3×5 Cards Are A Movie!

Go from medium to medium to medium. Outline to script to outline to 3×5 cards to script to outline… etc. Hopping from method to method jiggles the brain in a good way.
I’m currently going from outline on paper to 3×5 cards.

It’s a great discipline to write down in about five words what goes on in a scene. Do NOT use the big index cards! When you know your story well, you only need shorthand to know what happens. DELI. JOE, FRANK ARGUE OVER IOLA. And, while you write down what happens in the scene, you get ideas on scenes that more or less say the same thing in a slightly different way… so combine them. Or cut them.

And when you’ve got your story on 3×5 cards, you flip through.

Like a movie!

You can see it.

It’s so, so so easy to move a 3×5 card down the pile or up the pile… much easier than moving a scene in a script.

I number my cards in one corner to start… the original pile, from the outline I want to repair. I can always reconstitute the past by going back to the numbers in the top right. After I reorganize them, cutting, moving, combining, I renumber… in a different corner this time. Put the date on each corner on your ACT ONE card, so you know when each draft of the stack of cards was done.

It’s amazing how flipping through cards in your lap or on your desk is like watching a movie. I have never been able to use a bulletin board with push pins. It doesn’t work for me. When I want to see the whole tale, I lay the cards out on the dining room table. Much more mobile than pinned to a wall like butterflies. Move ’em around on the table. Move a few to the Discard Pile. Gather them up. Flip through them in my lap. Back to the table. Back to my lap. Again and again and again.

I haven’t used cards on this script in a long time. Always a swell idea to jiggle the brain.



Filed under Good Writing, Rewriting, Screenwriting, Uncategorized, Writing Process

3 responses to “3×5 Cards Are A Movie!

  1. I’ve known a handful of people who swear by this method. Like you point out, what better way to visualize a movie than to break it down and lay it all out in front of you, scene by scene?

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      For more on that method (and other useful stuff), read my book.

      For a LOT more on it, read From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler. Amazing book. He’s talking about how to write a novel, but the machinery is the same.

  2. Carol Ann

    Just wanted to say it’s terrific how you share your thoughts with us. It’s magnanimous, truly.

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