Saturday, April 14, 2012

Writing with Kids: 3 Reasons to Love Storyboards

I know the world is full of plotters and pansters and never shall the two agree. I get it.

But the more I work with young writers, the more I rely on the age-old art of storyboarding to help them keep their ideas and timeline straight.

Here are the top three reasons I find storyboards so valuable.

1. They're Fantastic Idea Catchers and Ward off Writer's Block

This holds true with adult writers like me as well, but nothing is more frustrating than writer's block. Double that frustration on a student sitting a classroom with no internet, television, or junk-drawer cleaning to distract them from their purpose. When your young writers lose that creative flow, most often, it's a miserable experience that keeps them chained to their desk gnawing the eraser off their pencils!

The storyboard you had them complete in the early stages is there as a helping hand--a reminder of the ideas they had when they were planning. It's hard to forget what the Zombie prince does once he leaves the Toad Castle if it's written out nice and permanently on your storyboard.

2. Storyboards Help Fill in the Unknown

Lots of my young writers know two things: they know how their story starts and they're pretty sure where their story ends. It's those niggling details and events in the middle that trip them up. Visually planning out your story helps you see a linear relationship between the events in your story--and sometimes that's all you need to spark a few ideas. How does the Zombie Prince get to Toad Castle and why?

Those are some great questions that can be answered as your writers fill in their spaces.

3. Storyboards Encourage Multi-Media Creativity 

Nothing gets my workshop kids more relaxed than the ability to write AND draw in their scenes on a storyboard. Many graphic stories/comics have sprung from writing exercises that began with storyboards
and there's absolutely nothing wrong (and EVERYTHING right!) with taking characters on even more adventures, especially in new mediums.

Storyboards can be as complex or simple as your age range requires. When I'm short on printing time, I'll simply have my young writers draw five or six large squares on a blank piece of paper (or in their journals) and go from there. There are several online sources that can provide free templates, including here, for you to use if you prefer.

My second-grader son swears by these now. We work on a story together about once a month and if it weren't for his storyboards, he'd lose work and forget his ideas each time he cracks open his notebook. He loves to doodle action scenes on the outside and those usually become an art project or a comic eventually.

Happy writing!

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