Index Cards: A Many Splendored Thing

Critiques, grading papers, political wonkery, phone calls (morning, noon and night), a zoo of animals all demanding my attention…

Welcome to my life as of late.  Plus I’m deep in the outlining phase for a novel.

When such insanity ensues (and when doesn’t it?), nothing works better for plotting out all of a story’s highs and lows, character arcs and plot threads than a set of index cards, thumbtacks and a black marker.  Maybe it’s from so many years in the TV/Film industry, but I always work better with visual aids.

I’ll usually start by coming up with titles/themes for each sequence — each dramatic block of action that will move the story forward.  Once those are written up and strung horizontally,  I’ll move on to the actual scenes (all the cards below) for each sequence.  Scene beats I’ll usually just plot out on paper right before I write a scene out.

The best part of putting the entire story up like this is that I can walk past the cards a few dozen times a day for the next few days and figure out what’s missing, what drags on too long, or where moments can be combined.  Again, it’s about ‘seeing the whole picture’… (sort of like playing chess and making sure you look at the whole board before making your next move).

The down side?  I’m so ready to get writing on this thing but the next four days are all about the day job (not that I’m complaining, I really do enjoy working with my students!).  The story’s all there and it’s just asking to be written.  But for now, it’s about hushing the voice in my head that says, “Goal, motivation, conflict. Goal, motivation, conflict. Goal, motivation, conflict. ”

Geez.  Just let me write the thing already, for crying out loud!

Music: Massenet:’Méditation’ – performed by Yo-Yo Ma
Drink: Jura 10 yr
Chocolate: Scharffen Berger