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Beta testers
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FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
Beta testers  Reply with quote  

So, I started writing the author tool over the weekend. I have spent the last few months trying out things like Action Outline and doing some writing of my own to get a grasp on what it is that the tool should do. I decided that what I need is a way of storing and linking information such as characters, locations, events and the like, and being able to retrieve this information quickly and easily.

I hope to start having something usable in a week or two and would like to find some fellow boardello members who are using Windows XP/2K with .NET Framework 2.0 that would like to be a tester for me. My hope would be that they are writers so that I can get a decent perspective in the feedback. THere is no need to be technically savvy although that would also help. It's a bit of fun and I don't intend charging for the resulting software.

Anyway, if you want to help out, please get back to me. I'm hoping to write a brief design document sometime this week with some pretend screenshots to give an idea of what I am intending. It will be basic to start with but I am hoping to improve it.

Let me know if you're interested.
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Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 11:07 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Vahlee



Joined: 04 Nov 2005
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If you tell me where to get the .net Framework I may be of some service Cool
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Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 11:14 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
UnimportantLime



Joined: 15 Jan 2006
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Location: Madison Wisconsin
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I could probably help. Although, I don't know what you're actually making, as I'm new.

Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 11:49 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address
chris
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Me me me!

Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 1:11 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
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Ooooh, sounds neat. Count me in!
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Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 1:41 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
ken
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Me too. I can probably even help write the thing.

Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 1:55 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website ICQ Number
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
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Ok, don't judge me too harshly, this is just what I've come up with tonight after work. Don't take the diagram too literally and please do comment on whatever you want. Be aware that I have grander designs than what is in this document, but I didn't really have the time or inclination to be exact with my drawing.

Oh, and additionally, this is about 130K.

Word Document - Proposal
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Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 7:08 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
jaandlu



Joined: 17 Apr 2005
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That looks great, Jeff. I wish I had a PC.
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Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 8:06 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
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jaandlu wrote:
That looks great, Jeff. I wish I had a PC.


Sorry, Ja Sad
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Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 9:38 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
chris
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Jeff:

I think a 3-D content web, much like you're showing, would be great for plotting. I'd always make my first layer events, then characters, then setting. You mainly want to be able to track events, then use the link to look back, perhaps to character attributes, notes you've made on dialogue, etc. Characters and scenes are much more important than settings and objects or props. I have to know what is going to happen to move a story, I don't have to know where, exactly it happens, and often you set the scene in a sentence. I wrote a scene today that something like "They were in line at Starbucks" and I didn't say another word about the setting. Why? Wasn't important. Keep in mind how scripts do it. STARBUCKS. INT. DAY Final Draft, the program used by most screen and TV writers, actually has a pretty good outlining tool, which breaks all the scenes down to index cards that you can drag around the page a little. Unfortunately, it works best in reverse -- after you have a script, it breaks it down so you can drag scenes around. I'm sure I could adapt it for use on a novel, but I'd be focusing on the tool, not the story. And because the wankers built in some kind of copy protection, so you have to run the program from the CD, I'm under protest and won't use it unless I have to. (And I paid full retail for it. Therefore I shouldn't be limited to how I use the damn thing. But alas, I digress.)

The main thing is that it's an outline tool, and outlines work for plot, not other aspects of story-telling. I could use a visual representation, which, as you know, is how I think about story.

I know that for years I've wanted to have a flow-chart type of tool, but the unfortunate thing is that you can't see enough of the work space and still represent each box as a significant event with a significant amount of text. If this stuff was all linkable, and in a perfect world, zoomable, it would be great to use.

If you wanted to work in a field of substructures, "acts" "Parts" etc. or themes, which might represent differently, it would be great. Color would be great, much the way you use in the example. At some level, though, it has to be made linear. In my perfect tool, I'd be able to type text in a box, then drag it to where I wanted it on the time line. I've done this with flow charts, but most of them aren't made to be flexible -- as a tool to aid thinking. They are made to put together a presentation, and very often the text boxes don't hold enough information to use. A "drop down" structure like in menus might work. I've seen a scrolling within the box feature tried, but it tends to be hard to follow. The point is to be able to look at different things at once. Perhaps text boxes that open in modules, that are about two by two or three by three inches, whatever the standard Post-it is. So sometimes a box with the heading, "Tommy finds An Apartment" might open to two or three modules if that's how much space I needed to put the info about the scene down. But then it would reduce right back to it's original box on the time line -- just big enough to hold the words "Tommy finds as Apartment."

Incidentally, I've seen web sites that do this kind of thing, when the box on the time line opens as you roll over it, but working something like that out in Dreamweaver or straight HTML code, and making it transparent and object oriented for dummies like me, are two completely different things.

