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Writing tools for complex storytelling

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Posted by Dr Andus
Feb 23, 2012 at 06:08 PM


I’m wondering what all the tools are out there for complex storytelling (for Windows PC). By ‘complex storytelling’ I mean the kind of writing where you need to weave together multiple storylines (e.g. 5 stories). The difficulty is the following. You may need to write a piece of work consisting of several chapters, and the 5 storylines need to be woven into the text of all the chapters.

The problem here is not only the structuring of the overall storyline (although that is one of the issues). I’m aware of Storybook Pro and Anthemion Writer’s Cafe for that. The main issue is how to manage and keep track and dip in and out of 5 stories, while you are essentially writing just one text in the end. One way to imagine this is to visualise 5 threads representing 5 levels of depth under the surface, which periodically need to come up to the surface (which is the actual text) and become part of the surface, before dipping below for a while again. The final text is the surface text, and it is made of the 5 storylines, whenever they surface. In my case this is actually social science writing, not fictional stories, so the storylines may relate to empirical stories but also to theoretical (conceptual) stories. It gets more complicated in the sense that some of the storylines may combine and give rise to new storylines (e.g. two empirical stories may give rise to a theoretical meta-story).

At the moment I’m using Scrivener. It’s good for a lot of things but the hierarchical outline and the index card view do not really help with the multiple storyline problem. I tried using Storybook on the side, but the problem is it’s not directly integrated into Scrivener, which is where the surface text is being created. My curiosity was piqued by the discussions of ConnectedText here, wondering if hypertext (wiki) might be the right format to approach this problem of managing surface and depth. Any other suggestions?