All in the Cards

By pure coincidence, Chuck Wendig had this thing on Twitter recently about plotting, remarking about how each of his stories needed a different way of outlining.

I’ve noticed this with my own work that what might work for one project might not be right for another.  I’ve done standard outline with the bullet points and the Roman numerals.  I’ve tried roughly sketching out the story on road maps useful if you’re doing a journey story; not so useful if you’re writing about people trapped in a basement.

With Undead and Inhuman, I’ve taken to the idea of using index cards as a starting point.  This was by accident.  While working on the worldbuilding material, I had jotted down ideas for what I thought would be good chapter titles, and then wrote them on cards to try rearranging them in what order I thought they’d flow most nicely.

That was when the corkboard came out, the one from when I tried doing a collage.  And I suppose what I’ve got is a collage, but one of cards and notes rather than images and quotes.  I still need to actually fill out those cards, but the system I’ve roughed out seem doable. 

You can see the board and the layout below.  I sorted out the chapters in yellow along the left and right edges.  The white strips beside them show the major portions of the story.  You have some stretched dealing with fighting, others with training and preparation, and others still about falling action and the ending.  After that are strips of purple, blue, and green running horizontally.  These are for the three main characters in the story alternating chapter by chapter so I can write down little ideas on what each person goes through step by step.  And finally, the pink cards are for main action or theme for each chapter.  For example, one chapter could have the aftermath of a plane crash as the main action with the theme being shock and disorientation.  There’s not going to be a plane crash in Undead and Inhuman.  I just used that as an example.  And that page on the bottom right of the board has a quick key to let keep the color code straight with the rest of the white space available in case I want to write down any random thoughts to include in the first draft.

The board itself is kind of a first draft too.  Ultimately, I’ll take what I’ve got up there, organize it more clearly and expand on it in the story bible.  And even then, there’s every chance in the world that this could all change by the time the book is done.

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