Crafting a Successful Binder

Fantastic piece? Check. Solid characterization? Check. A carefully constructed binder?

Oftentimes, what helps to create a well-received piece is the structure behind the story; the tech behind the performance. Good words and interpretation alone do not make a great piece. A Prose/Poetry binder can be used to either enhance or cripple a reader’s selection. The binder provides the framework for successful piece delivery. Considering the nature of the events, a performer reading from a story within a book, it seems apparent that some cues should come from the binder itself. The following techniques of binder construction will further help in presenting a near-flawless performance.

Color and Size

Seemingly petty, the color of a Prose/Poetry binder can subconsciously alter an audience’s perspective of a reader. For presentation purposes, the binders used in these events should be black. Black is the color of professionalism. It is neutral and does not capture attention quite like bold colors. Thus, a black binder is less apt to distract an audience. Also, as most Forensicators wear black to competition, for the previously listed reasons, a black binder will coordinate and blend into the competitor. Further, even if a reader does wear some color, black can be paired with anything. Therefore, by using a black binder a competitor eliminates the risk of their binder clashing with clothing. Though a neutral (or lack of color really), white should never be considered as it is bright and easily draws attention. Dark blue colored binders are used by some competitors, but it is not advised. Blue might not mix with other colors in tournament wear (color clashes), and being the only one in a round with a blue binder causes that binder to be noticed as the odd one of the group. Nonconformity might cause a reduction of rank. As far as size for binders, about 1 1/2” x 9 1/4” x 7 1/4” are the typical dimensions (rough estimate from a personal binder).


It is recommended to purchase a binder with pockets. Not that mass quantities of papers should ever be stored within the vinyl pockets, but a pocket does make for a private little place for storing introductions to be reviewed prior to rounds. Be certain to fold the paper the introduction is written on and tuck it securely, and deeply, into a pocket to ensure it will not be seen during a round. Catching glimpses of loose paper within a binder is annoying for an audience and removes focus from the performer to the paper.

Paper and Protective Covers

Black paper should be the only color to consider. Even if a blue binder has been purchased, black paper is the most professional, non-eye-catching color base for a binder’s paper. Again, matching the color of the paper to the color of the binder will help with the overall aesthetic of the presentation; everything should flow together. (Note, the text itself will be printed on white paper and is to be glued onto the black pages. Cut close to the text to minimize the amount of whiteness. If done well, the ratio of white to black per page will be negligible.) While black loose-leaf may be purchased, for durability black construction is better. Due to construction paper’s thickness it will wear slower and tears near hole punches will be minimal. Measure all pages being cut and attempt to cut as uniformly as possible. Also, be certain that when the book is held that pages do not hang beyond the binder for the audience to see. This looks sloppy.

For covers there are three options. One would be to not cover a page at all. Most likely this will not result in heavy damage and pages should last if the binder is well-cared for. Otherwise, a reader can either laminate their pages (ask a teacher to do so--they have access to the tools) or buy plastic sheet protectors. Sheet protectors look nicer than lamination, but the proper sized sheets can be difficult to find in-store. Also, sheet protectors tend to be slippery and might cause challenges when grabbing and turning pages.


The placement of the cutting within a binder is critical because how text is distributed effects the rhythm and motions of a performance. Attempt to keep a single scene on a page, and use page turns as an indicator for an audience that a new scene is beginning. Also, do not overcrowd a page with text. A whole story does not need to fit onto three to four pages. Overcrowding leads to a feeling of the story dragging. Page turns are interesting and symbolize progression. Being stuck on a page can lead the observant audience member wondering when will a turn happen. Further, for the words on a single page it is a good idea to break the text up into manageable paragraphs. It becomes easy to get lost within a full page’s worth of print. Make performing easier by creating little groups of print for a scene. This break down will also further the ability to create build within a scene by adding levels throughout the broken down paragraphs. Small, choppy paragraphs add a visual to the reader of intensity and energy for the scene. Larger paragraphs can visually mean slower, pensive moments.


If having troubles grabbing a page an easy solution can come from a piece of tape. On the burdensome page simply take a small strip of tape, stick one end of the tape to the edge of the page being sure to leave excess, fold the tape in half, and tape the other end to the backside of the page. A tab has successfully been created!

Notes and Marking-up

It is encouraged to mark-up and take notes on the pages within the binder. Notate specific vocal changes that are frequently missed. Indicate the stresses in particular words that should happen. Take notes on the meaning of a certain line or passage that usually is challenging. A binder does not need to be spotless. In fact, writing little mental reminders, even if not being read during performance, can be the visual clue needed to remind the brain of what should occur. Be sure to do so in pencil in the event a note becomes obsolete and is replaced with an update. Also, creating a system for notes, such as circling or underlining important words, is needed for quick recognition of what a mark means so it can be utilized while performing.

Taking the care to construct a book that follows these guidelines leads to the production of a clean, elegant looking binder. These steps also serve to make performing easier for the reader. By taking control and preparing in any way possible, a reader of Prose/Poetry can give themselves one more advantage over competition. Mistakes happen and every performance is different, but through keeping whatever constants possible, any performer can safeguard for delivering a consistently good performance season-long regardless of variables.