Multiple colors to outline a story


The addition of keyword coloring in Scriv 2.0 is a very welcome addition for me, since I rely heavily on colors to have a glance at a story’s outline. Here is how I use them.

Labels are used for continuity. This means that each label color is used for categories like Action, Romance, Dialogue. This way, by looking at the Binder, I can see if the scene distribution is balanced or not. At the same time, this makes very easy to rearrange scenes in the Corkboard.

Different grades of intensity of the same color might be used either for the action’s intensity, or for the status of the scene’s development. But, since there is an Outliner column devoted to the work status, I prefer to use color grading for intensity.

Keyword colors are used for Characters and Places. The Outliner shows all the keywords and their colors. Even more useful, the Corkbord can show small inches on the side of each index cards, with the colors of the assigned keywords (View > Corkboard > Show Keyword Colors).

So, there are two layers of quick reading of a story: the labels/card color for story rhythm, and the small inches showing where a character (and/or a place) is.


I’ve been doing a similar thing with colors; very helpful in distributing action/romance/etc. It can also be a bit disconcerting – “how did I go that long without noting the weather?”

The user-set outliner also helps with sequencing (though it’s not really a time-line). A column for month, one for days, one for time; I can spot the impossible-simultaneous glitches, also note times when too much or not enough is going on.


Great idea, using the custom meta-data columns as a mini-calendar. I’ll really make use of it.


I kept it simple myself. I created a document for chapter and changed the “label” category tag to be “Plot line”. I then created several plot lines, for the protagonist, antagonist and exposition (chapters devoted to events known only to the reader and not related directly to the characters). This allowed me to organize the documents (which had synopses of what happened in the chapter) and color code them.

It was handy to see the rhythm of my book flow, do I spend too much time on one character or bounce back between them at a good pace of tension. Where does it make sense to interject the exposition chapters to foreshadow events, or convey backstory to the reader, etc…

I left Status the same, but added the values: Concept, Outline, First Draft, Revised Draft, Final Draft.

By turning on color display in outliner mode, I had a clear idea of what chapters hit what plot lines.

This could be made more granular of course based on how many plot lines you have going, so each chapter might touch on several, just make the child elements of the chapter assigned to a plot line and when you view in outline mode with children shown, you’ll see the rhythm of your story.

I generally use the labels for organization. They create a color-coded timeline on projects that year jump. Status field keeps track of what state a draft is in: To Do, In Progress, Drafted, Revised, etc.

Haven’t played with the keyword colors yet, myself. I really should.

Thanks for posting. This is real possibility for me. I’ll have to explore the use of labels for this purpose. I also like the ability to add columns to the outliner for tracking character appearances and settings in the outliner. And the use of the outliner to create a timeline is very appealing.

After seeing the vid on comments and footnotes, I’m wondering if anyone has explored the use of the comments as bookmarks similar to keywords use.

Right now I’m having to use icons plus comments in the synopsis for scenes and chapters to track time. I’m very unhappy with this setup. I’d rather be able to drag and drop stuff into a timeline.

Otherwise I was completely losing track of what happened in what time order. I might have to go to OmniGraffle to make a timeline. I’ve read the excuses for avoiding timeline functionality already, but really, we should have this. The whole point of using Scrivener is so I don’t have to have to open a bunch of files in different programs/etc.

(Yes, I’m a little grumpy today. :slight_smile:

Yes, you are! :slight_smile:

(If you haven’t done so I recommend you read some of the previous threads on this subject, probably searchable under “Timeline”. From memory, I think the reasons given by KB for not developing a timeline feature included the fact that its functionality would be only loosely related to the functionality of the existing application - though you ought to read the threads to get the full flavour of the arguments. And have you explored the Aeon writer’s timeline application, whose forum is curated on this site?)

I’ve read some of the reasons on their blog, etc. I think they’re over-thinking it and “it would be hard” doesn’t cut it when it would genuinely be useful for your users. There are a LOT of ways to approach the timeline issue. Even a separate Outline view that allows you to drag scenes into timeline order with some room for notes, for example, would be a start.

Aeon Timeline is too primitive and 1990s for me (I’m very visual and I’m not working with hard historical dates, it doesn’t really suit my style). I’'m taking a look at Timeline 3D right now. Not sure I want to spend almost $70US on separate software to do timelines. I could just make a mind map or something in OmniGraffle, which I’ve already paid for.

I purchased TimeLine 3D about 8 months ago and find it very helpful and useful. I make timelines for Biblical studies and church history. Because most of my teaching is video conferencing, this program works well for my presentations.

TimeLine 3D could prove useful for my genealogy stuff. It would mostly be for personal use, though, my work stuff doesn’t generally involve timelines. Unless I convince myself to do some kind of genealogy class. :slight_smile: