View Full Version : Best non-formatting software -- plotting or structure stuff
08-02-2004, 05:58 PM
I see a lot of positive things about Sophocles, a little about Dramatica, a few about TotallyWrite, no info about Quickplot yet (nobody has tried this?).
Besides the major formatting programs, are there any really good software programs that deal with plotting, structure, or outlining that you like?
Deus Ex Machine
08-02-2004, 11:27 PM
08-03-2004, 06:55 PM
Looks like Sophocles is the best of the outlining programs.
What about Quickplot or Totallywrite? Anybody try any structure or plot software? I looked at Dramatica, but it was too complex for me.
08-05-2004, 01:59 PM
I don't buy packages that don't offer a free trial, which puts QuickPlot out of the picture.
razer, have you tried QuickPlot? If so, any good?
Deus Ex Machine
08-05-2004, 02:26 PM
quickplot is freeware, or it has a freeware version.
08-05-2004, 06:07 PM
I haven't tried Quickplot. I'd be interested in hearing the opinion from someone that has. I didn't see any place to try a demo when I looked at the website, so I don't how to try it for free.
I'd like to hear some opinions on Totallywrite as well. Seems interesting, but I'd prefer to try before I buy.
I did take a look at Sophocles and was impressed. I like it better than my Final Draft (6.something version). It's easy to use and I like the way you tab to the elements you want. You want dialogue, just hit tab and it knows you want, hit tab again, it knows you want parentheticals. It reminds me of Scriptware, which was my first software program I used. Final Draft gets on my nerves when you try to space down and it brings up the list of elements you must choose instead of letting you space down. I'm sure if I'd had this program all along, it wouldn't bother me, but I didn't, and it still does. That and the general bugs I find in the software upsets me.
However, I was hoping Sophocles had a little more in the way of outlining. From what I gathered, you do the outlining in the margin in the left, and also in the synopsis and notes fields near the bottom of the left hand corner. I like this layout and feature but I was hoping for something more, something that lets you work with the entire page while you are outlining. Perhaps they have a more robust feature and I didn't find it, but I was left with wanting a little more. It is still better than what I found in Final Draft, though I don't confess to knowing that product very well.
Oh, and the spell checker could use some beefing up. It will find the misspelled word but not know the correct one. That is one of the best features of word processing software, so I think they should try and beef up this feature in future releases. All in all, I think I like Sophocles better than Final Draft.
08-06-2004, 08:36 AM
You can download version 1.1 of Quickplot from zdnet, but it's a pathetic piece of crud with barely more functionality than Notepad.
08-08-2004, 07:53 AM
Power structure is good if you use mainstream techniques for structuring, i.e. Hero Journey, Vogler's 12 steps etc. THey are all preset to choose what you like. It also can be modified to create your own structural preferences with all elements renamed and inserted to your liking.
Sophocles does seem to be a fav, I've never looked at it.
After all that, I'm back to legal pad, but do use the index card features when I actually write out the scenes...very handy.
08-09-2004, 08:02 PM
Powerstructure sounds interesting. I may have to check that out. I've looked into the Hero's Journey a little, and I can see how this would be helpful. I even bought the book but it's too obtuse and dull for me to get through. I prefer the cliff notes.
08-11-2004, 05:20 PM
I gave TotallyWrite a try and must say that I'm more than impressed. I've read more screenwriting books and articles than I care to admit, and I can honestly say software surpasses them all. It has made the act of structuring/breaking the story less of a torturous, blood letting experience for me than it used to be. For approx. $69, it's a no brainer.
08-12-2004, 04:16 PM
I just looked at TotallyWrite's website, and the software is $99.95 on their site, with no trial period or demo to download.
Too bad, sounds interesting. But, without being able to try it first I wouldn't spend a penny.
I've tried most of the software out there, out of curiosity.
