Thursday, January 19, 2012

Scene It

Before I begin, I just want to say that the notebook pictured on the left was made especially for me by my beautiful and talented goddaughter. Isn't it awesome?

And now, I present today's blog...

I am a visual learner. I'm absolutely lost in lecture style classes because I cannot stay focused on the speaker. No offense, speakers of the world. It's just if I'm left sitting with nothing to do but listen, chances are I'll soon be drifting off to Planet M.J. where the sky is a lovely lilac, the sun always shines and the faucets dispense hot and cold running chocolate.

In order for something to stick with me, in order for my brain to work something out, I need to see it. I need to read it or write it or touch or some combination of all of the above.

So this week (before The Store hijacked my existence... more on that in a minute) when I endeavored to find a place to stick those new scenes I've been working on (oh so many little time), I had to commandeer my dining room table to get it done. This meant displacing my very rude and unsociable cats. They were not pleased which means that later they'll extract vengeance but hey, I needed the space and while I do loathe to make my cats irritable, some times you just have to do what you have to do.

I first tried out this story board technique a couple of summers ago when I was trying to write a synopsis for Effigy. I had some great stuff written but the transitions were crap so I printed out a copy of the synopsis and cut it up into paragraphs and spread it out on the dining room table (it's the only surface large enough because while I do have a six foot bulletin board in my office, it's covered with maps and calendars and mock cover "art"). Then I took blank strips of paper and placed them in between the transition-less paragraphs. And for some reason, this actually worked. I was able to better see where the holes in my synopsis were and how to fill in those holes.

And there was much rejoicing.

Here's what the dining room table looked like earlier this week:

Fat Cat, waiting for me to leave long enough to reclaim her table.
The dark blob in the lower left hand corner is Big. He's never met
a table he didn't like to lay under.

Each slip of paper is an über brief description of a scene that probably wouldn't make sense to anyone who isn't me (but let's be honest...there's a good chance the finished product won't make sense to anyone who isn't me). My task was to arrange them into an order that made sense. I like flow in storytelling. I like one scene to lead into the next with a great line that might tie them together. It doesn't always work out that way but I always aim for it.

And I think I just may have figured it out (Except for that one scene that doesn't quite fit anywhere and yet is kind of vital to the rest of the damn book). Of course, the solution involves the creation of an entirely new freaking chapter. It also involves the creation of two (maybe three. Or four...) other scenes. I know these scenes need to be in the book. I'm just not exactly sure what those scenes need to be yet.

Yeah, I don't get it either.

But puzzling that out has had to take a spot on the back burner as I've spent most of this week not writing but rather working at The Store. It's my fault. I was the one who (a) answered the phone and (b) thought, "I guess a paycheck wouldn't be the worst idea ever."

I really need to quit my day job. Preferably before Superbowl Sunday.

Wishing you all a productive end to your work weeks...


  1. Love the visual approach! Although, kitty looks hungry. Don't let him eat the good stuff! : )


  2. Great job and awesome idea! I would try that, however, my cats would think it was a new game and knock stuff all over the second I turned my head. That is not a lie...evil little balls of fur.

    I have a cork board (that my one cat eyes constantly when I pin stuff to it...I know what she is thinking). And that seems to work out really well for me. Well, I have two actually because with this current WIP I didn't have enough room on one! =P

    Sorry about the store, but yes a paycheck is nice!!

  3. I'm a visual learner as well, although I've never laid a scene out like that. Certainly not with cats lurking waiting to displace my efforts.
    You really need to stop answering the phone.

  4. Mmm I'm completely sold on Planet M.J. I want to visit. I mean, faucets with chocolate? Sign me up.

    That's a good approach, I like that. When I was doing a synoposis for my WIP (just for fun, and to send to friends to see if they wanted to read it, and possibly for queries down the road) I had some trouble with transitions too before I got it right.

    And my cat would just lay all over everything, though. When I'm on my laptop she likes to lay across my arms. It's annoying, but she's so cute I can't get mad.

  5. @E.J.- That cat is always hungry and will eat anything and everything.

    @Bonnie Rae- The only reason my cats were behaving themselves is that the dogs were in the same room. Otherwise, it's open season on whatever I'm doing.

    @Alex- I know! I really do have to stop answering my phone. I have no one to blame but myself.

  6. Look at how organized you are! I'm having plotting envy right now.

  7. What a great idea! Especially as I'm sure I'm a visual learner too (your photograph helped me work out what you were doing). Now all I have to do is clear the dining room table :-)

  8. You've made me long for a large markerboard in my office.

  9. Beautiful notebook. I wonder if you have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. I suffer from the same attention span thing when it comes to speakers and other things. I've talked to other people and ask them if they feel the same compulsion and they say that they don't. I'm starting to think that I've had an undiagnosed condition all of my life.

  10. I'm pretty good at listening to a lecturer. Well, as long as they're awesome.

    I've often thought about using the index cards for laying out a novel, but never thought of cutting up paragraphs for my synopsis. That's hardcore.

  11. @Writing Hour- My cats would do that too but my dogs tend to keep them at bay. But after the dogs go to bed for the night, the cats are all over me unless I banish them from my office. As I'm sure you know, it's damn hard to type with a cat in your lap.

    @Emily- I just look organized. On occasion. I'm afraid the plot's a big fat mess no amount of story boarding will fix.

    @Susan- Maybe you could just use the floor? I use the table because the dogs would ruin anything I put on the floor.

    @Brinda- I highly recommend large boards of some kind. My personal favorites are corkboards but whiteboards would be fun too.

    @Michael- I'm sure ADD would explain a lot where I'm concerned. Loving your new tag line, by the way.

    @Rusty- I don't think it's so much hardcore as laziness. It was much easier to just print up a copy and cut it up than write things out on index cards.

    Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

  12. You crack me up.

    Your table project gives me a headache, but I've done some really similar stuff before, too.

    It does work in the end.

  13. there's that mplyee of the monh attitude again! looking for a prmotion, squidward?

    i do love your synopsis method & personalized notebook! (and tablecover =)

  14. That's a great idea, but I find that I'm screwed when having to write Doorways scenes onto little pieces of paper. :-D

  15. Great idea!

    I really need to try laying out my story one of these days. I usually try wrangling together a plot using a computer, but that doesn't always work as well as I'd like . . .

  16. My 4yo would eat all those slips of paper in 32 seconds. I have to do everything on the computer. Everything.

  17. I think I'd have to do that on my floor. None of the tables in my house have enough space for that. Haha. I can see how it helps though!

    On a random note, Fat Cat is REALLY CUTE. :)

  18. I'm kind of like you when it comes to learning. I've never tried the story board method but I will replay the internal movie of my mind over and over in order to get a good visualization of what's going on.

    See my guest post at Breakthrough Blogs

  19. Good luck on the A to Z Challenge. I look forward to your posts.