Storyboarding a Novel

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As I’m sure most of you know, storyboarding is a process of creating words or images that aid in the production of a novel (or film). It can be done in one of many ways. Today I thought I’d share mine.

I use a visual storyboard. When thinking up a story or series, I spend days or weeks imagining how my characters will look, where they’ll live, where the story takes place, etc. When I first started writing I saved the images onto my computer. But I found myself having to reference them often, so I eventually printed them all out and taped them onto a poster board. Once I did that, something amazing happened. It worked perfectly to draw me into the world every time I sit down at my writing desk.

Here’s my end result for my current series (and I’m still adding pictures):


Next to the images of my characters, I’ve added images for places that are important to their story: home, work, places they often frequent. On the right-hand side, I’ve clipped all of my preparatory information: Character Sheets, Timeline, GMCs, plot points. It’s amazing how often I go back and look at these.

So, do you use a storyboard or a similar pre-production tool? If not, do you do anything special to immerse yourself in your character’s world?


24 thoughts on “Storyboarding a Novel

    Paris Brandon said:
    December 15, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Great post! I do a GMC storyboard with post-its for each character and a time-line to keep everything straight. I also block out scenes with GMC and make sure everything lines up. It takes a little time in the beginning and sometimes I tweak during the process but it usually ends up saving time because it keeps me on track.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 8:20 am

      That’s a neat idea, Paris. It’s so important to keep up with GMCs, and I find it’s easy to get lost if I don’t constantly remind myself.

    Bart Palamaro said:
    December 15, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Hi, Rosalie. I’ve never used this technique, but I may try it now, thanks to your blog. Really odd, considering my business is very visual. I shoot and edit commercials and interviews. Where do you get those images? Some people use magazine ads, but there are also many royalty free web sites.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 8:22 am

      Bart, I do a google search for images, or if I see something in a magazine that I like, I’ll rip it out. Since it’s for personal use, I don’t worry about using royalty free sites. That frees me up to concentrate on finding just the right thing. I have to say it really works for me. If you do try it, let me know how it goes. 🙂

        Bart Palamaro said:
        December 15, 2010 at 5:48 pm

        Rosalie, you can download the images on a royalty free web site, as long as you don’t use them in production, say on your book cover. They’ll have watermarks, but that doesn’t really matter and there will be many poses from the same model.

        Rosalie Lario responded:
        December 15, 2010 at 6:30 pm

        Ooh, good idea, Bart. Especially if there are multiple poses. 🙂

    Kate Tate said:
    December 15, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I still do mine on the computer because it allows my writing to be more portable. I find pictorial representations for characters (if an actor or model, I try to get several different pictures for different facial expression, actions, etc. (I don’t use it for description so much as to keep me grounded in the character). I also often go to clothing catalogs and find clothing and accessories – amazing how just seeing a silk scarf can get my characters’ attention. I’ve done places, vehicles, anything relevant to the story. But I tend to put it in different folders within the specific story folder on my computer. It’s really not that hard to call it up and leave a picture on the desktop while I get back to writing the story. I also have character questionnaires filled out (using the characters’ voices) and a story soundtrack list (I’m often inspired by music). I’ve heard there are computer programs that help organize all of this on the computer so you don’t have to have hard copies but so far the folders work okay for me.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 8:23 am

      Kate, I keep my images on the computer too, since I often write on the go. But I find that having the poster board sitting at my writing desk helps to put me in the zone as soon as I sit down.

    JC Coy said:
    December 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

    I’ve not used storyboarding before but am going to be trying it out next week. Seems like it would save a lot of time and headaches. Great post. I really like how you use the visuals.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 8:24 am

      Thanks JC. We’re all different when it comes to creation, so I’m sure storyboarding has different effects for everyone, but I recommend all writers try it! I never expected it would be as useful as it has been!

    Bennita said:
    December 15, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I like the idea. I storyboard, but am constantly digging through my pictures of my characters. I’m infamous for forgetting eye color or whether their hair is straight or wavy, etc. I’m going to get those bad boys up on my board right now. Thanks.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 8:26 am

      Me too, Bennita! I actually write the eye color and hair color and style right next to the image I have for my character.

    Rachel Firasek said:
    December 15, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Wow. You are so organized. I don’t storyboard and am only recently delving into the plotting world. But this is a great visual and may help me get on track. Thanks so much. Great post!!!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 11:39 am

      Thanks, Rachel. I keep trying new things to see what works best. I’ve found that laying the proper foundation prior to starting a new novel makes it so much easier (and more fun) for me to write. 🙂

    Katalina Leon said:
    December 15, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I keep a separate “Character” file on my computer with physical facts and important dates such as birth days or the day they joined the Marines etc…
    Everything else is a chaotic jumble of magazine photos and post-it notes pinned to a large cork board. When I’m writing and my mind drifts and I look away from the computer, I like “seeing” the characters on the board. It keeps me on track.
    XXOO Kat

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      Yes, I completely agree, Kat! I like having a visual reminder of the world I’ve created.

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    December 15, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Interesting. I don’t, but I think I’m going to have to for a project I’m working on – and it will be my pathetic artwork. I need some visual cues so…I actually used to be an artist – maybe I can pull a storyboard together.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm

      No doubt you can, Julia.:-)

      I think storyboards are particularly useful if you are writing a series that features recurring characters. It’s tough to keep all that straight!

    Anne Marsh said:
    December 15, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Evernote is a free application that you can use to organize all your digital clippings. I sound like a commercial but, before, I’d have folders all over the place and then I’d be like “Now why did I want this picture?”

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm

      Ooh, haven’t heard of that one. Thanks, Anne. Will have to check it out. 🙂

    Ciara Knight said:
    December 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Love this! I recently used a free online site that I created a cartoon version of my villain. It worked great! I’m going to start printing pictures of other characters instead of keeping character bio’s in a spreadsheet. It’s so much easier to glance over than read through a document. 🙂

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 15, 2010 at 4:00 pm

      Oh man, that sounds so cool, Ciara! Do you remember off-hand what the site was?

    Shawn said:
    December 17, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Love your story board. I think it’s a good idea. As a matter of fact, I’ve started one for my current wip.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      December 17, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      Thanks Shawn! Hope you find it as useful as I have. 🙂

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