Updating the storyboard

The previous blog post was all about editing. How I have several editing passes, which includes typing up from written notes, reading on screen, printing out and going through with a red pen, and the final vocal edit – reading the work out loud.

I think I also wrote about going back to some more character based blogs – about specific characters from planetfall book 1. I will go into those in the next week or so. However, while it’s on my mind (actually, on the desk in front of me) I want to go back to storyboards.

For anyone new to the blog, I draw out a storyboard which describes the overall story structure: key points in the plot. I have no idea what happens in between. As I write I feel my way between those plot points, and that’s where the fun is.

I also write in long hand quite regularly, in Moleskine notebooks. Every time I start a new notebook, I copy the storyboard into it, so that I always have it inside the current notebook to refer to. Sometimes when I’m copying I realise that small details have changed within the storyboard. Sometimes these changes are large, sometimes they are incidental.

Tonight I was copying the storyboard into my current Moleskine and realised that, as I’d been writing from my memory of the storyboard and writing what seemed natural to the story, I’d drifted slightly from the storyboard I’d established some months ago. Here is a pic showing the difference between the original (left) and new (right) storyboard for a particular key plot point:

Storyboard image

Original and new storyboard frame

Now let’s tackle one issue first: I can’t draw, and you shouldn’t expect to understand exactly what you’re looking at! So let’s describe this slightly. In both pictures you see a figure falling through the sky (the shared stick man figure). You can even see some sort of animated speed lines (the two lines going up, with cross hatching across them). This much is the same. So what’s changed?

This scene is key to the books. It shows the “planetfall” which the main character in book 2 takes, and from which planetfall takes its name. (And so for me there is huge pressure to get this scene right.) Originally, on the left, the protagonist was to fall over a verdant planet, swathed in grasslands and prairies, with a river glittering below, a blue snake across the landscape. You can see hints of this in the curved shape in the left hand panel’s upper right area. Small squares along the river’s side are suggestions of buildings, conurbations.

In the right hand panel this is gone. As I wrote, as the protagonist approached this planet, as it made planetfall, the river, the grasslands, the buildings all disappeared. Now there is a crashed ship (the black blob, with the broken lines behind it a gouge in the planet’s surface) to which the protagonist is making planetfall.

This changes things.

The subsequent panel in the storyboard shows some issues around the buildings identified in the left hand panel. Now this has to go. The action has to transfer to this crashed ship.

But can the action remain the same? What was supposed to be in those buildings? Whose buildings were they? Alien or human? And the ship, whose is it? Again, alien or human? Why is there no river now? If there are no buildings, does that mean there is no oversight? If there is no oversight, does that change the scene’s dynamics?

There are consequences to the decisions made in writing. Not all of these decisions are deliberate – the writing often decides where it’s going.

Now I have to follow this path and find out where it goes. As I copy up the rest of the storyboard, I have to think about how it changes. Does it change? Should it change? Does a small change in this panel have any effect beyond the subsequent panel? Or is it a wrinkle that will be smoothed by the overall story structure?

More, perhaps, soon…

(And next time, I promise to get back to some character-based blogging.)



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