Building a Murder… uh… Story Board

You’ve seen them in TV shows, typically crime procedurals. The detective slowly builds their understanding of the crime on a cork board with photos, strings connecting them, events described or pictured, and eventually, as things link up and holes filled in, the crime is solved.

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This is from LIFE, a well-written show with an outline for a half-dozen seasons that ended in just a couple, so they wrapped up everything way too fast. Loved that show.

Authors can do the same with a story board to help visualize your ideas. It’s a great way to figure out who’s missing and who isn’t needed.

Whether it starts at the bottom of the top is up to you. Either way, start with your ending. Who (the bad guy) gets burned? Who burns him? How?

Next, figure out who was involved. Your main character probably doesn’t have the tools to win from the beginning (that’s why it’s good to have flawed characters). What events does she go through to learn and grow? Are they events of design or accident? Who are the players? Put them on the board.

Here you begin to discover holes. If your middle is threadbare, you may be missing characters or character traits. Your hero, sidekicks, villains, and thugs should be crashing around in organized mayhem. (Note: This is true of any story, not just crime, adventure, or sci-fi; househusbands can be heroes).

Is your middle too involved? Can characters or events be combined or cut entirely? Can some characters drop out or be lost?

In your beginning, with insights from the board, you can now figure out how to start your story.

Scapple is an inexpensive program that makes building a board easy.

In the next few posts, we’ll be looking at beginning, middle, and end. Check back each Wednesday, or better yet, subscribe!