Best Way to Show Interconnected Characters/Plots/Etc. ?

Does any one have a suggestion about how I can better use Scrivener to show the interrelated/intersecting characters/plot lines/etc. more visually? Are labels the most efficient way? But if so, how do you track at a glance?

Any suggestions appreciated.

and I created a folder for the timeline and started inserting the dates for the metronome… it will not quite be visual… but it may work

You could try getting creative with label colours. One person had a good suggestion of using whiteness for status of a plot. Light blue would mean one thing about a plot, and dark blue another, for example. For characters you could mix colours to show a conjunction of two characters. Red and blue makes purple, for instance. Of course that limits how much you can ‘mix’ so it wouldn’t work for books with lots of characters that intersect. Problems arise if you want to track both POV and plot. If you do not use status that much (or use colour intensity for status as in the trick above), you could try using “labels” for characters and “status” for plot. In Corkboard, you can set status to be shown as stamps on the cards, and of course the usual options for displaying colour: Icon tinting; card tinting; and pin visibility.

Another thing you could try that is slightly less visual, if you do not export titles for scenes (which would be normal for novels anyway), use the title field as a place to hold meta-data. Come up with short two or three letter codes for different things, and put those codes into the title field.

Keywords are perfect for tracking a lot of different aspects for a scene, but unfortunately they are not ‘visible’ unless you have the document open. The Keyword HUD lets you filter by keyword very easily, and that helps make up for it. Saved searches (a bit like smart folders) help too.

You can do multi-keyword searching to look for intersections. There are two tricks for doing that. In the Project Search field, select Keywords from the magnifying glass drop-down, and then select “All words” as the Operator function. Now you can type in multiple keywords and it will only return documents with every keyword assigned. Of course “Any words” will return every document that matches, regardless if they match other keyword assignments. Using the same drop down, you can save your searches into the Binder, and double-click on the saved search to repeat it in the future. By setting up keyword intersection searches in this fashion, you can keep these searches handy.

Of course, you may want to use the “Draft Only” option when doing this, so as to not return research and notes.


I have a feeling that a line was cut off as it appears that you started in the middle of a sentence. Could you elaborate on your timeline? What is this metronome you refer to?

They are used in music mostly to keep the pace. As I thought about it, I realized that I am in search of a visual time line tool, since I do use them… like the one that my windows program had. So will report back when I find one

I am very familiar with metronomes, I just didn’t understand what that had to do with timelines or Scrivener. I thought perhaps it was the name of a piece of software.

Oh well. :slight_smile:

found my copy of power structure, and using it right now.

I guess that for the moment these two will be the best way to deal with this

Spent all day looking for a simple piece of software to just create timelines, and then I remembered, hey I have a copy of power structure… hmm does it work on a mac? It does. So now I can see this as working and the conflicts are now taking form in a visual way.

I wish scriverner could do it, but I can understand why this is has not been done. It is hard to implement.

Sorry for any confusion


Now wondering… need to go get some food and cough drops…

Thanks, Amber, for the suggestions. I will play around a little to see what type of balance can be achieved with labels and status, as well as explore keywords. If I hit on something that might be useful to others in terms of plot and character connectivity, I’ll post again.

Last time I asked the Power Structure guys about updating Power Structure (May 2006), they had no plans to update it for Mac OS X. Any word on whether they’ve changed their minds?

Hi nadinbrzezinski.

Try a SEARCH on TIMELINE using the SEARCH function above. The timeline thing is very well covered by others here.



You think they have updated it for windows?


I got a new flashy disk when we got the vista machine… where like many pieces of software it behaves from time to time.

I used the same one to install on the mac.

It is the same software


:smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

This is an excellent timeline program for Mac.

I just downloaded the program, and wil, have to adapt it to my needs.

I hope I can change the months and dates… I use an equivalent Fantasy calendar for the current book.

