Story Time

Good stories run on time. Have your hero show up in two places at once, or go from Boston to Los Angeles in the time it takes your villain to tie his shoes and you’ll lose your reader faster than you can say “one-star Amazon review.” Temporal plausibility is critical to the reality of your story world, and the best tool I’ve found for mastering it is Aeon Timeline. ($40, Free 20 day trial.) Take a look at a screen-shot from my novel in progress, below. The actual program text is pretty small, so I’ve created the red boxes that highlight the kind of information being presented:

Every single character in your tale can be plotted in time to ensure that you get their individual stories right. But far from just a test for plausibility, plotting characters in this graphical display gives you a powerful new diagnostic lens to review the events and relationships that define your tale. In my first novel, The Winter Queen, I wanted to create a story that showed the slow disintegration of a marriage. Here’s a screen-shot of my entire Aeon Timeline of that story with a blow-up of one section:

The red and blue dots represent the presence of Ian (red) and Anna (blue) in individual scenes in the story. You’ll notice that they appear more often together in the scenes to the left, but start showing up more independently in the scenes to the right. By repeatedly checking the graphical view of their relationship in Aeon Timeline I was able to gradate their disintegration to get the kind of slow deterioration I was after. Best of all, the program is built to completely synchronize with Scrivener. This means that you can change dates while working within the normal flow of writing your story or when you want to work in the graphical display of Aeon Timeline, and changes you make within either will be updated to the other program.

It takes awhile to learn Aeon, but its well worth the effort. Because, really, what’s the use of playing God in your story world if you can’t get it to run on time?

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