On Scrivener, Storymill and the value of Timelines

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randomroyalty
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Thu Feb 14, 2008 3:09 pm Post

In another topic there was a very interesting discussion about adding timelines to Scrivener. I thought it appropriate to start a new topic in order to provide my insights between the two products, specifically the Timeline feature. I hope, Kieth that this is helpful to you if you decide to implement a timeline in Scrivener.

I take an academic approach to my fiction writing, which means I do a lot of research. What is particularly important for both writing modes (academic and non-academic) is the nature of change that is usually associated with an event. In this regard the value of a timeline view for academic writing cannot be underestimated. (its all about change, and why). So, all writing is a narrative surrounding a spatio-temporal event, specifically conditions before and the resulting change. It is just the operative choices of presentation that differ.

I tend to think that the structure of the "story" universe is more important than the stories contained within, but it is precisely the points of change that give the opportunities to tell stories, hence the utility of the timeline as a visualization tool. This is equally true in both academic and general writing.

Storymill focuses on a fictional narrative metaphor (timeline events, characters, chapters and locations) but Scrivener seems more research oriented in that structures emerge as part of the research. I develop my stories by inventing a world around characters that have extensive biographies, and then develop sequences around the thematics that I wish to communicate. While structure is important, keeping track and developing the "bible" is what allows new story structures to emerge and remain coherent.

So, I see Scrivener more for developing the bible for a TV or movie series but it does little to help visualize a global story arc (think 9 Star Wars movies or 7 Harry Potter books). Storymill is great for its narrative structure and timeline feature but is weak when it comes to developing a universe with complex interdependencies that might contain pre-existing narratives.


The main insight is that there are many semantic structures to choose from as well as ways to visualize them. Personally I think the more there are available the better, and I would like to see not only a timeline but a Tinderbox style zoomable map view!
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ptram
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Thu Feb 14, 2008 3:31 pm Post

I agree that if something should still be added to Scrivener, it is a timeline feature.

It is funny that I just bought a license of StoryMill from MucUpdate, just to use the Timeline function, and I'm not sure I couldn't have done the same things in OmniGraffle...

Paolo

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Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:55 pm Post

Agreed, a time-line function might be handy. Useful, in fact. Hmmm...

But why stop there? Why not sophisticated data-base management, and image manipulation -- not just stills, of course, but real video editing. And if it could all fit onto an iPod, of course, why, ultimate handiness. And a phone, yes, don't forget communications features. (Won't be long before blogging and IM are yesterday; I mean, they're already so last night.) And GPS, so I can work on the MS while driving through a blizzard (if the nitwit behind me can carry on a phone conversation at 85, I should have no trouble tossing off a short story, or an op-ed piece, or maybe a sonnet or two). We could call it Scrivenerissimus, the Swiss Amy App, which would retail for...

... sorry, lost my place. What was I saying?

Phil
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Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:21 pm Post

I can see where this might be useful from within Scrivener, though I'm happy with the new version of Timeline from Bee Docs. On the plus side, there's the ease of tracking a storyline, while on the downside there's the bloat factor, and the need for KB to maintain it.

Anthemion, which puts out Storylines goes with the bundling method and includes it in their Writer's Cafe package (currently free, I think, for Mac users - until the next update; haven't been tracking it so I don't know if that info is up to date).

The standalone apps include the above mentioned Timeline, plus Timeflyer and Temporis from Bartas (the folks who put out Copywrite).

I find it easy to hit cmd + tab to switch between Scrivener and Timeline, so it feels pretty seamless to me. There are ways to tweak the screen realestate so it almost looks like one app.

Too bad there isn't a way to add an "independent" window in Scrivener which would allow us to load whatever app we wanted. (I am clearly clueless about programming, so laugh all you want. :lol: )
Last edited by Studio717 on Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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vic-k
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Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:25 pm Post

Young Philip...behave! :shock:
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AndreasE
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Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:02 pm Post

What I would like to have - whether in a dedicated stand-alone application or built-in in Scrivener - is a tool where I can create the timeline of a character along with his or her age at given moments. This is what is missing in all timeline applications so far.

Let's say I have my character John Doe, born 1959. I want to see he's 27 in 1986 when Challenger explodes. And I want to see that his son Jim Doe, born in 1982, is 4 years old then. And should I come to the conclusion (for whatever reason) that this is too young for Jim Doe, I want to grab a handle and move the timeline in order that he is, let's say, 10 years old at the time of the disaster, which creates a character with different experiences. And then I would see that his father was only 17 when he was born, which might tell a story of it's own or has to be changed if needed. And so on...

