Blind Bargains

Plan stories with ease with Story Planner for writers on iOS


In my last writing article, I introduced MindNode, an accessible mind mapping app for iOS. Mind maps are a very flexible tool, allowing a lot of creative freedom in designing and organizing your outline or plans. Today's app, story planner for iOS by SCVisuais, continues the theme of planning, but offers a great deal more structure and prompting for writers who like their layout.
In a future article, I will be examining scrivener, which offers a middle of the road approach between the blank canvas and the structured story plan, but it is a much more complex app, allowing tools for all stages of the writing process, from planning to publication, and so will be included in the section on writing environments.

Intended audience and limitations

Right off the bat, I'd like to acknowledge some of the limitations of Story Planner and describe some of its general uses. Story Planner works best with a traditionally structured story, using the language of a traditional 3-5 act plot, with clearly delineated factions and character functions. This can be frustrating for people who do not always assign clear and consistent roles to characters, or who's stories don't necessarily follow the traditional paths or use the conventional language surrounding plot and characters. It is very structured, which can provide useful scaffolding for people who require guidance or those new to outlining. In particular, I could see this being very useful for fiction writing classes. This is not to say you couldn't use sildenafil it to plan very high quality stories only that if you do not naturally think in the language of traditional literary academic analysis, you are likely to find story planner very limiting.

Using the app

Story planner is available from the iOS App Store for $3.99. It is available in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, Dutch, and Italian. When first opening the app, you will see the project list, which shows all your story projects in an alphabetical list. Below this, across the bottom of the screen, you will also see three buttons, settings, edit, and new, which bring up in-app settings, allow for batch moving, reordering, and deleting of projects, and enable creating new projects respectively. It is worth noting that, once the edit button is pressed, the label for that button changes to "acceptar", which confirms your editing changes and brings you back to the project screen. The label for that button will then henceforth be labeled as "compose", though the edit functions do not change. This is an odd behavior, but does not impact the performance of the app. For the purposes of looking at these screens in the most likely use order, we will be examining them in detail in reverse, starting with the new button and moving across. Unless otherwise noted, the items in the "new" screen will be the same elements in any story project scene opened on the home screen.

The new project screen

Upon first creating a new project, you will have the option to name the project (which can be changed later), cancel the new project, or accept the project's new name. The accept button is also labeled in Spanish, but its function is simply to confirm creating a story with the chosen name, which can also be done with the enter key on the keyboard. Somewhat counterintuitively, rather than creating the project and opening it, this only creates the project, at which point you are dropped back into the main stories screen, and can then double tap on the title to open it.

You are then presented with the main screen for a project, which has a back button in the top left hand corner of the screen, a project title heading, a statistics button in the top right hand corner, which we will examine later, and 5 tabs across the middle/top of the screen. In order, these are

  • Project
  • characters
  • Locations
  • plots
  • scenes

The project screen

The project screen is the management screen for a project. It allows you to set such characteristics as the title, storyline, topic, genre, plot, and notes for the project. All these are labeled form fields, which you can fill in as you like. At the bottom of the screen, an export button enables you to save the project in such formats as scrivener, final draft, rtf, txt, pdf, and docks, which may then be opened in other applications.

The characters screen

In a new project, the character screen is initially an empty list, with a "new" button at the bottom right hand of the screen, along with export and edit. After double tapping new, a blank character card is organized with the following options:

  • Name and add photo: type the character name here, and optionally add a photo if desired.
  • A button to choose the character's function in the story: Story Planner is excellent for traditionally structured stories, offering the following character types:
    • Protagonist
    • Protagonist's helper
    • Sidekick
    • Guardian
    • Mentor
    • Impact
    • Antagonist
    • Antagonist's helper
    • Skeptic
    • Obstacle
    • Goal
    • Minor character
    • Confidant
    • foil
      Additionally, there is a "more info" button which, I presume, gives information about each of these character roles. Unfortunately, this screen is only available in Spanish, but such information is easily located online if clarification is required.
  • Age
  • Outer goal: what does the character obviously want?
  • Inner goal: what does the character want that may not be as obvious to others, or even themselves?
  • Physical description: What does the character look like?
  • Psychological description: How does this character think?
  • Evolution throughout the story: How do the events of the story change the character?
  • Biography: Where does this character come from, and why are they the way they are?
  • Notes: anything else of note for the character.
    As with the project screen, all options are form fields, which you can fill in with as much or little detail as you wish. You can also leave any of these fields blank, if for whatever reason an element in the template is not useful to you. To save your entry and return to the main screen, simply press the back button and the card is automatically saved.