The most useful one to me has been Power Structure. It is very straightforward, and works as an organizational tool more than anything else. Dramatica was just too much, writing a screenplay is hard enough already, I want something that can integrate into my workflow, not something I need to alter myself to.
In the end, no outlining software in the world seems to be worth the price to me (at least not yet). If Power Structure went for less, I'd probably buy it. But at $150, it's just ridiculous, even if it is good software.
08-12-2004, 07:03 PM
Power Structure sounds interesting, but it doesn't give you a free demo either. As for TotallyWrite, it's something like $69 if you have MS Access, which you probably do. That way you can download it from the net instead of wait for a CD. I prefer downloading when possible.
I'll tell you this, the paradigm presented is the most helpful thing I've ever seen presented about screenwriting. Just goofing around, I took a story I already have 'broken' and plugged it in without much difficulty. I realized I need to make a few changes, add a few plot points in this part of the script, change something here, tweak something there.
I'd like to try Power Structure out of curiosity, but I think I found the real deal already.
08-12-2004, 10:56 PM
Actually there is a free demo version of Power Structure available for evaluation. You can use it up to 20 times.
You can get the PC and Mac demo here:
I don't have MS Access by the way.
But how does that work? Does the Access version of TotallyWrite do everything the standalone version can?
08-12-2004, 11:26 PM
I'll give the free version a try and let you know what I think.
You don't have MS Access? I think it's bundled with XP or whatever version of Microsoft you may have. If you are a Mac user, then, well, you probably don't have it. But if you are a MS user, you probably do have it. If you are Unix user, then you probably don't have any MS stuff.
I think the Access and standalone version are basically the same. I imagine he just wrote the thing using Access as the database. Perhaps the standalone version uses a different platform or has Access included. Maybe it has a different database altogether.
The software really isn't that important, IMO. It's actually rather simplistic. His paradigm is what is amazing. And even though the software is simple, it's very functional. Not many bells and whistles, but everything you need. [the shoe box is something I really like because I don't have a very convenient place to store story ideas and random scenes.] I also think the Worldview feature is pretty nifty. After you go through the paradigm and design your story elements, you hit this button and it lays out your script and plugs in the story beats on the page they should appear, approximately, of course.
I'll give a side-by-side review after taking a look at Power Structure. I was able to finish the tutorial and basically apply it on the first day I downloaded TotallyWrite. Hopefully Power Structure is that easy too.
08-13-2004, 07:48 AM
"And even though the software is simple, it's very functional. Not many bells and whistles, but everything you need"
That's exactly how software should be.
The thing I never enjoyed about something like Dramatica (for example) was that it seemed overly complex, for no good reason. It requires a new thought process from the writer, and it's own lingo. Simplistic is the key. I just need something that will help me organize my thoughts and stories.
The "Shoebox" function you mentioned sounds nice.
That would be one of my gripes with Power Structure. There is no good place to keep ideas on the 'sidelines' so to speak.
There is a "QuickNotes" function where you can store notes on a script, but it isn't quickly accessible (you have to go into the menu to get to it, there is no on screen button on the GUI). So, although it may be easy to make notes, it isn't so easy to keep them organized, to link the notes to a specific scene. While I was testing out the demo, I never really used the QuickNotes, and wound up just keeping notes on a seperate Word document.
The "Worldview" feature you mentioned sounds like it might be sort of like the "Gestalt View" in Power Structure, which is a feature that I really like. It gives you a nice clean view of your structure, from Acts down to scenes.
I'm curious to see what you think, and how you feel they compare. Like I said, although Power Structure is a nice
program, and a great organizational tool, I do feel it's overpriced for what it is. If TotallyWrite is along the same lines, then maybe I'll take the gamble and check it out.
It really is too bad they don't offer a demo version.
I am running XP, I'll see if maybe Access is bundled with it, but I dont' think it is. Then again, I've never had reason to use it, so it could have been sitting here the whole time.
