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Author Topic: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool  (Read 8129 times)

worstje

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Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« on: March 07, 2011, 10:08:03 AM »
Ok, this is probably not a snack but closer to a five-course meal. Never the less, I am requesting it, although I am open for recommendations regarding existing software. I have looked at a bunch of stuff, but have thus far been unable to find something that can do the things I want, or if they can come close to it, do so in a way that makes it usable for me. (Also, I think I muttered about this subject in the past somewhere on these forums, but I can't find it nor can I be bummed to search for hours...)

I have been wanting to write some story for ages. I've got snippets etc lying around, and they are not the problem. I've got a personal wiki set up too, so that is not a problem either. But neither a text writing tool (like LSB XE) nor said wiki can solve my most majestic problem: custom calendars.

With a story set in a sort of medieval / oriental setting, it is natural that time is not set up as scientific as we have it with the Gregorian calendar. It tends to be measured in terms of years since an emperor started reigning for example. And similarly, some calendars may end up in simultaneous use in different countries or whatnot. Since my story is meant to cover several centuries (if you do something, do it big from the start :)) I need proper flexibility to deal with this sort of data. I have tried expressing things in a single (master) calendar, but that just hampers me way too much.

So, a small list of my wants/needs:
  • custom calendars, which can be defined into smaller fictional units. For example (making this up on the spot), one calendar might have years that consist out of 6 'peries', which consists out of 9 months, which consist out of five 'turnings', which are in turn seperated in concepts like weeks, days, hours and minutes. This one is extra convoluted to make a point - there may be more or less units than our simple year/month/week/day/hour/minute/second system.
  • different calendars need to be expressable in terms of other calendars, for example by equating one unit from one calendar to another (number of) unit(s) from another calendar, and giving a defined anchor date from which all else could be equated. For example, for season-based calendars, one might equate four seasons to be a year, and the anchor date for one as starting at the beginning of winter, and the other starting at summer. Silly example, but it gets the point across. :)
  • different timelines can be constructed, with events expressed in one or multiple calendars.
  • timelines of choice can be displayed next to eachother allowing the writer to plan out events
  • events can be put on multiple timelines
  • some metadata per 'event' might be nice (to denote location, type of the event (traveling, key plot, etc), etc), but this is not required

As a programmer, I could probably write this myself. But I suck at GUI stuff, and the problem with a tool like this for me is that _if_ I ended up writing it, I'd never get to use it. I'd waste all my time on improving it, adding stuff etc... and I actually want to get to work on this story I keep putting off because I cannot manage it to my own satisfaction.

So, any suggestions for good tools, or anyone who feels like writing it... please do. :Thmbsup: You'd help me out big time, and I have DocoCredits lying around for the person that gives me the golden goose of timelining (coding snack or existing software; it does not matter.)
« Last Edit: March 07, 2011, 10:10:44 AM by worstje »

skwire

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2011, 12:16:40 PM »
MasterPlan has a calendaring function that you may be able to leverage: http://www.habituali...ence.net/masterplan/

cranioscopical

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2011, 12:34:22 PM »
Not what you're seeking I knos, but conceivably could be useful in a pinch.
ESB DateCalc

worstje

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2011, 11:30:22 PM »
MasterPlan has a calendaring function that you may be able to leverage: http://www.habituali...ence.net/masterplan/

I've had a brief 10-minute look at that, and at first sight it does look rather promising. However, the Calendar stuff really seems a by-product of which the functionality comes close to what I want, but it still lacks flexibility. Likewise, I can't see how to set up different timelines for different characters/countries/etc and show them side-by-side for example. With that program, it is assumed everyone is at the same places so you can't say which people are at what event, but obviously I need that. :)

Not what you're seeking I knos, but conceivably could be useful in a pinch.
ESB DateCalc

Yup, definitely not what I need. Thanks for the pointer tho.

kyrathaba

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2012, 09:24:18 PM »
worstje, I don't know if you ever found a tool to suit your purpose, or if you're still looking for one. If you still need something like this, let me know. I wouldn't mind working iteratively on it (i.e., make a few modifications to the program, send it to you for viewing, get your feedback in order to further refine the program).

TaoPhoenix

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2012, 11:32:29 AM »
XKCD did a neat concept sorta on these lines, in that it was a simple line graph where Horozontal was Passing Time and Vertical was Location. Each character had a wavy line as they went places. So you'd plot data points of all the "who's", the "where's", and "Who Needs To Be Where On X Date" then it draws itself. (If you accidentally put a character two places at once you'd discover that you had a messed up line.)