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Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:13 pm Post

M. LeD:

As one of my students said, ever so many years ago, when I urged the same lesson on her, "I'm being have."

... so anyway, there must be information in the standard biographies. Just what kind of software did Dickens use? or Tolstoy? Must have had some real kick-ass app to keep tabs on all the people, all those places, all those events.

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vic-k
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Thu Feb 14, 2008 11:32 pm Post

Oui M`sieur PbeingJhaveS

Trois apps: crayon, papier et mémoire :wink:

Le D :twisted:
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Fri Feb 15, 2008 2:29 am Post

PJS wrote:
...

... so anyway, there must be information in the standard biographies. Just what kind of software did Dickens use? or Tolstoy?

...

PbeingJhaveS


Don't know about Dickens, but apparently the answer re: Tolstoy would be his wife. According to Wikipedia, she handled a lot of things about War and Peace, including copying it out seven times. It's telling, I think, that, in later years when he had a 'conversion' and was giving away the copyrights to his works, his wife demanded and got the rights to W&P and (I believe) Anna Karenina.

Would love to have seen the character/timeline for W&P. 580 characters! :shock:

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Fri Feb 15, 2008 3:20 am Post

The "software" of many 19th century writers was a personal journal, and sometimes also a commonplace book. The latter was for quotations and passages to use in a work, and the former was for original thoughts, accounts of experiences, and fleeting ideas. American writers in New England (Emerson, Thoreau) were habitual journalizers, a habit that came down from Puritan days. British writers with their roots in Calvinism and Quakerism also kept journals (Bunyan, Fox). Journal-writing tends to sustain nonfiction, especially sermons and essays. Writers of fiction sometimes kept notebooks (Hawthorne, James). Not sure about Dickens or Tolstoy, but most likely they did some sort of "pre-writing" in notebooks or correspondence.

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AndreasE
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Fri Feb 15, 2008 9:27 am Post

So, we conclude, the use of software might do harm to our writing instead of supporting it.


:cry:

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Jaysen
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Fri Feb 15, 2008 2:30 pm Post

AndreasE wrote:So, we conclude, the use of software might do harm to our writing instead of supporting it.


:cry:

Unless you are like me and can't read anything that you wrote on the paper. My handwriting is so bad that I have given up and either dictate to a person, voice recorder or type it in the mac. I still keep 3x5 (have 3 pockets filled now) but I keep them short and sweet, write slow and big.

For me software has enabled me to be creative. I still envy those who can do with a pen and paper what I need $US3K worth of hardware and software to accomplish.
Jaysen

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Fri Feb 15, 2008 2:56 pm Post

AndreasE wrote:What I would like to have - whether in a dedicated stand-alone application or built-in in Scrivener - is a tool where I can create the timeline of a character along with his or her age at given moments. This is what is missing in all timeline applications so far.

Let's say I have my character John Doe, born 1959. I want to see he's 27 in 1986 when Challenger explodes. And I want to see that his son Jim Doe, born in 1982, is 4 years old then. And should I come to the conclusion (for whatever reason) that this is too young for Jim Doe, I want to grab a handle and move the timeline in order that he is, let's say, 10 years old at the time of the disaster, which creates a character with different experiences. And then I would see that his father was only 17 when he was born, which might tell a story of it's own or has to be changed if needed. And so on...


That's a brilliant idea, but definitely a whole new application.

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Fri Feb 15, 2008 6:43 pm Post

[quote="Rayz"][quote="AndreasE"]What I would like to have - whether in a dedicated stand-alone application or built-in in Scrivener - is a tool where I can create the timeline of a character [b]along with his or her age at given moments[/b]. This is what is missing in all timeline applications so far.

Let's say I have my character John Doe, born 1959. I want to see he's 27 in 1986 when Challenger explodes. And I want to see that his son Jim Doe, born in 1982, is 4 years old then. And should I come to the conclusion (for whatever reason) that this is too young for Jim Doe, I want to grab a handle and move the timeline in order that he is, let's say, 10 years old at the time of the disaster, which creates a character with different experiences. And then I would see that his father was only 17 when he was born, which might tell a story of it's own or has to be changed if needed. And so on...[/quote]

That's a brilliant idea, but definitely a whole new application.[/quote]



That why Scrivener should be plug-in based in the future.

Mic

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Wock
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Fri Feb 15, 2008 8:37 pm Post

MicMac wrote:That why Scrivener should be plug-in based in the future.


Yup. This is another example why I suggested a plug in architecture in the thread below.

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum ... php?t=3404
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