The Value Of Setting Up A Storyboard

During writing workshops I facilitate that are sponsored by The Palm Beach County Library System, I am often informed by the participants of the difficulties they are having with crafting a suitable ending for their respective novels. When this issue is raised, if the writer hasn’t already done so, I always suggest setting up a storyboard.
Just What is a Storyboard?
A storyboard is a diagram, either simple or complex, that if properly designed will contain a start, a middle, and an end. Consequently, in an of itself, it enables a writer to concentrate on “filling in” each element. But it is also much more, since it provides a template from which to also create developmental arcs for both the characters as well as the scene depictions that are critical to the story line.
Some people say they can start a project and come up with an ending later. Others say this is bull, and in stronger terms. I don’t know what is the correct answer, but I do know many writers, and some quite good ones, who have discontinued a project because of frustration over not being able to “close the deal.”
If Not Already Determined, a Storyboard Forces a Writer to Consider a Conclusion
A writer can lay out the characters and the plot points via a simple macro format that establishes the major elements. Once the basic storyboard is accomplished, any degree of layering can be used, from the most basic to something that looks like it was generated by an astrophysicist at NASA. And by its very dynamic, a storyboard motivates the writer to come up with a conclusion.
A storyboard can be as simple as the example to follow and still be quite effective: Joan meets John. Joan marries John. Joan is miserable. Joan shoots John. Joan escapes to Alaska. Joan changes name to Jenna and marries man who becomes governor. Joan/Jenna is blackmailed by ex-friend from back home who is aware of her past. If a storyboard is laid out to this point, most people can easily come up with a feasible scenario for an ending.
Setting up a storyboard can be a sound way of creating a working model with at least the guise of an achievable conclusion. Perhaps not what it will be in its final form, but an ending nonetheless, and a finale that the whole of the narrative can be written toward.
A Book on Screenplay Writing can be an Invaluable Aid for Understanding How to Design a Storyboard
Early in my Developmental Workshop Series I recommend a couple of books on screenwriting that I’ve found to help writers struggling with an ending for a story. SCREENPLAY, by Syd Field, is my favorite, followed closely by THE ELEMENTS OF SCREENWRITING, by Irwin R. Blacker. Both books have been around a long time and reprinted ad infinitum.
Field’s book includes a wide array of diagrams that I think can help many writers. And if Blacker’s keen insights are applied, a writer can make great strides at learning ways to enable a story to reach a satisfying conclusion. Because, as Blacker says, “When the conflict is resolved, the story ends.” Perhaps not earth-shattering words, but within them is the key to the problem for many authors. Also, when a writer sees his or her plot via a storyboard, it’s not only a wonderful source of motivation, but it can provide a reliable means to help keep the narrative on course.

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