I just started using both physical and digital index cards in order to plan out the next sequence of The Winchcombe scenes, and I found them surprisingly useful. (Some background: I'm using a television series metaphor when thinking about The Winchcombe. Each comic is a "scene". Scenes that tell a relatively self-contained story are then collected into "Episodes", I'm envisioning around 20 to 25 scenes will make up an episode.)
I used physical cards to quickly capture a scene with a line of description. In the upper right corner, I encoded some information:
- a letter A, B, C, or D to associate the card with a storyline
- A location
- The main character's name
Then I captured some ideas for what would happen in each scene. Critical beats. Location information. Sequences of events. The cards were handy here because I just carried them in my pocket with my pen and notepad, so whenever I had a spare moment, I could pull them out and work on them anywhere to catch those fleeting ideas.
When it came time to assemble the scenes into an episode, I was able to lay all the cards out on my table and arrange them however I wanted. I did this in a couple of ways:
- by storyline, so I could easily see where I was missing a scene or had one too many
- in order of appearance, in order to get a sense of the flow of the episode as a whole
I then transferred the pertinent information to Scrivener. I then used the index card interface to break down each scene into panels. Doing this gave me a very interesting and useful sense of really looking at panels when composing a scene (click on the image for a better look).
But I'm not the only one with things to say about writing and index cards. Screenwriter John August has 10 tips for using index cards:
- Keep it short. Maximum seven words per card.
- A card represents a story point, be it a scene or a sequence. You don’t need a card for every little thing.
- Keep cards general enough that they can be rearranged. (“Battle in swamp” rather than “Final showdown”)
- Horizontal (a table or counter) often works better than a vertical (a corkboard).
- Post-It notes make good alternative index cards.
- Consider a letter code for which characters are featured in the sequence. Helpful for figuring out who’s missing.
- Most movies can be summarized in less than 50 cards.
- Cards are cheap. Don’t hesitate to rework them.
- Consider a second color for action sequences. Helps show the pacing.
- Write big. You want to be able to read them from a distance.