Whether you plot or not, visually playing with your plot, even as you are creating it, can help a writing project move forward. If you’ve finished a first draft these techniques can be used as a reverse plotting tool.
There are many ways you can visually play with your plot though storyboards, vision boards, and plotting boards. They are all slightly different versions of the same tool. They assist us in visualizing the characters we’ve created, help us create scenery and setting and even establish tone. Plotting boards organize our thoughts into pictures that inspire our imagination.
Those vague visions in our heads, slapped up onto a board, guide us toward clarity. They are pictures we can manipulate, augment, and shape to fulfill the ultimate vision of our story. All three can be accomplished virtually or physically. The virtual versions include using sites like Pinterest, cork boards (apps are available, or you might find it in your writing software, such as Scrivener), or simply making a file with cut and pasted pictures. Physical methods include using a tri-fold science project board, poster board, a dry erase or bulletin/cork board. Even a blank space on a wall, or a refrigerator can serve as space for your project. If you travel often having it on your computer might be best but some people prefer a larger platform. Take pictures before traveling and now those become portable too.
A Storyboard is a classic tool used by screenwriters, producers, directors – anyone involved in making visual media. Using pictures, they organize the story around the plot. This is one way you could go about plotting your story as well. Find or create visuals that convey the message or meaning of your story.
Traditionally, on a Vision Board, you use images to help clarify, concentrate, and focus on a specific life goal. Relate this to your work in progress by cutting out images of actors whom you’d cast in your story, places that reflect the ones your trying to create, or even images that convey a feeling you’d like to express in your story. Vague visions in our heads become pictures we can manipulate, augment, and shape into what we need to fulfill the ultimate vision of our story. In the heat of summer, you might find yourself writing a winter landscape, and those images help put us into the scene making our words on the page come alive.
A Plotting Board is made up mostly of sticky notes, personally I like to decorate mine too. I’ll use aesthetics that relate to my story; colors, stickers, a few pictures, that remind me of character or setting. Ultimately the board is our written word, summaries of scenes, plot points, character points of view. Some people include all or only some of those parts on the board. Plotting boards are where abstract thoughts, disjointed scenes, and weak spots come together. By writing out the scenes or actions you envision your plot outline becomes tangible. As the story evolves, those points can be moved, combined, or eliminated, whatever serves the story best. You now have control over your story. The board is a puzzle with missing pieces. You won’t know what you are looking for if you don’t know what surrounds it. A plotting board is a tool with infinite power.
A plotting board is also a tool that can be used at any stage of the writing process. Use it when you are beginning a project. Make it your larger than life outline. If you’re already working off an outline, but finding the story is taking off in a different direction, write the plot points from the original outline, and your current words onto different colored sticky notes. Place them onto the board and take a hard look. What you want to say may be right in front of your eyes. If you have a rough draft, do a reverse plotting on the board. Put your draft in note form onto the board. This should help you to spot ways to tighten up the draft during the rewrite. Maybe you’ll eliminate a secondary plot or develop one. You might add characters or remove them.
If you are like me, you might have several incomplete drafts. Unsure what’s missing or if the plot is in the best order it can be. Using the plotting board, the holes should jump right out. With some create rewrites things can be fixed, endings solved, or that dreaded middle discovered.
I hope this convinced you to add another tool to your writer’s tool box. I like to think my tool box is like Hermione’s purse – there’s always room for one more thing. Pull out the trick you need for the story you’re writing today.