Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Storyboard Saga - Part 4

What I'm reading: Make Me Yours, by Betina Krahn

Thanks, Jane, for that delightful look at New Zealand. I did get as far as the airport in a brief layover on our way to Australia years ago. I hope to get there someday.

And welcome to my new followers. I hope you'll find it worthwhile stopping by. I'm flattered that you find enough here to keep coming back.

Writing updates: I'm in contract negotiations for my mystery short stories that would be part of a 4 author anthology. And my upcoming (July 27) Free Read brought an unsolicited email from the publisher.

She wrote: I read your upcoming free read, The Other Side of the Page, and just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. So clever and cute!

That's definitely a feel-good moment.

I'm back to my novel again, after the break to write a short story. And I've got more story board stuff going on. Because I took an extended break from working on the novel to write my second short story, I was out of touch with both plot and characters. In order to get back into the thick of things, I read what I had – about 45,000 words—in hard copy, and found a few problems. I also needed to take another look at my idea board, to remind myself of where I've been and where I want to go.

Keep Reading...

One thing I realized was that I have introduced secondary characters whose roles are becoming more significant in the various plot threads. I went through my story board and added little sticky notes with their names for each scene in which they appeared. This way, I can see if I've left them off the page for too long, or if they're starting to threaten to take over.

Since I'm trying to keep track of a fatal car accident, a murder, two break-ins, and a secret search for something, the sticky notes help. If I were really good, I'd color code them, but since I've already used random colors, I think I'll just use my new bright blue ones for plot threads in general. Should I ever do this again, I'll probably try to do more color-coding from the get go.

Trying to keep the reader guessing means dropping in clues and red herrings. But you have to play fair. If I've forgotten to mention the traffic accident, or the name of the man who died in it, for too many chapters, it's likely the reader will have forgotten as well. It's not fair to mention something or someone once in passing, and then have it be the solution to the entire puzzle at the end. Nor do I want to mention it so often that it's waving a red flag at the reader. "CLUE HERE!"

Another thing I noticed on my re-read was that I'd forgotten an important reveal. Megan had been telling everyone she didn't remember anything about the man who accosted her in the park, but at the end of Chapter 11, I discovered she'd revealed what he'd said to her. Forgetting that I'd written it, I blithely went on with her saying she didn't remember, until she revealed it again in chapter 15. Oops.

So now, when I have a critical reveal, I'm using my red pen and some nice, conspicuous asterisks on my sticky notes. And given how many mystery threads I'm interweaving, I should probably have done it from page 1.

Could I do all this on the computer? Sure. And lots of times, I do make notes, both using the Document Map feature of Word, or on a separate document. But I don't like bouncing back and forth, and slapping up a sticky note is still working for me.

Looking back: What am I tracking? POV characters. Each has a specific color larger sticky. Setting. Mystery threads and clues. Secondary characters who are involved in one of the mystery threads (or, as it seems to be turning out, as a romantic interest for my detective).

As far as plotting goes, I'm still doing this as I go along. When I started talking about writing this book, I mentioned working to establish the critical back story that propels the mystery. I'm now writing the second scene of Chapter 16 (at the 47,000 word mark), and this is the first time the reader is seeing a hint as to what it is. (Talk about not opening with back story info dumps!) That's why this is a mystery. In a suspense, the reader would already know, and would be wondering if things were going to reach critical mass before the characters figured it out. But since it's a mystery, the reader won't know until the characters do.


jan springer said...

Awesome! I will have to try a storyboard too. Yours looks neat!


Sir John said...

This is interesting. I know many authors do it differently and everyone has to find their own way of doing it. I write an outline and constantly change it as I write.

Johnny Ray

Terry Odell said...

Jan, I'm sure you meant "neat" as in "cool", because it's anything but tidy!

Sir John - Yes, I would never presume to tell anyone 'this is the way to do it.' All we can do is find whatever works -- and most of the time what works is a continually evolving process.

Skhye said...

I'm finally breaking down to whip up a storyboard. With a 3 yr old screaming at me 24/7, I have to do something! Great post. ~Skhye

Terry Odell said...

Skhye - And you can let your toddle put stickies on his own 'storyboard' while you work. :-)

Katie Reus said...

Thanks for the notes Terry! I finally got a dry erase board and it's now covered in sticky notes. I've never tried plotting this way but I'm finding it much easier.

Terry Odell said...

Katie, once I started thinking of it as a tracking system instead of a plotting system, it made more sense.

Chester Campbell said...

I use tracking on a sheet of paper, mianly for things like character names and time lines. I can see where it would make sense in a lot of other areas.

Terry Odell said...

Hi, Chester. I use an Excel spreadsheet for character names -- that's on place I like to stick with the computer. I can alphabetize with a single click and make sure I don't have too many similar names.

Mary Ricksen said...

It looks like a classroom, and very intimidating. I'm with Sir John, I use and outline. Am I dating myself?
Whatever works, I think it would be hard to keep all those characters and incidents together. And it's interesting to see how other people approach it.

Terry Odell said...

LOL, Mary -- to me the outline screams "school assingment"

I like being able to pick things up and move them around - must be the kinesthetic learner in me.

Teresa Reasor said...

I've storyboarded for years. Using every method there is. Computer, desk calendar, laminated board and the post it notes. I've done some on the computer and you can print them off and carry them around with you in the car and ect. Which makes it nice to brainstorm. But I cut the notes apart and put them on my physical storyboard, desk calendar. That way I can color code things like POV, romantic story line, suspense story line. turnings point and everything else.
I write the stairway to suspense on the storyboard in black so it can remind me where I'm heading.

1st step: The hook (the Call to Action.)
2nd step: The decision that turns the story.
The decision or choice the heroine/hero makes that turns the story in the direction it will travel. This choice is based on some character flaw that guides the character’s motivation for the choice.
Romantic call to action.
3rd step: The choice creates obstacles to solving the situation.
First Kiss
4th step: Another choice, More problems, situation worsens.
The character makes another choice which causes more problems and the situation worsens.
First Time They Make Love
5th step: More choices ,more obstacles.
The more choices a character makes, the more obstacles will fall into his/her path.
Gray Moment
6th step: The climax.
The greatest obstacles are faced and the greatest attempts are made to overcome the situation created in the hook.
Black Moment
7th step: The resolution.
It’s short, sweet, and should tie up all the loose ends and leave the reader feeling completely satisfied.
Romantic Resolution

Write on,
Teresa Reasor

Terry Odell said...

I have a lot of those points on my "idea" board, Teresa.
All your points have become "organic" when crafting a romance -- I know they have to be there, and work up to them.

Only I'm writing a mystery this time, not a romance, so I'm trying a different system to keep my mystery threads and 3 character arcs moving forward.

Sheila Deeth said...

I'm in competition for a place in a mystery anthology. No contract, but I'm tripping over the moon to have made finalist at SecondWindPublishing. And my friend keeps threatening to make me use a whiteboard to get my stories organized. Maybe, one day...

Terry Odell said...

Sheila - congrats! Fingers crossed that your story gets accepted.

I had 5 novels and 6 short stories published without using a story board, so it's definitely not a 'rule'.

Do what works for you. And if you find something, let us know.