I saw Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, at a conference just after her landmark book exploded into the reading world. As she spoke about her own writing process, she recounted the story of watching a movie where several narratives had been interwoven throughout the action and having an epiphany: she should story board her narrative nonfiction memoir as a screenplay writer might do.
Fellow writer, Janet Sunderland, who I contacted to help me think about my own plot, showed me how to combine Freytag’s Triangle (you remember that chart from your Intro. to Lit. Class!) and a storyboard visual aid to help me plot my story.
I’ve included a photo of the storyboard I have hanging in the hallway outside my home office. On three large pieces of paper, I drew Freytag. On Post-It Notes, I wrote all the plot points I wanted to include in my narrative. As always, I paid special attention to conflict and climax. Then I stuck them all to the wall. Now I can add scenes that haven’t been written yet, and I can reorganize scenes (and then put them back where they started) with a bit of stick-um.
Skloot also talked about transferring her original storyboard to color coded cards; each color represented one of the narrative threads. So even if you aren’t working on a book length manuscript, visual aids like outlines, story boards and the old fashioned 3×5 cards can help. Of course, there’s always Scrivner.