by Cathy Day
In order to get my students to think about moving from writing small, disparate, individual things toward big, unified, linked things, I’ve been having them use a technique I call “reverse storyboarding.”
|Aubrie Cox used a mobile to create a three-dimensional grid
in order to talk about the structure of A Visit from the Goon Squad.
|John Bahler used butcher paper to chart
the character subplots in Mrs. Bridge.
|Tyler Petty created a website to create a chronological timeline for each character in A Visit from the Goon Squad. Find it at http://goonsquadtimelines.weebly.com/|
How did the author sustain both long and short story arc? How did she move the project from short story collection toward novel?
What principle determines the book’s structure or chaptering? What is a chapter? What is a story? What makes a chapter feel like a chapter and not a scene?
|Heather Gemmen Wilson used corkboard.me to keep track of every time Mrs. Bridge
said she’d do something–but didn’t do it. Obviously, this happened a lot.
|Kat Greene used Prezi to re-shuffle the stories in Winesburg, Ohio.|
How does the book keep the reader turning pages? What major dramatic questions are in my mind as I read? What keeps me in suspense, and how did the author create that suspense?
|For Linda Taylor, the tornado scene in Mrs. Bridge
became a way to organize the different vignettes in the book–tornadic-ally!
Why this way and not another way? Or how would different narrative decisions, different orders, produce different effects?
|Stacye Cline used CDs that looked like albums to talk about
the circular structure of A Visit from the Goon Squad.
Can I find out from author interviews how the book was written? Did the author write the stories/chapters in the order in which they appear in the book, or did she write them as they came to her and assemble them later? Which method will work for me so that I can avoid getting stuck, confused, overwhelmed by a big project?
(My apologies to Josh Flynn and Katie Iniech, who presented on Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon the night that my camera/phone was on the fritz. I’ll get their reverse storyboards up later!)
I found these presentations fascinating, and I think my students learned a lot about linking from this process of unlinking, relinking, reshuffling, rebuilding, straightening, unstraightening, charting, color coding, encapsulating–which forced them to notice things they might have missed otherwise.
Now, they are getting ready to workshop their own linked stories, and they’re not reverse storyboarding anymore. They’re charting their own course now.