Visualize Your Story

Many writers, especially screenwriters, see their work played out as if it were a movie. When it comes to creative writing, the brain generally processes information visually. It’s the same process of visualizing your goals in order to achieve them. Visualize your characters and setting as if they were taking part in a movie and their conversations as if you had actually been there to experience it, like a memory. To better facilitate this process, and become a storyboard artist, you should understand film and the filmmaking process.

Posting pictures on your wall, drawing maps or sketching scenes as if you were drawing a shot in a movie can help you become more in-tune with your goals. You may even discover new and important details for your story that can add extra dynamics for the plot or depth within a character.

Music can be inspirational as well. A particular song may help you get the “feel” of your opening sequence, or final scene. There are no limits when it comes to taking your inspiration to the next level.

Pictures are moving. A beautiful sunset, a romantic kiss at the top of a sharp cliff, a homely child in front of a barn, or provocative hunk posing lasciviously at the beach can stir all kinds of emotions. Magazines and newspapers, especially National Geographic and Vogue know that great pictures sell more copies.

If your horror novel takes you to an abandoned factory somewhere, then prowl around your neighborhood or a nearby city or at the very least, the Internet, for an image that could help you describe your setting.

If you are like me, then you store these images very close by my writing space. I write on the couch in my basement most of the time, so I decorate the walls and my desk with photos that remind me of my various locations. Next to them I keep group photos of friends, acquaintances, and strangers that have qualities similar to my characters so that I can refer to them in my stories. This makes the characters more realistic for the readers because they have been brought into your life, personally. From there on out, it’s the writer’s job to know them intimately.

Drawings and Storyboarding
In film school, I was taught to storyboard every shot for every movie I was about to write, direct or produce. Now, I wasn’t a very good illustrator by any means. In fact, many of my scenes were stick drawings, but that was enough to get my idea across to my crew and provide me a reference point when I felt lost.

I drew my opening shot and every sequence right until the very final shot in my film. It was a lot of work, but entirely necessary and even though I write more novels than films these days, I’ve learned that storyboarding my chapters can help me identify which scenes were weak and how I could make them stronger.

Drawing can help a writer visualize the locations as well. This is especially helpful if you are writing a murder mystery and need to know precisely where each character is at all times. Providing yourself with a map, even if it’s a stick drawing, can help you visually place your characters where you can describe the details around them -right down to the very last tree, overgrown shrub or parking meter.

Dry Erase boards and cork boards are one of the oldest, tried-and-true ways of visualizing your story. Felt tip markers, cork boards and note cards can be written, placed and then easily re-arranged should you need to re-work your scenes in the editing phases. Character descriptions, plot flow charts, and geographical notes/facts can be seen, as a whole, then elaborated upon using a separate board or even a simple notebook.

Puzzle Making
Puzzle making is a very creative and unique way of plotting the details of your story. Personally, I’ve avoided using this tactic because of how time-consuming it is. I also have a habit of forcing scenes and dialogue into the story that shouldn’t belong.

Puzzle making is when a writer writes down the story idea, sometimes scene-by-scene or by dialogue then cut it into pieces with scissors and laying them sequentially on a large surface (like my living room floor) and then re-arranging the scenes until it creates a sort-of visual hierarchy of characters, scenes, dialogue and subplots.

I’ve heard romance writers tend to use this as a way to decide which couples will have a happy ending together, and which ones will be star-crossed. Mystery writers can use this technique to help them create red herrings and reveal the killer, but I’ve found more tactical ways to do this for mystery, which we will discuss in future articles.

Being organized will greatly improve the quality of your work. Whichever tactic you use: puzzle making, storyboarding, photographs or Dry Erase, take advantage of each (or all of them) in order to develop a confident and coherent plot. Click here on how to improve your storyboard.


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