Monday, June 08, 2009

Storyboard Saga Continues

What I'm reading: The Drowning Pool, by Jacqueline Seewald

A little over a week ago, I mentioned trying the storyboard approach to writing,and I promised to update.

Things have been moving along. My 'idea' board grows – and since I take off the little sticky notes once the idea has been incorporated, it grows and shrinks as I write. The other board summarized the plot points of each POV character. When a scene or a What if? occurs to me, I'll put it on a bigger yellow sticky, first on my idea board, and then to the summary board. Clues, once mentioned, move from the idea board (assuming they didn't just appear as I was writing), and once they're dealt with, they get tossed.

You can see I've made some progress since last time.

Since this book is turning out to have not only 3 POV characters, but at least 3, if not more, intertwining mystery plot threads, it's helping me make sure I'm introducing them, addressing them, and weaving them through the chapters.

Keep Reading...

When I tried this system the first time, I was trying to plot the whole book—or at least have a broad overview of what should be happening in each chapter. That didn't work for me, and this modification seems to be much more productive. By looking at the chapter squares, I can see which characters have POV scenes, but I normally write the scene, THEN put the summary on the board. As one scene triggers ideas for the next, I have a parking place for them on my idea board, and I can move things around much more easily than trying to work in a document file. With this system, I can see everything at once.

And I don't worry about losing things during our frequent thunderstorms! Last week, we were getting 2000 strikes an hour in some areas.

I've also had some unexpected 'treats'. I had a 'spear carrier' character who was mentioned only in passing in Chapters 1 and 3, as a way to give a little insight into one of my primary characters. Imagine my surprise when she ended up being murdered in Chapter 11. Even though she never appeared in person prior to her unexpected death, she became an important character. Her demise brought several of my preliminary story threads together, and I now have a woven piece of fabric. Of course, new questions have been raised, and I'll be moving Post-its as I work the answers into the plot.

Then there's the still unanswered question about who died in the traffic accident in Chapter Three, and what the mysterious pieces of paper they found in his wallet could mean. I think I'll go buy more Post-its. Different colors.

Tomorrow, my guest is Karen McCullough, and she's talking about why writers write, even when the lows outnumber the highs. Wednesday, we're starting a two-day journey to New Orleans with a group of chefs. You won't want to miss it. And, of course, Homicide Hussey will be back on Friday. It's going to be a busy week! Be sure to stop by.


Jenny Milchman said...

Terry, I definitely can understand why with such a complex series of plot threads, a visual approach would offer a way to keep track.

My worry for me personally is that seeing things spelled out would dilute the sense of surprise I need to keep working. Maybe surprise insists on cropping up though anyway--hence your dead character in ch. 11.

Sounds like the work is going great! I look forward to hearing more!

Sam said...

I'm glad to hear it's working for you. I saw Kris Montee at the Mystery Florida conference on Saturday and told her you were trying the method. It made her smile.

Terry Odell said...

Jenny - that's why the system is modified -- if you check the picture, you'll see I only have stickies on the chapters I've already written. And the myriad little stickies on the other board just help me remember all the ideas running through my head. I don't think I have anything "spelled out" -- even after it's written, I'm likely to go back and change things. (And if I want to, I can carry the board to the other room and watch TV at the same time.)

Terry Odell said...

Sam - I'm about 100 pages into the MS, and it's working well. We'll see how it continues. I consider myself to be a relative newbie, still discovering processes that work.

Thanks for mentioning it to Kris -- guess she doesn't read my blog! :-)

joe doaks-Author said...

Hi, Terry, I know several folks who like story boarding quite a bit. By the way, there’s some pretty inexpensive software that does story boarding. In fact, several pieces of software. One is Write Way Pro. It integrates the function into a word processing program that is very much like MS Word. So, if you’re a software junkie like me, that’s a route to consider.
Best Regards, Galen.

Terry Odell said...

Galen, I'm aware that there are software programs. However, I'm enjoying getting away from the computer for some of these notes. I think it changes the neural pathways or something, to see an entirely different medium.

I know something as simple as printing a hard copy of a chapter instead of reading on screen makes things that I never noticed jump off the page.

Dara Edmondson said...

I often use this type of system. And it totally helps to use different colored post-its;-)Plotting makes my job so much easier!

Kelly - PJ said...

Hi Terry,
PJ Parrish/Kris's sister, Kelly here. I read your DL post and thought I'd come take a look. I think its fabulous you're using the 'sticky storyboard' approach. And I agree - if you only use it to track what you've done so far, it works wonders. But it's also a technique that can help you 'save' a manuscript that is so full of action and/or POV switches it is cluttered with issues the author can't always see.

I had an experience recently in my own project where our agent said the last third felt rushed and jumpy, more than it should have even given the escalating action that comes as the climax nears. (It was a double POV with lots of mid-scene breaks and switches.)

By rearranging my stickies and looking at the board laid out with dfferent POV colors and clear chapter breaks, it helped me see the problem. Agent loved the rewrites.

Patricia Stoltey said...

The storyboard method seems very flexible and better than my habit of leaving notes all over the house as I think of questions or problems. Keeps us posted. I'd like to hear if it continues to be as useful once you have more chapters completed.


Terry Odell said...

Hey, Kelly - good to see you here. Missed you at Sleuthfest. And thanks for all the tips -- all the way back to my "early" days. Not that I'm out of them yet! I'm loving the dual approach - ideas and then tracking implementation.

Pat, I'll definitely track my progress with the system here.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I've never used this approach but it makes a lot of sense. I can see it working well with mystery novels where the devil is in the details.

Incidentally, I hope you're enjoying THE DROWNING POOL. I believe it's very different from THE INFERNO COLLECTION. I'd like to create a series but only if each book can be unique and stand on its own.

Terry Odell said...

Jacqueline: Once you get into series, you need a character notebook too, if you're going to have a continuing cast of characters.

But the storyboard comes in handy--just yesterday it helped me remember that one of my characters made a doctor's appointment in chapter 1, and I needed to make sure I didn't forget to deal with it. Since time moves slowly, from a chapter perspective, it was chapter ten before the appointment day and time rolled around.

I recently finished "Gone Tomorrow" by Lee Child. He's a master at tying everything up--not simply physical clues, but conversations. If a character mentions something, it's going to show up later.

I've also used the Document Map feature in Word to help me keep track of where and when things happen.