Story Boarding

Storyboarding isn’t torture,

Story Boarding: It’s not torture.


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.

Inspiration Two?

Sometimes a thesaurus works. Sometimes free writing helps. Sometimes reading someone else’s work helps a writer find inspiration. Glenn North, Kansas City Poet supplied that inspiration yesterday at a reading on the campus of a community college that must remain unnamed.

In a 30 minute reading, he spoke about political poetry, the haiku form and ekphrastic poetry. His poem, “Lynch Family Blues” hangs next to the painting, Lynched Family in The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Arts. Go by and check it out.

He also taught me the real meaning of the “spoken word.” When he began to recite “The Prodigal Poem,” his tone was so conversational, I didn’t recognize it as a poem at first. But it is–a powerful  poem.

Check out his book, City of Song.