Storyboarding 4: From Board to Outline

You are almost there.  After brainstorming, supply gathering, and storyboarding, you’re almost ready to sit down and write a novel.

Go you.

Seriously, a round of applause for getting this far.  You’re almost there.  Only one step remains: fixing your chronology.

Final Steps

Your story board represents an order of events in a logical dimension.  X leads to Y.  But there are two other dimensions you need to figure out before you can call your storyboard an outline: POV Sequence, and timeline.

POV Sequence

One of the critical elements of crafting a well told multi-POV story is balance.  You need your readers to maintain a connection with each of your POV characters, which means you must switch to each of their POVs fairly regularly.  That can be more difficult than it sounds when you have something going down in one POV while nothing much is happening to another.

Ideally, you’ll be able to rotate perfectly through each POV, hitting each one once every rotation.  (Of course, that’s once they are established, which is another discussion for another day.  (Next week, maybe?)  Even thought that sounds easy, you’ll soon find out that it’s not.  Especially when you have to factor in timelines.

Timelines

While you were working on the cause/effect essence of your novel, I told you not to worry about timelines, because you would worry about those later.

Welcome to later.

Now that you’ve figured out all your different story arcs and plots and subplots, it’s time to start pasting them all together.  When you do that, you’re going to find out that they don’t all line up.  One task might take a minimum of four months (win a Super Bowl) while others can’t possibly last longer than a weekend (the big bash at your hero’s house).  If those two things are supposed to happen simultaneously, you’re going to run into a problem.

Guidelines

The solutions to these two problems are different, but similar in some respects.  Mostly, they both require flexibility.   Remember how I preached freedom and flexibility through this series and you thought maybe you were finally done with that?  I’ve got bad news for you.  You “final” storyboard and your “final” outline are going to be two different things.  Things are going to change.  Life is like that, and writing more so.

When trying to blend story ideas into a story, two things need to be considered.

Knowledge

Two people’s knowledge banks are being manipulated when your story is read: your reader’s and your characters.  As your characters move through your story, they learn things.  Turns out, Darth Vader is Luke’s father.  Spoilers.  But your characters (at least most of them) didn’t know that for a long time.  It’s important to keep character knowledge in mind because as you start moving events around, they could end up knowing things they shouldn’t (or not knowing things they should) which would mess up your story’s integrity.  Characters are, very often, motivated to do things they might not normally do, because they know too little.  You want to use that as you tweak your cause/effect story board.  Make sure you don’t mess it up here.

Also, you reader’s knowledge must be considered.  What they know, or don’t know, can create tension in the scene.  I don’t have time here to discuss dramatic irony (maybe soon) but for now just make sure you aren’t having any “big reveal” scenes that reveal things readers already know (or have probably figured out.)

Keep knowledge in mind as you organize you POV scenes into balanced sections and be careful not to break news to someone too early, or too late.  If you avoid that, you’ll be on your way.

Location

Whether you are dealing with a story in the real world or a mystical realm, distance and location must always be figured in.  Timelines wouldn’t be the same without it.  A wonderful truth, I know.  If your storyboard outline has your characters moving location, you have to include that time in your timeline.  If your storyboard has two characters in two different places while one thing is happening, you have to stick you your guns.  A character can’t be at the burning bridge during his scene, then see it live on the news with his friend later.

The How

Okay, here it is.  The big cheese.  You have your storyboard.  You know what things to consider, what things to avoid while you turn it into an outline.  Now, it’s time to actually do the thing.  Life’s rough, isn’t it?  Turning a lose storyboard into an outline can be as intimidating as creating the storyboard itself.  My advice?  Go all Nike on it.

Just do it.

Start with your logic outline, and start working it into chapters.  One scene from each POV.  That will help establish balance in your POVs.  Once you’ve done that, go through your outline scene by scene and make notes in it (Scrivener is helpful for this) on just how much flexibility this scene has in the timeline.  Can it stretch over an afternoon, three days, a month?  Make a note of the dependencies it has.  Does it have to happen before/after another scene from another POV?  Make all the notes.  They’ll help you keep all the craziness of your novel in your head as you begin to tweak things to make your outline.  Once your notes are made, dig in and make any adjustments that you need to.  Keep the balance as clean as you can.  Make sure you don’t cross up a timeline.

And have fun.  Once you’ve knocked that out, you’ll have an outline.

 

 

Photo: Porte de garage, Pascal Gaudette, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


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Brandon

Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

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  1. Shaina September 12, 2017 at 10:06 AM - Reply

    Thanks for doing this mini series, it was really helpful. I used it, with much variations, on my newest story and it made the outlining process much more streamlined! I have now realized why everyone loves note cards…..

    • Brandon September 12, 2017 at 12:30 PM Reply

      Yay! This series took me longer to roll out than I had hoped and I was a little discouraged about that. It’s super great to hear that it helped you with s project!

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