Analyzing a plot


Just thinking aloud while working on a synopsis for a movie. I’m in the phase of analyzing the ‘ticking clock’, to see if everything is moving forward as it should.

In the past I did this work with Power Structure. When I discovered Scrivener, I decided it was the right replacement (and a better program). Here is how I’m working, and please let me know your suggestion on better ways to do it.

I’ve broken the synopsis into several documents/scenes, thanks to the Cmd-Opt-K command. Having the titles with some meaningful text is useful when reducing them to shorter versions.

Since I’m more interested to the tension/conflict arc, I renamed the Labels to Tension, the Status to POV, so that I can see the tension developing in true color. The binder is then a great visual guide of the conflict, helping locating too much dialog, too many descriptive scenes, or the lack or romance.

Index cards and synopses are the other great help to the analysis. Synopses are a way to expand the reading of the story over the scene titles, while still maintaining compactness. The Summarize service is sometimes a good way to do a quicker, further reduction of the synopsis automatically generated by Scrivener.

Index cards can show my POV (formerly Status) text under the synopsis; it would be great if the color of the Status text could also be changed. This would make a parallel color coding system: index cards tint for conflict, watermarked text for POV.

Find is also a tool I’m using much. By typing the name of a character, the Binder only shows the scenes he/she is involved into. Great to see a character’s sub-plot.
Something I would love is a way to search for the POV or Status; I suspect this would be even more previse than the Find.

I miss a timeline. I’m returning to a drafting program, even if it is not all that easy. Concept analysis is easy, thanks to MyMind. But plotting over dates and hours is not, since the time scale must be created each time (I never made my own templates, and if Aeon Timeline does not comes quickly, I will have to do it!)

I’m going on. This time, it is the blockbuster!


Click on the magnifying glass in the search field, and you can tell Scrivener exactly where you want it to search.

Aeon might be in beta, and doesn’t have the planned Scrivener interchange yet, but you can still work out a timeline in it quite well.

Forgive me, Paolo because your English is infinitely better than my Italian – the tickling clock is not a concept I’ve come across up to now. But I wish I had. :wink:


Hugh, it is a device to force spectators to smile, when the writer’s rhetoric skill is not enough… Something we used a lot for the commedia all’italiana.
But I’ll immediately change it to ‘ticking clock’, just to avoid revealing my secret literary weapons.


Something I liked very much in Power Structure, was the conflict plot. You could associate a level of conflict (what I call ‘tension’) to a scene, and see the conflict arc in a separate window.

Since Scrivener has nothing to replace it, I export only the scene titles when compiling my draft, and load the resulting outline into a spreadsheet. There, I convert Scrivener’s scene color to numbers, e.g., 1 =neutral, 2 = dialogue, 3 = harsh dialogue/moderate conflict, 4 = conflict (but also love scenes), 5 = heavy conflict/action.

This results into a second column, that I can convert into a diagram, where I can see the level of tension going on, with the first few letters of each scene used as the X-axis label of the diagram.