In the previous article we looked at why it’s beneficial to do some story development, by pulling together the most important aspects such as plot, characters, genre, themes, subplots and setting. Now that you have an idea of the important ingredients, here are some ways to help visualise and develop the story.
Many writers use storyboarding as a way to develop a story, by using sketches to visualise key scenes. It’s a practical approach used in movie making, with scenes drawn out that show the unfolding action and ‘snapshots’ of the important turning points and plot twists.
This is useful if you’re artistic and want to truly visualise your novel with a graphic overview.
Chapter Outlines/Story Arcs
Favoured by many writers, the chapter outline is a simple summary of each chapter and briefly details what might happen, together with likely actions. It doesn’t have to be in-depth (though there is no reason for it not to be, if you want to do that), but the outline should contain enough information to guide you through your chapters as you write.
Another similar thing is to plot a story arc, which shows the development of the story from the beginning, the rise of action, the pinnacle of the conflict and the descent towards conclusion and resolution. Story arcs are more complex that simple chapter outlines because they involve every important moment that happens within the story. These are useful for writers who like to plan in great detail.
Character Outline/Character arcs
This is good old fashioned characterisation. No story is worth reading without well developed characters. For believable characters, a character analysis or outline is paramount. You need to know everything about your characters to the point they could be real people. Having characters who are multidimensional and larger than life make the story writing process that much easier because the more information you have, the easier it is to visualise them.
A more detailed approach is to use a drawn character arc which shows the character’s development and growth throughout the story, just as with the story arc. Some writers even go as far as to sketch out their main characters or use photographs or real people as a model to visualise them.
Some writers opt for more simple ways of developing their story and they do this by using line graphs to highlight key moments, turning points, revelations and so on.
There’s no doubt that having a visual aid to story development is extremely helpful. As writers we deal with words and imaginary places, but sometimes we have to envision more than what we imagine; we have to make it as real as possible.
What kind of maps? Mind maps or bubble maps are useful to bring together story ideas and subplots and tangible story threads. They’re easy to work with and provide an easy visual prompt.
Those who love to plan things in great detail may go as far as sketching out layout maps for their imagined houses, towns/villages and other places. They do this in order to provide a realistic perspective to the places they’ve created, and to provide continuity in the writing process, for instance, if a prominent coffee table appears in chapter four, but then is described in a completely different location by chapter fifteen, then it’s an inconsistency that would need addressing.
Whether you use graphs, maps, lists or complex story boarding, the more ways you can visualise the story, the better you are able to develop it.
Next week: Common Writing Mistakes