Or you could put a "maximum steepness" so that not counting wizards, a character can't leave North Town at breakfast and be in Southern Glen by Lunch. (It would need to be X days of travel later.)

"Multiple Timelines" are just multi rows of labels on the Horozontal Axis so just line up "Emperor Aasgard's Reign" with "AD 1358" because they are the same "absolute" moment in time.

On the writing side, separate your snips into Time Agnostic, One Condition (Anytime after Wizard Gets Banished), or Two or More Conditions (Has to be between Princess Breaking Her Hand but before Death of King) so the software might be able to help calculate the range of possible points on the graph for the event. Then you fiddle with it (even with an optimizer) until it either all matches or you just have to fix the plot.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2012, 11:37:34 AM by TaoPhoenix »

kyrathaba

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2012, 12:15:45 PM »
Good info, Tao. We'll see if worstje responds. The idea of software like this appeals to me on both the programming-side and the idea-side. I used to "Dungeon Master" a lot of AD&D games and roleplaying games using other mechanics systems. For those games, I usually did my own world-building. It appears that worstje may have been wanting this kind of software to assist with fiction writing. I could see myself using it for that, but also for any future world-building I might do.

SphinxCn

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2012, 04:25:17 PM »
Perhaps one of the software listed on sourceforge might fit

http://sourceforge.n...-updated/?q=timeline

kyrathaba

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2012, 05:21:07 PM »
Nice link, SphinxCn. Thanks!  :up:

IainB

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2012, 10:01:28 PM »
I'm not sure, but you could probably find this in Scrivener (seems to provide a superb authoring/writing toolset), or possibly even Pathagoras.

Failing those, consider setting up your main character as a Facebook person and building their timeline in Facebook. You might lose privacy for your fictional character though...    ;)
You could even advertise it, maybe, once the timeline was sufficiently developed.
Who knows? You might get followers who wanted to watch as your character and/or story developed.

DanielJLewis

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2012, 08:33:45 AM »
I've been looking around for this same thing, so I thought I would add to the conversation.

I also need a timeline-creation tool that will allow for a fictional timeline. I need to embed this on a website, so it must not use Flash, and it needs to be accessible and searchable.

Dormouse

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2012, 10:01:34 AM »
Writer's Cafe and Liquid Story Binder both have a timeline component, amongst many features.

wraith808

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2012, 11:10:35 AM »
Both of those are really cool- but I think the part that is hard (and that none I've seen really solve) is fictional date periods, i.e. a month is 25 days and there are 10 months in a year named whatever.  Is that the problem that we're trying to solve here?  And what other features are we looking at?

Dormouse

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2012, 11:36:51 AM »
but I think the part that is hard (and that none I've seen really solve) is fictional date periods, i.e. a month is 25 days and there are 10 months in a year named whatever.  Is that the problem that we're trying to solve here?

I'm not sure about Writer's Cafe, but LSB just works on putting in column headers, so you cn have any system you want. You can also set it up for characters or "link" it with one of the other modules such as a builder or storyboard, depending on what you are trying to use it for. Personally, if I was trying to set up something with a very alternative calendar, I'd probably use a table or spreadsheet. So much depends on what you are trying to do and what sort of tools and views work best for you.

wraith808

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2012, 11:38:27 AM »
I'm not sure about Writer's Cafe, but LSB just works on putting in column headers, so you cn have any system you want.

Yeah... but when you're adding days/months/years to events to get other days in the calendaring system, it can get pretty hairy doing that type of manipulation.

Dormouse

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2012, 11:44:59 AM »

Yeah... but when you're adding days/months/years to events to get other days in the calendaring system, it can get pretty hairy doing that type of manipulation.

Yeah, that's why I'd set this up on a spreadshhet or matrix system, just to keep track of the calendar.
ie the spreadsheet/matrix/table would give the calendar and I could just put the appropriate "date" from that into the timeline. I'd also add a colour to each cell in which something happens to give me a visual.

kfitting

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2012, 05:05:38 PM »
If you use a spreadsheet, you may want to check out Sparklines for Excel (http://sparklines-excel.blogspot.com/).  If you use the Gantt chart, you can set up your own timeframes... would probably take a fair amount of creativity, but it may spark [!] some ideas anyway.

Dormouse

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Re: Flexible Fictional Timeline organisation tool
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2012, 04:32:02 PM »
Just noticed that Liquid Story Binder is on BdJ again today at 70% off.