At the workshop on 4/17, somehow we got on the topic of pacing in picture books and using storyboards and dummies to test out your manuscript. I promised to get more info to several participants but won’t get to it until after the retreat. Hopefully the post today on storyboards and the one tomorrow on dummies will tide them over.
A storyboard is a way of viewing your entire picture book manuscript at a glance. It was originally used by comic book artists and animators to plan out their work. Now picture book writers are using it too. It is easier to show you a storyboard than it is to describe one, so here is my board. As you can see it is a large piece of cardboard with the appropriate number of spreads pasted onto it.
When I am noodling over a new picture book, I take a packet of post-it notes and write out one scene per note. “Runs down road.” “Leaps off cliff.” “Cuddles crocodile.” Whatever is pertinent for this particular story. Then I lay them out on the board. Do I have enough scenes to fill the book? Do I have too many?
With a few strokes of a highlighter, I can mark off how many spreads I use to introduce my character and story problem and the number of spreads devoted to each attempt to solve the problem. There are three attempts, aren’t there? And a denouement?
Is it really worth the time to play with all of this before I write a single word?
You bet! When I storyboard a piece first, I can often rough it out in an hour or less. It won’t be brilliant but I have something solid to work with until I can make it brilliant. That’s where my dummy comes in.