The locations screen

In a new project, the locations screen is an empty list, but pressing the new button opens a new scene card, which is organized as follows:

  • Name and optional photo of the location
  • Location type: What type of location is this?
    • Interior
    • Exterior
  • Description: Describe the location. This could be physical characteristics or a general mood.
  • notes: anything of note about the location.
    Again, these are simply blank form fields, which can be anything from elaborate descriptions to 10 word location sketches, or can be left blank if desired.

Plot

Plot cards are where various plots and subplots can be organized. A blank plot card has the following form fields:

  • Title: allows you to set a title by which you refer to the plot
  • Type: allows you to set the type of plot
    • Main plot
    • Subplot
    • Parallel plot
  • Goal: Describe the main goal of the plot.

Scenes

The scenes tab is where this app really shines, enabling you to import cards from other sections to outline your scenes. A blank scene cart has the following layout:

  • Title: the title of the scene.
  • Act number: Assuming a traditional act structure, where in the story does this scene take place?
  • point of view: Who is the POV character for this scene?
  • appearing characters: import from your existing character cards who all will be in the scene, which can be tracked later.
  • Appearing locations: Import from existing scene cards where the scene takes place, which can be tracked later.
  • Type of scene: What is the primary purpose of this scene?
    • Action
    • Reaction
    • Setup
  • Tension: What mood are you setting with this scene?
    • Exposition
    • Description
    • Inciting incident
    • Conflict
    • Plot point
    • Rising action
    • Climax
    • Crisis
    • Falling action
    • Revelation
    • Resolution
  • Date, beginning and end: In story time, what date does this scene begin and end? Note that the current date is prefilled.
  • Time, beginning and end: In story time, when does this scene begin and end?
  • plot: from your existing plot cards, choose the focus of the scene.
  • Description: write a brief description of the scene.
  • notes: anything else of note about the scene.

the Statistics screen

The statistics screen, located in the top right hand corner of any story project screen, provides information about the project as a whole, and is useful for getting an overview how much or little various characters, plots, and scenes are used in your outline. In the top left hand corner, you'll find a close button, followed by the statistics heading. Further swiping to the right shows the total time of the story, followed by an act and scene breakdown, showing the completion through each scene done, as denoted by the scenes tab. Unfortunately, I find voiceOver focus gets stuck here, so dragging your finger down from the top of the screen is sometimes necessary to advance. Following this, you can get an overview of your plot and character names, along with a breakdown of how often they appear in your story. This can be useful in ensuring the story is balanced as you intend, and allow you to make decisions about whether to cut or remove an underused plot or character.

Returning to the main screen of the app, we will now explore the other buttons along the bottom. Since the edit screen has no other functions beyond those already detailed, namely deleting, and reordering, we will turn to the settings screen.

the Settings Screen

Finally, the settings screen provides some options for controlling the behavior of the app. These include the ability to change the app's language, enable iCloud syncing, create project backups, restore from said backups, get support/contact the developer, and see some of the other apps the developer offers. Story planner can be bought in a bundle along with a number of other writing apps from the same developer. Within the backup options screen, you can also change how often the app automatically backs up, and how many projects the app keeps in backups. This is potentially of use to people with limited iCloud space available.

conclusion

Story Planner for iOS is a useful tool for planning and outlining your stories or screen plays, particularly for writers who benefit from very structured organization and minute knowledge of their story's details. It is flexible enough that writers of all levels will benefit from its scaffolding, while especially a boon to beginning or detailed writers. It can be purchased separately or as part of a bundle with other similar writing apps. If you use this app, please add your thoughts in the comments. Did you find its structure helpful or restrictive and why? To whom would you recommend this app?

Next time, we'll delve into different writing environments, exploring a few at different price points and features.

Source: Story Planner for Writers on the App Store
Category: Articles

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Tangela Mahaffey is a barely reformed English Major currently residing in Colorado. She reads entirely too many fantasy books and takes almost nothing seriously, including herself. She loves technology, music, writing, puns, and cats. She can be reached on twitter @tmmahaff


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