If you wanted to work from a template of time line outline, it's PARTS, CHAPTERS, SCENES (in a play it would be ACTS, and when I write a novel, I actually think in acts, not necessarily in Parts). Then to be able to click through a layer that went to character and agenda would be great. An overlay of pastels on a page, either running horizontal or vertical, could represent themes, acts, interactions etc. In other words, yes, we do want to be able to see as much information at once as we can, but it would be okay to send one layer back, while you worked on say, one character's time line. Then bring it back up and see how they overlay. Imagine the layers in a Photoshop project, except with preset levels of transparency. Say, 1 click on the light blue icon sends all the scenes I've marked with a light blue highlighter, or icon, or border, immediately to 50% transparent, and sends it to the back. So I might do a whole time line with one character, and be able to send it back while I work on another. Then I might be able to bring up the time line of acts (structure) to see how it fits. I may want to drag my acts one way or another. Drop a scene into this chapter or that.

I wouldn't be too concerned with trying to do the work for the storyteller, as much as giving them a tool. Most authors I know who are big outliners, are still using index cards, pinning them to big bulletin boards. Some use really, really big bulletin boards. You have to. But you can also layer the cards on top of one another, and place them in parallel rows for simultaneous action.

I feel like I did when I used to write songs with my friend Jill. Since I didn't play an instrument, I couldn't say, "Okay, let's go D-G-E or something like that. I'd go, "You know that Dylan song where he goes wacka, wacka, boom, boom, chooka, chooka, chooka? Well play that." Sorry.

I realize that I'm mixing how I'd like to use the tool, with how the tool would be designed, but I trust you know what you're doing enough to know what is possible, what's bollocks, or what is just not usable.

So, I apologize for my ignorance of programing, and do feel free to completely ignore any of the above ramblings. I'd say that Action Outline is a great start as a tool, but it needs a better visual element. More flexibility to park items off to the side until you can plug them in.

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:09 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
chris
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Okay, I've just gone back a second time and looked at your proposal. I think if it works the way you have it down, it will be a great tool. The only thing that's not evident is if the events can be played out visually on a page (or virtual page).

I would very much think about adding structural elements, rather than objects.
What I mean is, events and scenes aren't the same thing. You have to know events, but then to make the events happen, you have to have scenes. (And yes, the events can be broken down to scenes later. Here's the difference.


Event: Indy gets the Holy Grail.

Scene: Well there's a metric buttload of scenes to make that event happen, aren't there?

I'm just saying, structure gives a storyteller something to lean on, it's not a restraint. It's okay to have it as an element to the tool.

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:14 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
palmer



Joined: 30 Mar 2004
Posts: 1324
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I think of a collapsable tree, sort of like in Windows explorer -- folders, subfolders, and finally text, but keeping everything in sight when reduced, with colour coding and text boxes that allow enough text to be useful. Is that anything like what you have in mind?

Also, I have XP, but what's that other thing?

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 8:11 am   View user's profile Send private message
Lisa M



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 1844
Location: Rhode Island
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I'm behind on reading this, but will check it out!

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 8:26 am   View user's profile Send private message
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
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Chris, you are doing exactly what you should be doing.

The first phase of software development is requirements capture; what do you want it to do. It doesn't matter if it is possible or not, that's my job. It's my job to take what you want it to do and return with a compromise between what you want and what is possible. As I have often said to people here at work (and often to my frustration), start out with what you want and stop being constrained by what you know.

So, now I know what you want, I can go back and revise the document to reflect that. In my world, anything is possible (given enough time); the difficult bit is breaking it down into nice handy-sized chunks of work and getting the data organised so that I can sift through it quickly enough in the directions that I need to.

So far, I have this.

1. Characters/players should be considered as layers
2. Each character has a timeline consisting of events
3. Each story has acts, chapters and scenes
4. Each act, chapter and scene has a reason behind it
5. Each act, chapter and scene involves one or more characters/players
6. The timeline should be layered with the timelines of the selected characters
7. Events might be shared across characters, scenes, chapters and acts
8. The timeline should be playable, zoomable and scrollable
9. The user interface (as always) should be intuitive and should not hinder the writing process, but instead, augment it (like an extra pair of hands on a large bosom)
10. We want colours!!!
11. FFPF resigns himself to US spellings Sad
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Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 9:13 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
chris
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FattyFattyPorkFace wrote:

9. The user interface (as always) should be intuitive and should not hinder the writing process, but instead, augment it (like an extra pair of hands on a large bosom)





Jeff:

If you can make the interface like an extra pair of hands on a large bosoms then you can spell colour with a U and realize with an S all you want.

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 1:16 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
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