Why You Should Storyboard Your Novel
Storyboards are sequences of images that illustrate key actions within a narrative. From filmmakers to advertisers, creatives use storyboards to plan projects. Storyboarding allows teams to pitch and share ideas, sketching sequences that can be easily revised rather than costing thousands of dollars to make changes during post-production. As a writer, storyboards will help you save hours of editing time. When you sketch a scene, you are forced to think visually and spatially. This enables you to better understand each character’s perspective and will help you find alternative possibilities and direction you may have missed. Ultimately, a good storyboard will serve as a visual outline from which you can write your narrative.
But what if you can’t draw? Keep reading, and I’ll tell you why this isn’t as much of a problem as you may think.
How to Storyboard Your Novel
Think of your storyboard as a visual interpretation of your plot outline. Each panel can be altered or even completely removed from the final narrative. At this point, the plot is still likely to change as it grows. That’s why it’s crucial to sketch quickly—to avoid spending too much time on sequences that will be cut. A successful storyboard has just enough visual clues to convey physical space and emotion. You can even use stick figures if you’d like. This is a good option if you don’t have advanced drawing ability. Stick figures allow you to sketch scale and location quickly so that you can keep moving through the panels. The important thing is not the quality of your drawings, but that you are later able to interpret what you’ve drawn and translate that into words. Your storyboard is the guideline for your final project. It’s a tool that will help you establish plot points and decide what details and elements to focus on. If you’re able to look at your storyboard days later and still know what you meant, then it’s working.
Things to think about as you create your storyboard panels:
- What is the purpose of each scene? What key action is happening? For example, if your protagonist is driving and adjusts their rear-view mirror before seeing something strange in the backseat, show that action. Draw the mirror and what they see inside. If you focus on the important details in your storyboard, you’ll know exactly what to include when you write.
- What is the current emotional interaction between characters in each frame? If you don’t feel your sketches are doing this justice, you can always include notes in a description beneath each panel.
- If this were a movie, what would make you want to watch it? Even though you will be translating your storyboards into text, if nothing interesting happens in a scene, it’s going to be just as boring to read about as it is to look at–if not more so.
- Break it down to the beats. A plot beat is a screenwriting term for the points of action that drive the story. [Because X happened, Y happens.] You don’t have to draw every sequence in your entire novel. When still roughing-out the plot, it’s best to start broad and work your way in. Begin by creating an overall storyboard showing the relationship of the most important beats, the pivotal moments within your narrative. You can go back later and detail each scene.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to download your free storyboard templates.
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