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Multi-Column Outlines / Spreadsheet-style one-sheets will make Storyist the best?

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Jazz great Charles Mingus once wrote "Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple."


That's also what I'm looking for in my writing software - something that makes the creative writing process simple.




On that note...


Is there a way to create **Parallel** (i.e. multi-column, spreadsheet style) Character or Plot Outlines ?


Many of you may have seen J.K. Rowling's spreadsheet-style brainstorming for the parallel plots going on in one of her Potter books.

Here's the link:



For brainstorming characters and plots, Rowling's multi-column/multi-column spreadsheet format makes a lot of sense to me.


And I gravitate towards making similar charts when thinking about an ensemble cast of characters. For example, I'd have individual columns for NAMES, WANTS/NEEDS, PHYSICAL TRAITS, STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, JOYS, PAINS, etc.


That way, you can look at ALL of your characters' main traits on *one* sheet of paper. And you can see how one character relates to the other. It helps to see the big picture.


Same with J.K. Rowling's chart. Plotting the time flow of the book is useful in her spreadsheet. You see how each plot progresses from month to month or chapter to chapter. And again, it's all in ONE page.


If I were to create my own creative writing software - it's tempting - I would adopt this "one page" approach. At the top of the program's hierarchy, you'd have a master one sheet (in column/row format) for PLOT and then you'd have another one for CHARACTERS.


Those two docs would provide your bird's eye view of everything, especially in the early stages of brainstorming.


And clicking on an individual box would take you deeper into the folders/documents in your project.




I've still in the stage of dabbling with various writing software options. I do like a lot of what is in Storyist.


But right now, my creative writing software of choice for the early stages of writing might be Omni Outliner (which is great at outlining of course but also great at columns).


Or Google spreadsheets (for collaborative projects) since it's in the cloud.


Combined with some kind of folder/file organization.


Or maybe I'm missing something about Storyist, Scrivener, Storymill, etc?


Maybe the solution is for these programs to simply add hypertextual COLUMNS to their outline views?


Let me know what you think.

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Hi Jimmy McVideo,


There isn't a spreadsheet view in Storyist. It's true that spreadsheets are currently used by many writers for the "big picture" view, but I'm not convinced that a spreadsheet is actually the best tool for the job.


You do want something that allows you to jump up to a high-level view and then dig down to the details. Storyist doesn't currently support a timeline view (there are threads for this request), but you can get high-level overviews from the cork board, collage, or outline views (and additional columns would certainly be useful).


Other opinions?



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I would argue that many writers use spreadsheets because they posess the tool, not because spredsheets are particularly suited to writing.


So the question is, what do the writers try to achieve?


From the spreadsheets I've seen from writer friends, answers appear to include

- tracking everything that happens on a particular day

- tracking everything that happens in a particular place

- ability to compare what different characters are doing at any point in time


In short, it appears to me as if what writers want to do is to a) select only certain traits and B) then sort that information (which could be resolved by an advanced search/sort function [*]) as well as displaying that information so they can get an easy overview.


Right now, I'm using the index card view for overviews more often than not,


[*] Best sorting function I know is Filemaker's - it allows you to rank the fields you want to sort and specify for each field whether you want ascending, descending, or custom, so you don't, for instance, need to number your months, you can just tell it that January comes before February etc


At the moment, the index card view only shows a single sheet (and you can then drag other types of sheets into the view). If you turned that into a paginated display, you could have scene/section sheets one underneath the next, or one beside the next.


This would allow you to display a grid of sorts with information - but instead of cells in a spreadsheet, its lines (or rows) of index cards, selected and sorted according to user-defined criteria.


Does that make sense, or would you like a mockup?


[Edit: Green_knight. I edited to remove the HTML that the forums added to the post. Let me know if any content is missing.]

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Hi green_knight,


There are two ideas here that would be helpful to kick around:


1) The ability to sort/filter information about your script based on fields in the sheet.


2) A way of presenting the results such that they are easy to navigate.


I'm having a little trouble visualizing the paginated display you describe. If you'd post a mockup (a quick sketch is fine), I'd appreciate it.



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