Picture Your Story

by Yvonne Lehman

There’s a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.

However, with a thousand words you can write The Lord’s Prayer, The Preamble to the Constitution, the Twenty-third Psalm, the Gettysburg Address, and the Boy Scout Oath.

Much depends upon the picture, the words, and personal opinion. Pictures are worth thousands of words when I make a storyboard, an effective tool for me. There is more than one definition of storyboard and varying ways writers make or use them. My way is to cut out pictures that represent my characters and story.
The materials for making the storyboard are minimal—posters, file folders, magazines, brochures, pictures from the internet, scissors, glue (or staples, tape). Pictures can be anything that represents the story:

  • Characters – faces, physique, in action, expressions
  • Era – contemporary, historical
  • Settings – home, lake, ocean, airplane, car, neighborhood, city, country, seasons
  • Incidents – wrecks, romance, crime, dining
  • Styles – clothing, hair, homes, transportation 
  • Mood – fear, horror, joy, petting an animal, holding a child, anger
  • Theme – mystery, love, secrets, faith 

I basically work with four types of storyboards:

  1. Mainstream – I use several posters because of multiple characters and plots or subplots. My novel, Greystone, is complex and my American, Japanese, and German characters inhabit my posters. The past takes place in winter, the present in summer, and pictures of the resort setting depict the seasons. Pictures of people in distress, or joy, draw from me the feelings I want to express in my story. 
  2. Women’s Fiction – Several file folders suffice for these. In Coffee Rings, my main character is in her 70’s. Three other women are in their early 40’s. My pictures show what each one looks like and how they dress. The three younger women meet weekly at a Tea Room so I have a picture of the room and table. One is blonde and overweight. One is stylish and looks perfect. One is conservative and pleasant. The older woman appears kind, but determined. Around them are pictures that show conflicts, jobs, relationships and interests. 
  3. Romances – Fewer file folders are required for these since the focus is on the main male and female characters. Their lifestyles are portrayed with pictures of their work, friends, homes, pets, children, church, single’s groups, etc. Since novellas are short, usually one file folder will suffice, with two main characters surrounded by representations of their lifestyles, conflicts, and personalities. 
  4. Novels to write “someday” – When I have a strong feeling about a story I plan to write someday, I write a brief overview or a few lines of the idea. Final Command is about dogs being trained to kill. I pick up a map of the place where the story happens and brochures about the surrounding area and pop them into a file folder, along with any pictures and information about dogs that intrigues me. Jewelry is the motive, so I include pictures of jewels, their description and cost. 

The posters and folders are an aid when I speak to writers groups about storyboards. I show, as well as tell. Also these can be shown on a screen with Power Point.

These pictorial storyboards are more valuable to me than the written overview and they enable me to write the synopsis. They’re fun to make and I feel like my characters are right in front of me, helping me write about them.

I will be teaching a Continuing Class on Storyboarding at the Blue Ridge Conference held May 21-25, and at the October 8-12 Blue Ridge Novel Retreat held at Ridgecrest NC.

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include Have Dress Will Marry (Heart of a Cowboy collection, Mountainbrook Ink), Better Latte Than Never (Winged Publications), Stupid Moments and Additional Christmas Moments in the non-fiction Divine Moments series (Grace Publishing). Her popular 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC, which she signs periodically at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge TN.