So I’m researching websites for work at the moment, and one of the activities we’re doing is creating storyboards of screens that a user would move through on the website. This got me to thinking about writing fiction, and how you can use storyboarding there as well.
I do a lot of my plot design in my head–I create the scene, then let the characters do as their personalities would dictate, running the “tape” so to speak and seeing what happens. It’s like a mini-movie all in my brain. For an important scene, I may run the scenario several times, from different characters’ perspectives–not because I plan to write in a different point of view or make someone else the protagonist, but because in order to figure out what someone is going to do, you have to get inside their head. So I may drop inside my female heroine’s head and see how she’d react, but then run it again from the villain’s perspective. How would he react? And so on.
This, in fact, is storyboarding. The only real difference is I’m not drawing it out on paper physically.
That got me to thinking. There have been times when I’ve plotted out a scene, but I don’t write it down, and when I actually get in front of a keyboard to type it out, I’ve forgotten which scenario I liked best. So maybe I should be writing them down! Or drawing stick figures–something!
I’m curious how many other writers out there have toyed with this process and if it has worked for them. If you think about it, this is a common tool used in TV and movie making. Why shouldn’t it be used in writing fiction?
Example: Character A (we’ll call her Sasha) wants to get inside her evil boss’s file cabinet to locate the file that will prove he’s been embezzling from the company. She’s smart, brave, but rash and tends to act without thinking. So she goes into his office one day at work while he’s at lunch–only he forgot his cell phone, so while she’s digging around in the file cabinet, he returns. She’s forced to think quickly and hides under the desk, hoping he won’t notice her.
Now this could go a few ways. One, he doesn’t see her. Maybe he’s distracted by the confrontation they had earlier, or may he’s just not that observant a guy (in which case he’s not as great a villain because he’s not as talented as her). She has a tense moment, but is able to find the file once he leaves again. But maybe he is observant, and he does discover her! What then?
You get the picture.
By following the scene through different outcomes, you may find the plot you had originally thought of was not the best, not the most exciting. By exploring different options, you may find something fresh and original. We always think of the clichés. first.
So storyboard it!