Using Colored Index Cards to Build a Storyline

Creating the plot of a novel is the first place an author may experience writer’s block. Use this method to develop a storyline every time.

Who is the main character? What is the conflict? Where is the story set? All these questions and more need to be answered before the first pages of a novel or short story can be written.

Some authors spend months, even years, deciding on the perfect theme and plot of a story before ever putting the first word to paper. Most essay writers don’t have the luxury of spending that much time creating a plot that is compelling and intriguing. Here is a method to get a basic plot line started quickly. It can be revised and built upon, and it will get the germ of a story in place so the writing may begin.

Use Colored Index Cards to Create a Novel Plot

This system uses five colors of index cards. Each color refers to a different element of the story structure. Authors who are feeling blocked can begin by simply creating many different cards with the story elements on them. Once the cards are made, the process is as simple as pulling cards out of the deck.

Blue Index Cards Are for Character

On blue index cards, character ideas are written. The ideas can include careers, personality types, and general attitudes. For the most flexibility, each characteristic should be on a different card. Careers would be on one card, attitudes on another, and personality types on a third.

Character ideas can come from people met in day-to-day life, characters in movies that appeal to the writer, and relatives. Characteristics from several sources will create a composite character that is entirely new. The Three Step Method of Character Development may be used after this step.

Green Cards Are for Setting

Authors can get creative here. Settings may be derived from real-life places and circumstances, or they may be from fantasy or science fiction realms. Setting can be anything an author imagines. At this point, it is brainstorming and all ideas should be noted on the green cards.

Pink Cards Are Used for Plot Problems

The pink cards are for ideas that can be used as plot problems. Every story needs a problem, and the more insurmountable, the better. Keep pink cards handy in several locations, so that if a news story prompts an idea for a situation, it can be written down right away. Other good locations to keep pink cards are by the bedside, for dreams, in the purse, and other spots around the house. Keep adding to this pile of plot problems regularly to compile a large collection.

Yellow Cards Represent Inner Conflict

For a story to have the proper motivation, characters need to have inward and outward conflict. The problem of the story should provide the outward conflict. From time to time you may need help writing a paper to get an idea of essay/story/novel composition. For example, John must save his girlfriend from the kidnappers. He is outwardly in conflict with the enemy.

Inner conflict comes from fears, problems from childhood, emotional scars, and things that perhaps only the character and the reader will know are there. Perhaps John has an intense fear of water because his sister drowned when he was a child. His girlfriend is on an island in the middle of a lake, and the only way to save her is to swim out to the island. He has an inner conflict. He must overcome the fear to reach his ultimate goal of saving her.

White Cards Are Used to Write the Theme

The overall arc of the story will involve changes in the main character. These changes may be represented by a theme. The theme of a book can be simple or complex. The theme of Beauty and the Beast is that looks can be deceiving, and that inner qualities are an important characteristic of a person. Having a theme in place helps keep the story focused and on track, even when events may wander from the main plot line.

Once a collection of cards is ready, they are all that is needed to create a new plot for a story. Multiple storylines can be created from a small collection of cards. The larger the collection, the more varied the storylines can be.

Simply lay the cards out in stacks by color. Pull one card of each color and set them on the table. Using the ideas on the cards, brainstorm connections and events that can put that story in motion. Using this method can help a writer create a compelling plot in a short amount of time. The cards can be moved around until the perfect plot is found. This method ensures that the five basic elements of the plot are included in the story.