3 x 5 Cards

I like the little ones. With no lines. I think somewhere I still have the 7″ stack of cards from the first script I wrote (which got produced!).

For me, they’re essential to the process of outlining. Not that you HAVE to outline. I’m writing one script with an outline and one with pretty much zilch. But, if you’re going to outline, the 3×5 cards help. I am in the process of taking my 7 page single spaced outline and transferring it to cards. Then I sit there with the cards in my lap or on the table and flip through them, watching the “movie” as it happens. Scene by scene.

A card can be a whole scene. A card can be 1/5 of a scene… A card can have one line of dialogue or an image. No rules!

Sometimes I’ll reshuffle them. I’ll write new ideas on a card. I’ll scratch stuff out. The flipping motion, looking at one card at a time, really makes it feel (sorta) like a movie. I get a good sense of how it’s playing. This card moves there. This one gets tossed out. A new one is added. The story changes as I go through the stack… again and again.

Then I lay them out on the dining room table and see how the story feels when I lay them out in a wholly different way from flipping through them. It’s a different way of seeing the story.

See if scenes can be combined. See if one scene feels too much like another scene, so cut one or redo it.

Move. Cut. Add. Move cut add.

Then, back to the pile in my hands that I can flip through. And back to the table. Back to my lap, then the table. Finally I take the new order of cards and redo the written outline.

I don’t ever seem to pin or tape them to a wall. It freezes the story for me. I like it when they’re loose and mobile, either in my lap or on the table. And sometimes it takes the whole dining room table.

shuffle, rewrite, toss, change, shuffle…



Filed under Screenwriting, Writing Process

2 responses to “3 x 5 Cards

  1. Ian

    After a while I find index cards annoying because when I’m searching for one specifically it’s hard to find and I tend to get a bit unorganized. What I do instead since I’m a graphic designer, is I use a program called Adobe Illustrator. I create squares and type inside them so they act like index cards. I can move them around and I won’t lose track of anything. It helps keep me organized.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      There’s a program that does it for you, writersblocks.com, which has come highly recommended. I’ve never used it, as I do like the 3×5 cards in my hand. I’m not smart enough to use Adobe Illustrator, sadly. But, whatever works for you, works for you.

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