Fictional Timelines with Aeon 2 and Scrivener

I’ve been working with Aeon Timeline 2 software this past week, learning all the new features that were added with the upgrade from the first version.  I need to keep up with timelines when I write, and the visuals available on AT2 make it easy to find the exact dates when events take place in my fictional worlds. Glancing at the screen for a couple seconds beats the hell out of having to skim through multiple chapters to figure out when characters met or major plot points occur. Especially when I’m working on a series.

Aeon 2 logoThere’s a bit of a learning curve involved in figuring out all the new perks offered in Aeon Timeline 2. It’s really not difficult at all, but I spent a few hours looking at the user manual, tutorials, and YouTube videos to understand  all the features and the ways other writers utilize them. It’s easy once you learn how everything works.

The main thing I need in a timeline is obviously dated events, color coded for subplots and threads and such. The next major thing is linking characters to these events. Aeon lets you associate a character with an event as either a participant or a witness to what takes place, and best of all, it automatically calculates their ages for each event. That alone saves me a ton of time since I’m currently working on a series that spans hundred of years.

This software syncs with Scrivener, which is awesome! All I have to do to create a timeline that goes with my Work-in-Progress is open Aeon, click the sync tab, and choose which Scrivener project I need. Then it’s a simple matter of choosing which events I need to sync between Aeon and Scrivener.  The Project Sync Settings let you choose exactly what you allow to sync, so you don’t have to worry about files getting bogged down with stuff you don’t want. One timeline can be synced with multiple Scrivener projects, which makes it ideal for working on series and sequels. Mine is currently set up so that events sync to the timeline already color coded to match labels I assigned in Scrivener, with their start and end dates so they pop in exactly where they go. You can see screenshots from Aeon’s website here.

I’ve been playing around with the setting, trying to figure out the best way to customize a template for my novels. If you have any tips or tricks for working with Aeon Timeline 2, please share them in the comments.  🙂


Brainstorming with Scapple

I recently took a break from my work-in-progress to play with ideas for a new series. When inspiration for a new book strikes, I’ll fill a page or two with notes and then set it aside for a while to see if still sounds like a good idea later on. (Um, not all of them do.  Some midnight epiphanies turn into steaming piles of poo in the early morning light.)  Anyway, these two separate stacks of notes kept fluttering around my desk until I noticed similarities that made me wonder if I should try to merge them together into one series instead of two. scapple_logo-256

Scapple, mind-mapping software from Literature & Latte, was the perfect tool to help me figure out whether it would work or not. Idea 1 was full of paranormal and cozy mystery elements but the MC wasn’t fleshed out. Idea 2’s MC danced around the pages twerking it up for a romantic comedy with a great hook but fell short in the plot department. I opened Scapple and started with three columns, the middle one for combining elements from Ideas 1 & 2, which I listed in the outer columns. Having all the information in one place made it easier to see which aspects could be combined and which wouldn’t fit, and to decide if it was even possible to meld everything into one single set of characters and storylines. And it worked! So with a clear new vision, I brainstormed fresh details for this future project. Here’s a screenshot of what I came up with.

Scapple Screenshot sm

The pink shape to the left of the columns is for my main character’s traits, the yellow rectangle below that is for her job and business description, a section to the right shows a few mystery details, and some random notes are sprinkled in.  Scapple is super easy to use, just double-click anywhere and type a note, which can be any length from a single word to multiple paragraphs.  Everything on the screen can be color coded and assigned different border styles. Drag notes onto background shapes to organize, or connect them with dotted lines or arrows. Whatever floats your boat, just go for it until your ideas are laid out the way you want.

Mind maps like this are a fun, effective way to brainstorm all sorts of projects. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few examples:

  • develop a character’s background, motivations, goals, and conflicts
  • work out the plot points of an intricate mystery or thriller
  • start with a what-if scenario and build a story around it
  • map out the settings in a novel
  • list a character’s exes to see which ones can show up to cause the most trouble

How do you use Scapple or other mind-mapping software?