Ideas for "timeline-like" software for story planning?

je
jenniferso
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Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:15 pm Post

I'm not sure if this is something I can create in Scrivener or if there's other software out there that someone can recommend?

I always plan my stories with a scribbled timeline that overlays a couple of layers of information I find useful. My napkin (or more accurately...fours sheets of paper taped together) scribbles usually look like a long "time"line:

ACT I ------------ACT II-----------------------------ACT III-----------END

I plug in major plot points.
I plug in minor plot points.
I plug in estimated page count at each plot point.
I plug in my own "Hero's Journey" type information or cues to help me remember what should be happening where. For example: "Hero's Ordinary World - school/home". or "Hero meets Mentor (James)" or "No Turning Back."

Juxtaposing all these levels of what I know helps keep my story on track and gives me keys to what might happen next in my story.

This scribble is usually my most valuable story planning tool. By the end of my manuscript, it's coffee-stained and crumpled or, worse, lost.

I've yet to find software that emulates (or makes more permanent) this process. I've been looking at project management software like FastTrak Schedule but it isn't designed to fit my needs. Even simple timeline templates (for Mac), don't seem to do it (if I could even find a decent one).

Anyone have advice on what I might check out? I would think simple/flexible timeline software would exist out there. If not - can this kind of thing be done on Scrivener? For me it's a separate document from manuscript development - a very linear approach to my own 'big picture' take on storytelling.

I would love to hear any ideas for software, templates, or Scrivener techniquesfor this.

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igregor
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Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:32 pm Post

Scrivener can get you started. Add a 'date' meta-data element for each plot point and sort by that element in outline view.

And there's an array of other products that include timelines that you might find useful(listed in order of my personal timeline preference): Timeline 3D (BeeDocs), Aeon Timeline (seems to be stalled in development, though -- see included forum under Software for Other Folks), StoryMill (Mariner Software -- timeline is kinda buggy), Writer's Cafe (OK timeline, but kinda clunky interface), Power Structure (hasn't been updated in eons).

Another that I'm becoming better acquainted as we speak (write?) is Tinderbox (Eastgate Systems). It has an excellent TimeLine feature. It's pretty pricey (even with Scrivener Discount) and has a pretty steep learning curve, though.

And there are quite a few discussion topics on this matter elsewhere in this forum. Here are a few:
http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=27
http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=8383&p=68675&hilit=timeline#p68675
http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=7621&p=62693&hilit=timeline#p62693
http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=7132&p=57958&hilit=timeline#p57958
Last edited by igregor on Sat Jan 01, 2011 2:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.
-- iGregor

an
andygrunt
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Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:53 pm Post

You might also want to take a look at Outline 4D (previously called StoryView) – Windows only I believe.
Windows 7 Professional, 32 Bit & Mac OS X Lion

ha
hawke
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Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:54 pm Post

If the goal is to have a software experience that approximates scribbles on napkins, there's a free app called MindNode. It's not timeline software, but it's simple to use and you can scribble quickly. It gives you the ability to physically move notes around in space to create different relationships. After jotting things down, it is easy to export each node, or "napkin", into a text or pdf file.

ki
kidwellj
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Mon Jan 17, 2011 9:45 am Post

Another product that you might find useful, which I use to make timelines while writing and preparing lectures is Timeline3D by BeeDocuments (http://www.beedocs.com/index.php).

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Spitfire31
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Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:10 pm Post

The Story Arc view in Aeon Timeline (recently back with a vengeance after a few months of hibernation) would seem to be close to your needs.

Check out the forum at:

www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=27

and the current beta can be downloaded at:

http://aeontimeline.wordpress.com/latest-version/

Well worth a test drive, even though it's a bit early in the development cycle.

HTH,

Jachim

ea
eastgate
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Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:48 am Post

I like to use the Tinderbox http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox map view for tasks like this.

Tinderbox does have a full-fledged timeline, which is great if you really need to focus on time -- for example, if you've got a clock mystery on your hands, or if you've got lots of interlocking concurrent action.

But, most of the time, I prefer the flexibility of sketching in the Tinderbox map. Each note provides a writing space where you can sketch character notes, location ideas, or entire scenes, and you have plenty of opportunity to annotate your timeline and flexibility to move things around.

Also, the map view makes it easier to move from thinking about story -- the order in which things happen in the fictional world -- and plot -- the order in which you present it. These often differ, and you need to get both right!

VJ
VJC
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Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:29 pm Post

storybook is designed around having a time-line, and it's free software, though if you donate, you get early access to the next version (also you get a copy identical in every way except without new text areas having a, removable, "please donate" message).
http://storybook.intertec.ch/joomla/

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igregor
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Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:49 pm Post

Below is from the storybook website:
Attachments
Screen shot 2011-01-24 at 14.48.33 PM.png
Screen shot 2011-01-24 at 14.48.33 PM.png (31.25 KiB) Viewed 1884 times
-- iGregor

VJ
VJC
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Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:18 pm Post

oops, sorry, I'm a Windows (and occasional Linux) user.
Because Storybook is FOSS I assumed someone must have compiled the code for OS X so I didn't check, after all I know there's a Linux version, so it can't be too hard to port for Mac.

If you do decide to put the effort into compiling the Linux version it's a great little application, otherwise, sorry... :(

I'll go back to waiting\bug hunting for WinScrivener now. Can't wait for it!

je
jenniferso
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Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:42 pm Post

Thanks for all the great suggestions, everyone!! I've been checking out each of them. I created a SORT-of version of what I wanted in Storymill. The program is simple enough for my (lame) brain but complex enough to show me what I wanted. The resulting time-line is about 15 feet long and printed through a compilation of screenshots, though!!! Annoying but still useful.

The steep learning curve of Tinderbox put me off although it looks like a fantastic program. Aeon also looks great but not quite percolated enough for me. Timeline 3d originally looked great (I bought it) but then the information it allowed for was too minimal.

I did bump my way into Countour (a Mariner program like Storymill) and it's been great to use. It a great program for story planning and is a good "container" for comparing what I'm working on to other story-creation-type information like Hero's Journey or other stories I like. It's designed for screenwriting but works really well for novel development I think. The iPhone app is fun for adding thoughts whenever/wherever.

Thanks again for everyone's suggestions - it's been a great education in all the fun (and useful) stuff that's out there.

an
andygrunt
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Tue Jan 25, 2011 12:10 pm Post

Not having a Mac, I can only judge by the screenshots but can anyone recommend (preferably free) Windows software that looks/acts like the Timeline view in StoryMill? (I already have Outline 4D (aka StoryView).
Windows 7 Professional, 32 Bit & Mac OS X Lion

Hu
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Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:49 pm Post

'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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Cjmiltko
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Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:51 pm Post



Now that's interesting to me. It looks like they ripped off scrivener's corkboard interface, and modified the free form view to have a meaningful scale on the corkboard thereby facilitating a timeline.

The scale could really be anything though, time or other change in the story. The catch here is that the arbitrary horizontal position of the card is recorded as a value on the axis and scaled to the user's specified scale value.

Hmmm. Looks like an interesting idea. The free form corkboard in scrivener could do this if the relative horizontal position of the cards was readable.

fg
fgrieser
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Tue Jan 25, 2011 9:03 pm Post

>It looks like they ripped off scrivener's corkboard interface

Writers Cafe and Storylines had been around quite a while before Keith came out with Scrivener.

Franz