Best way to organize my outline [and show labels visually in the binder]

Hello. Brand new Scrivener user, in fact brand new to writing. This will be my first and possibly only novel. I’m excited.

My novel is already outlined in pretty great detail, consisting of ~70 pages of scene-by-scene breakdown start to finish. The novel spans 20 years, and follows 3-4 parallel character threads, which intertwine. In my outline, every scene is its own little section, sometimes a page or more long, sometimes just a couple sentences, (depending on how well I’ve thought through it yet). I’ve color-coded the scenes with colored fonts, so that everything happening with Nathan is in black, all Sophie’s scene are green, Gupta’s scenes are in pink, etc, so that they were easy to distinguish as I perused through the outline in Word.

I just imported this whole outline into Scrivener and made each scene its own document in a folder called “Outline”. But, while the font colors were retained in the editor upon import, they are not visible in the list in the Binder. so looking through the scenes in my outline folder in the Binder, they all look the same except for the titles.

I’d like to be able to tag scenes based on what characters’ stories are being told in each section. So for example, chapter 1 deals with Nathan, scene 2 is Sophie and Nathan, scene 3 is Gupta and Darren and the Big Machine, etc. I want to have a tag for Nathan, for Sophie, for Gupta, for Darren, for the Big Machine, etc, so that I can then tell Scrivener “show me all the scenes with the Sophie tag” either as Scrivenings or corkboard or whatever. How is this done?


Welcome to the forum. :slight_smile:

As far as the binder is concerned, your best bet is to use labels.

They are at the bottom of the inspector pane.
You have labels, then status.

Clicking edit in the labels’ list you can create labels with the color of your choice. In your case, a label per character. (Create a label using the + sign, name it, click the color dot.)

Then set the project like this :

Assign the labels to your documents.
(Either at the bottom of the inspector panel, or by selecting and right-clicking the documents in the binder.)


May the force be with you.

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Oh yay! That is exactly what I wanted. Now, how do I do this so that some documents have more than one thing I want to keep track of? Chapter 17 has Gupta AND the Big Machine AND Lockwood. I can set the label for the overall gist, but many documents have more than one thing about them.

If we stick solely to the binder, you may use icons to further refine.
Label + icon.
Giving you more than one possibility, playing with combinations.
But that could potentially become confusing and fast.

Personally I’d use a label for the main POV, and would prefix my document’s title with characters’ initials where needed.

If you only have three characters, you could (I guess), play with primary colors.
If character A is blue, and B is red, then purple would mean character A and B. (…?)
(I still prefer the idea of simply be using initials and the scene’s main character’s label. – Anything else might be “fun” at first, but you’ve got better things to do. It’d be of the sort that 2 weeks in one wonders why so much time wasted on such futile memorization and setting up.)
. . . . . .

Another option:
If you rather use keywords, though you won’t see them in the binder, you may filter the outliner at will.
(There are a bunch of different approaches. I could talk all day and not be quite done. But beside labels and icons, none of them impact the binder visually.)

OK, I’m getting it. Thanks so much. After some doing, I am now able to add keywords to documents in bulk. The keywords are just associated with characters for now, but I can see more possibilities. I can type the keyword into the search field to bring up documents containing that keyword, but it also returns any document that happens to have that word in. So if I make a keyword called “the”, I can’t really filter documents containing just that keyword because every document containing “the” will result from a search. How can I somehow list just the documents that have the KEYWORD “the”, and not every document that has “the” somewhere in it?

Click the magnifier glass in the search field :

You can even save these searches by keyword/character into collections that will auto-update.
So if you do the search once for each characters and save it as a collection, you won’t have to search again, but simply display the collection.
A collection created from the character A’s keyword’s search will show all documents where this keyword is to be found, even if it is not the only one. So you’ll see the scenes where other characters are present as well.

What @Vincent_Vincent suggests is the safest way. But constantly changing this menu is tedious.

I just put a colon in front of each keyword. So, in your case ::the. That way you can search with “All” and still only find what you’re looking for. At least that’s how it works for me.




That’s smart.
. . . . . . . . . . . .

Thank you :slightly_smiling_face:
. . . . . . . .

And if use keywords and want scenes containing Bill and scenes with Jane as well, then search keywords and separate each one by a space. Now in next section choose all words and can find scenes that have BOTH Bill and Jane.

Or could do same with location keywords. Find only scenes with Bill and occur in New York. Can do any number of intersecting keywords. Could do keywords on time of day as well.


70 pages of scene-by-scene breakdown start to finish. The novel spans 20 years, and follows 3-4 parallel character threads, which intertwine.

Wow. Me having ‘pantser envy’ here, big time.

Please DO. I have a question akin to this. Of the hundreds of Binder items, I work on a dozen or so at a time until many of them are ‘done to taste’ as they say in recipes. I use the Pencil icon to mark such items for the week or so it might take. Is it possible to filter such “work in progress” entries? I looked through the manual and forums for sorting or searching by icons. Could you help?

Use labels if you want a visual.
Or statuses (no visual in the binder).

Or FTO’s method, 6 posts above.
You can’t search for an icon, but you can search for a special character entered as a title prefix in the binder.

Add to that the possibility of using custom metadata. (No visual in the binder, then either.)

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You can also create an ad hoc (manual) Collection of the currently active items, which would let you either keep the existing Label and Status metadata or use it to give you finer granularity. (Needs additional scene; needs complete rewrite; ready for beta reader; etc.)

Collections have the advantage of being easy to Compile, and therefore easily portable outside of Scrivener. (Either for a beta reader or for yourself working on your back porch.)


Thanks for the :zap: reply.
What would you recommend as the best use of icons?

Thanks a lot. Appreciate it :+1:

? =You can’t search for icons.= Icons are visual cues and that only. (I use them to sometimes create visual grouping among threads. But honestly, I wouldn’t know what to reply. Best use is how you’ll use them.)
→ But if you mean special characters, perhaps have a look at Babel :

The website sucks, but the app has hundreds of real unicode characters. Not just the ugly icons on display.

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That’s perfect, works for me. :pray:

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I use png images of geometric shapes. I color each shape red , yellow, green, at least. Any png image can be an icon. I use photoshop to recolor the shapes. Shapes are easy to distinguish in the binder.
The red, yellow , green are obvious for state of progress , but different shapes can follow different aspects.
Example of some shapes with various colors.

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Very valuable tip, Sir!