Ike's Outline Icons

Hi All,
Sorry you had to wait for this, but having a young family means, I can’t do much work over the weekend.
First the preamble, to say what the icons are intended to do and what they can’t do. The system is not really something you would use at the early ideas, creative part of the writing process. It’s more useful from the time you’ve got a reasonable amount of your first draft in place, and you can then use it when editing, rewriting and reshaping, right up until the very end. The idea itself is very simple and I would think hugely adaptable to most writings over 5,000 words, apart from academic works(it’s probably not worth the effort under this length).
The icons are visual symbols representing your intended effect on the reader They do not represent quality or form (that’s up to you) they are a reflection of content which then translates into Reader Experience. As I’m writing a children’s novel at the moment, I am currently using twelve (For me, more would have been confusing) Here they are (Some are not accurate representations of the original icons. you’ll need to open the attached PDF file(s) to see what they really look like:

❉ – Information/Description. (Any information in whatever form, that the reader needs in order to understand what’s happening and why)

❂ – Character Development (in using the icons, I noticed in my current book that character development was a continuous process for all the characters, almost until the very end.

:snowman_with_snow: – Comedy. (any comic effect in either the writing or the action.)

:wheel_of_dharma: – Inner Reflection (I think all books need some place for characters to reflect on their situation but too much can get tedious)

!!?? – Drama/Suspense (Self-evident, except to say that you can simply increase or decrease the number of ‘!!s’ and ‘??s’, to register any level or combination of drama or suspense)

:yin_yang: – Resolution. (Any point in the story where any prevously unresolved issue is resolved, for example, a character understands what was previously uclear. These are usually more towards the end of a story, but for example in the Hero’s Journey model there is a moment of resolution at the beginning when the Hero first decides to Cross the Threshold.)

❝❞ – Dialogue (for me this repesents anything much more that a brief exchange.)

:heart: – Romance (anything from a little light flirting through smouldering desire to full-blown naked lust, although not in my children’s book. Maybe if you’re writing an Shopping & F***ing book you might need some extra icons!)

:arrow_down: – Narrator Intervention (The narrator/storyteller was a key role in my book, but with a tendancy to take over the story, so I used the icons to keep it in balance.)

!!! – Action (Again, self evident. Any visual action. Not necessarily dramatic. I used it mainly when identifying the absence of visual action in any scene with too much dialogue.)

:skull_and_crossbones: – Horror/Fighting. (I needed to place this very carefully in the narrative sequence, and finally introduced a little light relief half way through)

Ƕ – Hook. This term gets used a lot in the singular, particularly when talking about the first ten minutes of a movie. I use it in any scene or chapter, where I feel I have created a strong enough motivation for the reader to continue reading to find out what happens, as opposed to simply enjoying the writing.

The point is that we are all experts on our own stories. We know what happens. What I felt I needed was some way of reflecting back to myself the immediate and cumulative effect that my story would have on the reader. As the icons are laid out in columns, this shows up in the form of patterns that the narrative sequence creates. You can either read across for information on an individual scene or chapter, or down to see the cumulative effect throughout the whole book or section.
I’ll give an example. My children’s book is based on a children’s play that I wrote about ten years ago. In theatre there’s no need for visual description of the characters, It’s all there on stage in front of you. But when I showed the first draft to my son, he said “Great dialogue. But you need more description and back story”. I duly wrote this and put it in the obvious place – at the beginning. But that unbalanced the overall narrative. It was only after I spent some time defining what I wanted the reader to experience and lightened up the descriptive passages with action and comedy, that I began to feel happier with the whole thing, and incidentally discovered my new narrator ‘voice’ in the process.
I put the whole icon thing together in a morning, grabbing and colouring icons out of Apple’s character palette, so I’m sure there’s lots of improvements possible, with different icons for different genres (though, please no Smileys, I hate the little bastards.)
To get the full effect, I print the whole thing out on four or five sheets of A4 (landscape), with columns from left to right for Chapter Title, Icons, brief Synopsis, and Focal Characters. tape them together and stick it on the wall. I only do this maybe 3 or 4 times altogether, usually after a major re-edit and/or resequencing.
So you can see why I would have been even happier with Scrivener than I already am, and believe me I’m delighted, if only I could have done something very similar without having to leave the programme.
I’m posting this in the Technical Support thread because that’s where it started. Any feedback would be very welcome.

SB Synopsis Matrix Mk3 .2.pdf (137 KB)
SB Synopsis Matrix Mk3 .pdf (130 KB)

Fantastic, I can see how this would help get a better picture overall. As you say, it’s often difficult for us to stand back and realise that (for example) we’ve rushed through three chapters without any real character development, or we have too many consecutive moments of horror without any relief. There’s a tendency to forget that what’s in our head isn’t necessarily what’s on the page…

I’ll have to try this out with my current novel (which is also a YA book, coincidentally). Reckon it could be a big help. So thanks for posting, Ike!

Great Idea!

But I think this post would better belong in the Tips & Tricks & Faqs section

More people there would read it there as this section is more for people seeking technical support.


Thanks, Wock,

Is there a simple way to move it across?


Send either AmberV or KB a private message and ask them to move it. (They have moderator privileges) and they would gladly move it for you.

This is fantastic stuff, Ike. Are these just images, or are you using some sort of Wingding font?

In my mind, having some way to easily drop these icons into Scrivener would kick the Outliner mode from ‘nice, and relatively useful’ to ‘a killer damn feature’ when it comes to editing. Ideally you’d be able to put them in as part of the title text, but given that they’re plain text fields I’d settle for the first line of each document…still readily visible in the outliner.

When it comes to looking at masses of information holistically, I really need image hooks. Like others (I assume), I tend to use the Corkboard near the beginning of my projects, when I’m just putzing around with ideas. When I’ve got a draft and I’m doing some serious editing, I forget the Corkboard exists, and the Outliner is king. However, you lose the immediate visual cues of the corkboard pins/red stamps once you go to the outliner. Semantically rich icons grab me more quickly than a colour coding system does, too. I was never much of a compulsive highlighter, but I did love to scribble all over my notebooks…biggest thing I miss since switching from paper to Scrivener (no other regrets!).

Yes, nice job, Ike, in laying this all out. I agree with Marcus that this would be an excellent addition to Outline mode, which seems as if it already has the capacity for it since Keith has allowed for the inclusion of graphics like the colored squares denoting chapters, scenes, etc. I think it might also be a useful way to track the occurrences of subplot elements within a longer, complex story. Add another vote for Keith’s consideration of this sometime in the future.

The nice thing about these is that they are Unicode. Try selecting one of the above like regular text and pasting it into your outline. You can locate and insert your own icons using the Special Characters palette.

Excellent. I’ll give that a go. Thanks Amber.