I am new to this so this is probably a bit dumb - surely you can just make appropriate notes on your index cards (perhaps a sub heading before the main body of the synopsis), use different colour pins and then manually organize them on the corkboard, or am I being stupid? Or even just create a folder full of such notes organized in whatever way works for you. As I say, me probably being stupid.

I’m afraid that I’ve found the opposite true. While Scrivener’s index cards/outliner functions work great to lay out chapters and scenes for me, I haven’t found a way to use them effectively–without generating a large number–to handle multiple subplots and track the movement of various minor, though important, characters in and out of a story. Also, using a timeline program I can establish multiple, stacked timelines that give me a very visual picture of what’s happening at any stage of the story and are invaluable in keeping story time accurate. However, with a simpler story, i.e., limited subplots, index cards/outliner is sufficient. At least this has been my experience. However, I’m always looking for a better way to do things if one is out there.

told you it was a bit dumb… I am sure as I progress I will find the same. MInd you I am limiting my characters adn really concentrating on single POV at the mo’ so different issues for me.

Not sure if this would work, but might be worth trying the tools in the free software, Writer’s Cafe, alongside Scrivener. Storylines is an outlining tool packaged with Writer’s Cafe. Worth a go.

I thought I’d resurrect this topic in case anyone has new suggestions. To me, tying notes together is the hardest thing in Scrivener.

I’m another pro writer kicking Scrivener’s tires (very, very impressed with it). I’ve written ten novels, my last two being bestsellers in the UK and France and a few other countries, and am also doing film writing. I think Scrivener and Keith are just brilliant.

But where I’m struggling is how to track POV and subplot and overarching story arcs in the corkboard/outliner views. My writing process tends to be messy: lots of index cards, shuffled and rearranged and spread out on my floor like land mines–notebooks full of random thoughts, character bios, explorations of possibilities, plot thoughts, etc. Then much of the work is to bring the ideas into careful control and strong dramatic structure. I’ve also been looking at Tinderbox, which is very powerful (although I think its complexity is manageable if you try not to get too fancy with it–no need to use every bit of power under the hood). The Tinderbox agents and attributes can let me track all of the above in an appealing visual way (more than just via search, I can see all at once how each part relates to the whole), but I don’t see myself writing in Tinderbox so much as I could in Scrivener.

It may be that the programs are trying to accomplish different things in my creative process, and so having both might solve my problem. I’m not sure. Of course I’d prefer to learn only one program, and if I could do this in Scrivener I’d be happy to. I keep thinking I must just be missing the obvious. (It would not be the first time.)

Kudos again for Keith for being so smart to come up with Scrivener.

Panicked, in the novel I just finished, I used Search and Document Notes to keep track of characters, story arcs, and subplots. You could also make use of the Keywords panel and the Status definitions in the Outliner.

My POV was omniscient, so that was no problem. A few times I got character names and attributes mixed, so I resolved that with a simple Search to find all instances of names. (In Preferences: Text Editing, leave UNchecked the box “Remove search highlighting upon editing”)

If you stick with Scrivener and explore its crannies, it should prove satisfactory. If you require timelines, try the Bee Docs Timeline, which others here have recommended.

I’d like to read your novels. Could you send me a PM with some titles?

Welcome Panicked!

If you need a pre-Scrivener outliner and Tinderbox doesn’t quite fit the bill, two possibilities are Flying Logic ( and Curio (

Both are covered in threads here; both are quite expensive as applications go, but then if you’re considering Tinderbox, you’re not unreconciled to that scale of cost… :confused:

You’re probably familiar with Curio. Although I’m not using it at the moment, I think it would be great for the workflow stage of throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks.

FL is quite new. AndreasE, a Scrivenista and forumite here, has written useful pieces in the FL forum detailing how to use the application to outline plot and backstory, and the latest version of the software enables exporting in a format that be imported via OmniOutliner Pro into Scrivener’s binder (although I haven’t tried that yet).

I ought to add that neither of these applications is writing software, and nothing above detracts in my view from Scrivener’s immense value as project hub and main drafting tool.