This blog article features various software packages from one company, Mariner Software, Inc. It’s not meant as an advertisement but an evaluation of tools I use because I find them to be the best out there. They deliver what they promise. I decided to write this because I’ve been asked to be a beta tester for a new upcoming package called “Persona.” Here is what they intend for it to do:
With Persona, you will be able to:
- Create the cast for your story
- Explore the relationships and interactions between each of the characters
- Categorize each character into one of 32 archetypes and 64 styles
- Create Smart Groups of characters based on attributes like tags, type, sex, or any word or phrase from your notes
- Create adhoc groups of characters without a defined relationship so you can explore their interactions
- See the relationships between archetypes, for example, if your hero is corrupted and becomes a villain
This is the best answer I have seen for an old warhorse of a writers aid called “Dramatica,” which is based on a complex, almost incomprehensible writing theory. Persona is a combination of a character data base and a collection of archetypical types and their motivations and typical actions. It is, as I said, still in beta testing, but should be out soon. Here are some other products that I use which you should find helpful:
This was designed for screenwriters, but I have found it to be extremely helpful for novel writing. It starts out by asking these 4 questions: Who is the main character? What is the main character trying to accomplish? Who is trying to stop the main character? What happens if the main character fails? From there it goes on to ask questions throughout the structure of a typical story that, if an author answers the questions, will give him or her a logical progression of the story. Contour, the proven story development system developed by Emmy Award-nominated Jeffrey Alan Schechter, is designed to take your idea and turn it into a solid outline – the same kind of character-based structure used by many of the biggest blockbuster movies. In the company’s words: Unlike other story development systems which are either so complicated that you don’t know where to start or so light-weight as to wonder, “why in the world did I buy this?”, Contour is a must-have for every screenwriter. Taking your idea and using a fill-in-the blanks and intuitive approach, Contour guides you as to what elements need to be part of your story outline – you’re never left to wonder, “what comes next?”
StoryMill 4.0—$49.95 Mac
I love this aid and use it a lot. Here are the company’s description of what it does:
Writing a great novel doesn’t just happen, it is designed. It is thought out. It takes a writer who has discipline, creativity and open-mindedness. Writing is a creative process and like all creative processes, sometimes it’s hard to get started. But ask any writer, once you get into “the zone” you can write forever.
Take your idea for mystery, romance, adventure, action or science fiction and turn it into that novel you know is within but just needs a little help getting out. Developed to ease a person into the writing experience, StoryMill 4 is purposely designed to include all the essential writing elements, while at the same time maintaining an intuitive user interface.
StoryMill is incredibly flexible – use it as your no-nonsense place to write and revise using its distraction-free full screen and powerful annotations, or as your complete database of every character, location and scene that makes up your novel. You can set a daily writing goal and keep track of it using the Progress Meter. There are handy things to help you keep track of cliches and monitor how many times you use a word. There’s a single place for all your research – add pictures, tags, files and links, or make notes to any item in your project. It’s all right there within easy reach.
Have Timeline, will travel
The Timeline View is all new. You can group the scenes so you can see the relationship between them. Change the unit of time measurement all the way from minutes to centuries. Insert scenes or events and view the list of untimed scenes. No matter what passage of time your story takes, the Timeline View will give you a perspective unique only to StoryMill.
If you need writing software that can help you think through the creative process, develop the elements of your story, its characters, its scenes, its time lines, and its research, these packages are invaluable. Their costs are reasonable.