Monday, December 12, 2011

Storyboarding Timelines

In any visual composition it's necessary to have a plan of action, a concept that needs to be visualized. Taking that concept to a realized piece requires that certain elements are available for production and the primary means are creating a timeline and storyboards.

It's not possible to produce the conceptualized piece if the material, the shots that are needed to realize the piece are not available.

Recently, I was reviewing my series outline that I had conjured making notes as time passed and I found that the series while conceptualized was missing a number of elements. It was apparent that with three separate timelines and the initial story in the background to contend with, it was fast becoming unmanageable. The outline just didn't fill in the blanks that I was looking for to make sure it was cohesive and not a random series of events. The outline just wasn't working.

Taking the issue out of the strictly literary realm and applying the cinematographers law- 'Storyboard It' the creative issues evaporated.

Photo Credit
The visual approach to storyboarding begins with understanding the full purpose of the storyboards, the intent, who will see them and how detailed they will need to be for those purposes. What many don't realize is how relatively easy it is to create storyboards especially for narrative. These are not going to be an amazing artwork but can be as rudimentary as stick figures so long as the notes are detailed and there is a rough sketch of a scene. The primary difference between using storyboards for cinematography and using the boards for a written narrative is strictly the tools used to create the piece.

After the purpose of the storyboards is established the key scenes are selected. Any composition, any story is a culmination of specific scenes. The largest benefit of creating these boards is the ability to manipulate them physically. It becomes strikingly apparent when the storyboards are actually tacked up on the wall what scenes work, how the pacing and narrative flow work in the composition. It also becomes apparent how the actual timeline will flow.

The timeline in my case, was actually creating the separate timelines stacked in a simple excel sheet. The stories become abundantly clear with dividing points clearly denoted for a series. After the initial timeline was stretched out, the storyboards for the entirety were orchestrated filling in all of the 'missing pieces' that were sadly lacking from the overstuffed outlines.

The composition timeline behaves much like any historic timeline, there are significant events that effect the narrative either directly or indirectly and these are recorded. It's designed to give perspective on the piece.

A narrative composition is an assemblage of elements and often keeping those elements in a cohesive order can become quite unwieldy especially if there are multiple narratives that are layered together for a series. Many techniques can be utilized to organize the concept but creating a timeline with detailed storyboards is easily one of the most efficient means.


LemonyTrystan said...

I like your approach to an often not talked about area of writing. I liked your mention about developing your storyboards with your audience in mind. As your reader and idea throwing at person (I totally couldn't come up with a better way of putting it), having a coherent to others storyboard is a positive.
P.S.- you did a good job integrating your story lines. Thumbs up!

Michele Shaw said...

I always admire people who can do this, PW. You call it easy, but not so for me. I can't even call what I do a "real" outline. I'm trying SO hard to be more organized about my writing, but it always stalls me creatively. So, bravo to anyone who can plot, outline, and storyboard! I salute you. That said, I've finally come to accept my way, as my way, but it took a long while for me to realize that we all work differently, and that's okay.

PW.Creighton said...

Thank you for the insight Lemony and thanks for stopping by.

Michele, absolutely true. Everyone does work differently but without some sort of 'game plan' I can't imagine how difficult it would be to plan out a series with multiple story-lines. Regardless, think of storyboarding as creating your pitch. It's how you can make sense of the piece and easily identify what is needed or what needs to be cut.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Great way to look at it. Though I'd say those "Pantsers" out there are just as legitimate. I suppose they do subconsciously what Plotters work out. Whatever process works for you is best.

PW.Creighton said...

Lisa, thanks for stopping by! Oh, certainly. I could never 'pants' out a series my head would explode. That's way too much to keep straight. I salute anyone who's that organized.

Carol Riggs said...

I really need to try this. I'm a plotter but I don't use a storyboard--and I'm also an artist so you'd think a storyboard would be a natural way to develop my plots. Once I finish revising my WIP, I'll have to try plotting this way with my Shiny New Idea novel. :) Doing a timeline in Excel is an interesting idea too. I think this would simplify some things for me (gets too hard to see the trees for the forest otherwise, at times!).

PW.Creighton said...

Carol, thanks for stopping by. Yeah, I'm big on plotting things but the outlines could only do. Honestly, I'm crazy to have not thought about it before.

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