Upon entering the writer's room three very important components come into view. First: our comic book library. The tall built-in shelving along the far wall of the room contains rows and rows of Batman, Daredevil, Superman, Doc Savage, Shadow, Spirit, X-Men, and Captain America; trades lined cover-to-cover, issues propped facing forward. Second: our conference table. This is where we sit for hours on end hashing out stories and pitching ideas. Third, and most important, are the boards.
Covering three of the four walls of the room, our white boards stand mounted on tall wooden legs, their surfaces measuring 4 feet tall by 8 feet long. Two boards line the left wall, two more on the right, and one spans the width of the wall by the room's entrance.
These boards are the lifelines of the room. At any given point in the story-breaking process they serve as both a gauge of our progress and a reminder of the task at hand. When the boards are filled with color-coded dry-erase, we breathe easier. But when they are blank, the shiny white surfaces taunt us with their nakedness, begging us to cover them with brilliant ideas. When the boards are blank, the pressure is on.
One board depicts the span of the entire season broken down by episode. The title, villain(s) and character arc notes are jotted in small sequential clumps, showing the general plan that we came up with in our first week. That board is stationary, doesn't get touched, but is a constant quick-glance reference for us as we plow forward.
Another board contains an adjusted list of the episodes as they come to fruition. This board also shows due dates for production drafts, villain brainstorms, and a special section for humorous ideas we will (probably) never write labeled "Season Five"--amongst them, an Alpine villainess by the name of "Swiss Miss."
The remaining three boards are in constant play. One is used as a storyline brainstorm, a place where we write ideas for each story in different colors. For instance, our "A" story (usually our "Cape-centric" storyline) is written in blue, our "Orwell" scenes in green, "Faraday Family" scenes in red, "Fleming" is purple, "Scales" is brown, and "Carnival" is black. This board can be the most overwhelming to look at when it's full, many of the scenes jumbled and out of order.
The other two boards are where the stories lay out, in order. One has labels along the top reading "Act One," "Act Two," and "Act Three," while the other board has acts four, five and six. As the room-appointed "board master" it has become my duty to act as the hands of the eight-headed mind meld putting together this complicated, 16-foot-long story puzzle. This involves a lot of writing, erasing, and rewriting scenes in shorthand as the ideas from the brainstorm board find their appropriate home within the structure and theme of the given episode.
"Let's move that Fleming scene in between the cold open and Dana/Trip scene in act one." Scribble, scribble. "No, wait, that means we don't see Vince 'till the end of the act. Keto, move it to after the Cape/Orwell beat." Erase, erase, scribble, scribble. "Maybe we shouldn't have Dana/Trip in act one. Let's start off act two with them instead!" Erase, erase, erase. Scribble, scribble, scribble. And on and on 'till we reach the end of act six.
Eventually what we get is two boards, in order, color-coded, and ready to A) get pitched to Tom and John if they were absent during breakage and then B) go to outline. With the boards full, we all get to take a deep breath, admire the pretty colors; take in the fruits of our labor. Episode: broken.Then we erase the boards and start the whole process over again.