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Storyboard Your Plot? | Write:Talk

WRITE:TALK is a blog series about the craft of Christian writing.
Click here to see other posts in this series.

Who Started All This?

Storyboards have been used for a long time, possibly since paper was invented along the Nile by pounding papyrus reeds together. In fact, the Egyptians are a good example of an empire that had vertical storyboards called cartouches. They combined hieroglyphs or icons to read vertically inside an oval rectangle. Their monuments stand today after three thousand years, with their stories carved into tall steles.

Egyptian hieroglyph. The Flaminio Obelisk is an ancient Egyptian obelisk in Rome, Italy
Egyptian hieroglyph. The Flaminio Obelisk
is an ancient Egyptian obelisk in Rome, Italy

The Merneptah Stele has long been touted as the earliest extrabiblical reference to Israel. The ancient Egyptian inscription dates to about 1205 B.C.E. and recounts the military conquests of the pharaoh Merneptah. Near the bottom of the hieroglyphic inscription, a people called “Israel” are mentioned as being conquered by the pharaoh.1

Children's Books

Because I am a children's storybook illustrator, I started Below the Huber Ice in storyboard form. I planned for it to have pictures on every third page. It was a chapter book with over 60 illustrations, aimed at fourth-grade readers. At the time I was teaching storyboarding in a college illustration course. I always loved drawing on the chalkboard.

I think visually so it was natural that I started my writing career with drawn images. Not all writers can draw, but they all visualize the story in their heads. Once you start outlining the scenes come to life in your head. Some draw them while others record the scenes with words only. If you can sketch, it will help you visualize your story ideas. Don't fret if you don't draw well. Most writers don't use this approach. You may be a words-only writer, and that's fine. Still, I want to show you some of my steps.

The Journey

A while back I wrote a play about Jonah. When I started the story, I pictured a port city in Joppa before the time of Christ. Two things began to happen as I imagined the story: A pencil jumped into my hands and I started scribbling, and the characters began to sing! Good grief, I thought, I'm writing a musical. This adventure ended with storyboards, and ten scored songs with three acts written out. For me, the process includes the tools I have in my toolbox and some that I didn't. You realize shortcomings in the process. I realized that I had no idea of the format that plays are written in. A bit of study, and I had it. These days you can learn whatever you need to reach your goals. The same will be true for you. Whatever tools you have to help bring your story to life, use them.

Here are the sketches of Jonah in the belly of the great fish. The first day, it's a mess in there. On the second day, he starts talking to the fish. On the third day, he organizes the space into a nice one-bedroom, with an audience.

Don't Fret

My method may be rare in the writing world, since I'm an artist that writes. But, I want to help you know that whatever tools you can use to get the story on paper, you should use. Some play certain types of music when they write, others use in-depth research, and some scribble out longhand everything. Whatever you do, do it, to the glory of the Lord.


List what tools you use when you write, and send me your list.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another."

Proverbs 27:17
  1. Manfred Gorg, Peter van der Even, and Christoffeer Theis, Does the Merneptah Stele Contain the First Mention of Israel?https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/, accessed August 22, 2023. ↩︎


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