EDITED TO ADD:
Just checked, and I don't have Access on XP.
Too bad, the Access version of TotallyWrite is only $50 off
It's a great tool! There is a screen button for 'quicknotes' on the top button bar (next to Thesaurus), if you enable the top button bar in the 'view' preferences.
08-13-2004, 03:30 PM
OK. I've given Powerstructure a try... and I like it. But here's my quick, and probably painful analogy.
Powerstructure vs. TotallyWrite.
Powerstructure is the Ferrari -- slick, elegant, beautiful, and powerful.
TotallyWrite is a souped up old Chevy Nova -- bare bones, no back seats, no air con, no radio, interior is just a shell and roll cage, exterior has primer spots, but the engine that has been meticulously built from the ground up and is a work of art.
And they're lined up at the drag strip. Sure the Ferrari is beautiful and sexy -- and fast even -- but the Nova is made for one purpose only -- getting to that line first. It may be a little ugly and boxy, but it's a 10 second car and the Ferrari is a 12 second slowpoke in comparison.
That's how I feel about it. Actually, that's a pretty sorry analogy, but hey...
TotallyWrite gives you a way to plot out your story -- I mean, you follow the paradigm, you will know how many plot points you need to flesh the story out. And the archetypes he presents make that task so much simpler. I normally am the type of person that doesn't start writing until I have an idea of the beginning, middle, end, and enough plot twists for me to feel that there's a whole movie in there. That can be a frustratingly long time. But now, wow. The torture is over!
PowerStructure doesn't really help in that regard, not in the way TotallyWrite does. I like the Hero's Journey and other paradigm, but TotallyWrite tells you what plot points you need, where your character changes, and gives you four questions that once you can answer, you have enough to plot out a movie.
If you buy TotallyWrite, don't buy it for it's beautiful software design; buy it for the paradigm that Jeff presents. It's the only 'idea' I've ever seen that actually makes plotting out an entire movie less daunting.
So, I do give PowerStructure a thumbs up, but it's not in the league of TotallyWrite given what I wanted out of the software. To be fair, I couldn't find a tutorial for PowerStructure and had to limp my way through the samples to figure it out. If there is a tutorial, maybe it would sway my opinion a little, but it would have to be pure gold to outdo what Jeff presents.
Anyway, get on Kazaa and download a freeware version of Access (it's a cheapie database anyway) and pay $49 for the download. If you don't like it, ask Jeff for a refund. To this date, it's the best storytelling instruction I've received -- save, perhaps, for just good ole experience.
08-13-2004, 03:49 PM
For those who have tried Dramatica Pro and found it it be a bit too intensive or complicated (and I throw myself into that lot), we do have the Writer's DreamKit which is much easier to use and is a very good introduction to Dramatica's concepts. I found it most helpful in the fact it made me think of my story in new ways that made the story stronger. In my first screenplay, the lead and sidekick were pretty much interchangeable, and while the beginning and ending of the screenplay was strong, the middle was a bit muddled. The Dramatica model showed me that I needed to make the lead and sidekick two distinct people (and how) as well as it helped me clean up the middle section so the story flowed better. It's pretty attractively priced as well which never hurts, and the upgrade to Dramatica is always an option. If anyone wants to try it, they can visit www.screenplay.com and load the Dramatica demo then set it to level 1. That will
replicate the Writer's DreamKit.
08-16-2004, 08:27 AM
Dramatica is a ridiculous waste of money, both versions of it.
09-07-2004, 01:46 PM
I gave the Dramatica tutorial or 'easy' version a try and still found it far more difficult and confusing than I'd like. It felt like someone's doctoral theory, and to be honest, I don't think it will help you craft any better a story than just trying to have conflict in every scene.
So far I think TotallyWrite is the best software I've seen -- the theory behind it. It's actually a very simple software. I wish it was coupled with Sophocles or something so I could stuff some sample scenes in there and easily recall them at my leisure.
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