who sware by it. They also write faster than I do. I’m sure that would be an asset.(sp?)
    Now I swear by his “save the cat,” idea. I implemented (using a dog) and then I sold! Maybe that was only part of the fix, but I’ll always try to use that technique. Keep us “posted” on your progress.

    1. Hi Marsha
      The irony is that I’m in one of those “hiccups” in my draft and it’s a “hiccup” on the chart too. So does that help? lol I’ll keep you posted. So far I’m finding my modified version of it helpful.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. Thanks for bringing this up right now, so seremdipitously! I have a storyboard, still sitting beside me as I write this, for the 2nd Fortune Bay book, now in a very rough first draft, the book I am trying to go back and work on, but didn’t know how to start – or restart – because it needs a major rewrite. So major I don’t want to just start reading first because I will get sucked into the story as it stands. So the story board! Perfect. I’ll post a picture of my board on my face book site (instead of writing). I use post-its – very colourful.

    1. Hi Judy
      I remember seeing lots of boards around your office. I’m guessing each wip has its own.
      I’ve tried different graphic organizers before, but this one is the charm for me, so far. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. I love your storyboard, Jo-Ann! Also Judy Hudson’s, which she just posted on Facebook. I’m a complete pantser and never know what’s going to happen till it happens, so I find it difficult to do one of these until I’ve finished the first draft.

    1. Hi Lee
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      I thought I was “pantser”, but now I think I’m more of a “lurcher,” which by my definition is a writer who can “pants-it” for short periods of time, but crashes if she tries to go too far. I fly into the creative mist with a few ideas and signposts in view.
      The process of delving into ones’ imagination fascinates me. I hope we never figure it all out. lol
      Congratulations on your launch today.

  4. Jo-Ann what a great post. The storyboard is awesome. I have a 4×8 whiteboard on one wall of my office. I use it but to the extent you do. I may give your method a try!

    1. Jerrie
      Thank you for your kind words. Let me know if it works for you. I’m having great fun playing with it.
      And thank you for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes

  5. I did basically the same thing with index cards on a spare table. Four columns, each with 13 cards, ending with Plot point 1, Act 2 midpoint, plot Point 2 and ‘The end.” I’d written myself into too many dead ends and needed to try plotting at least once. I’m hooked, too.

    1. Ana
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      I like the table idea. It must give you lots of room.
      Glad to hear from someone else bit by the Boarding bug. lol
      Best Wishes

  6. Jo-Ann, Jerrie Alexander is my good friend and former CP. Her first book out is THE GREEN EYED DOLL, super supense and awesome love story. Check out her website and her books.

    1. Hi Marsha
      I was delighted to get a comment on my blog from Jerrie, so I did check out her website, and sign up for her newsletter. What a great lady!
      Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story “board,” Jo-Ann! Looks very helpful. I’m a big fan of plotting and organizing, so I think this type of board would be good for my writing. And thanks for reminding me that I should re-read “Save the Cat.” It’s been too long.

    1. Hi Jacqui
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I didn’t know you were a “plotter.” I’m still figuring out where I am on the continuum, but the story board sure helps me, so maybe I lean more towards the plotter type. I can see returning to Snyder’s book again and again. It’s rich with ideas and so clearly written.
      Best Wishes

  8. It sounds so good, Jo-Ann that I’m going to order a copy of ‘Save the cat’ right now. It took me far too long to work out that I’m definitely a plotter, but I love your ‘lurcher’ definition. It fits me at times also. I try to come up with an itinerary or a blurry road map which gathers definition as the story progresses.

  9. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Thank you!

    1. Hi Beatris
      Thank you for your kind words. I suggest starting out with a free platform like WordPress. It’s easy to navigate and you can get your words out there. I’ve blogged on two of the paid options and while I could produce a slicker product I don’t think it made a difference in my stats.
      Keep in mind I’m an aspiring writer too. But that’s my recommendation for what it’s worth.
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
      Best of luck

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