Whether you’re a plotter in the planning stages, a pantser in the revision stages, or any kind of writer at any stage of story development, Storyboarding could help fine tune the heart of your manuscript—character.
If you already have your trifold prepped with a basic plot diagram and a brief story outline, then it’s time to look at character. I personally like to research character inspiration pictures and keep a digital file for a writing reference. These can be more than just photos of people with the right physical characteristics. Consider printing pictures (scaled to fit your Storyboard space needs) to create a visual Character Profile that includes details important to the storyline—i.e., clothing style, pet, item always on their person, hobby paraphernalia, home, favorites (color, object, etc.), etc. The story is the limit!
At first, you may want to just lay the pictures around the plot diagram. Tape or glue them in place last. This way, you can move things around as your ideas develop or as you revise.
Adding character to the Storyboard more specifically means visualizing character development.
Start with the exposition sticky note. Around it, add just the character information revealed in the exposition of your manuscript. Do you tell what the main character looks like? Other characters? Do you reveal their flaw in some way? Do we learn about goals, stakes, and conflict? Your sticky note summary explains the plot point, so your character image should give an idea of what readers actually know about your character from the opening of your story—not the complete character as you know them.
Remember, the purpose of this exercise, and The Storyboard Renaissance: Whole Manuscript Showcase, is to serve your revision process. So, be honest! If you haven’t described physical attributes of your character, then don’t put a picture of their physical appearance on the board. Or, revise your exposition to include a physical description, and then go ahead and add their image. If there isn’t a known flaw, or you haven’t introduced the goals, stakes, and conflict, then place them on the section of the plot diagram where they actually do appear in your story, if at all. An honest Storyboard is the only way to discover plot holes.
As you add character images across the rest of your story outline—inciting incident, each of the scenes/beats in the rising action, climax, and denouement summary—you may find it helpful to include the character’s emotion and/or the emotion of each scene, perhaps with an emoticon. Then, consider this character development overlay against your outline and ask yourself some questions:
- Do I know this character well enough to tell their story?
- Do readers know enough, too much, or too little about the character(s) at each major plot point?
- Are any of the characters cliché or too predictable?
- Are all of the characters necessary?
- Is each character the best possible choice for telling this story?
- Does the main character have agency? (That is, does the main character make choices/take actions that move the plot along, or is he/she reactive?)
- Are the character’s actions, thoughts, words, and reactions believable? Logical? True to their character?
If the Storyboard process prompts revisions, go for it! Then, rearrange or rework this character development overlay and plot outline as needed. Be inspired, and have fun with it!