Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Writing Backwards

I’ve created all sorts of writing exercises for myself in my search for more picture book stories. Next week I need to turn in a few for the workshop portion of my residency in July. I tried three different approaches last week and came up with three new stories. One of these involved a dictionary and random words. That was fun and I ended up with an interesting story.

Most recently I wrote backwards, as in opposite of the way I normally do. Typically I’ll write the story first, and then storyboard (or outline) it. But this time I printed out my storyboard template--essentially a page (designed on excel) with little boxes--before I wrote the story. Then I overlaid Uma Krishnaswami’s suggested picture book layout and wrote the basic elements of story (elements like turning points) into some squares. (By the way, I am first in line for a copy when Uma publishes a writing craft book.) Then I wrote a few words about each of the major story points in the squares.

After I filled out my sheet, I used what I came up with and wrote the story. Of course it needs revising if I choose to develop this story. (I don’t develop every story I write.) This was a very interesting process and helped me understand plot and story development in another way.

I still prefer to start with a character and see what happens as the story unfolds. But I enjoy experimenting.

I should try another backwards approach. I never know how my stories will end when I start them. I wonder what kind of story I’ll find if I start with the ending and work backwards, scene by scene.


Kathy Cowley said...

That's an interesting thought-- what stories you find if you work backwards.

For a novel, I think it would probably be a really effective approach if you know where/how your characters end up, but not how they got there.

Did starting with the storyboard create a more visually oriented story?

JKB said...

Hi Sarah!

Are you still planning on moving to Germany? Let me know when you get here!

Sarah Blake Johnson said...


I arrived in Frankfurt yesterday. Feel free to send me a message. I think you can email me from my profile page.

Kathy--storyboarding is mostly a revision tool. It does insure there are enough visual possibilities though.