The loss of my writing mascot Mickey this week has left me unable to function totally in writing, which is difficult given my intentions to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. But at some stage soon I must force myself back into the prewriting phase and prepare to a certain degree for the marathon.
As a former extreme plotter I’m more relaxed about outlining and planning nowadays, having realised my propensity for overdoing it and losing my passion for the story. I’m more flexible and use different creative techniques for coming up with characters or plot basics, but am always thankful of helpful tools for this work – particularly if they’re cheap or free, and accessible.
The Hiveword Online Fiction Organizer and Charahub are two webapps which fit both criteria, and could be perfect for NaNo prep.
Hiveword Online Fiction Organizer
Developed by Mike Fleming, the Hiveword platform is comprised of:
- The Hiveword novel organizer
- A set of prompts (integrated with the novel organizer) to improve your story via writing coach James Scott Bell’s Knockout Novel program based on Bell’s bestseller craft book, Plot and Structure.
- A writer-specific search engine called the Writer’s Knowledgebase for articles on writing curated by Elizabeth Spann Craig.
If you are truly after a full mentorship in developing a story idea the Knockout Novel modules may offer help – this is the only part of the triad which requires payment.
The Hiveword Fiction Organizer is free to signup and access, and has a good set of modules for some character and setting data, plotlines and scene tracking.
You can come up with different scene ideas in any way you like – index cards, spreadsheets, simple brainstorming. Once input into Hiveword the app provides some good filters – scenes can be tagged with statuses (eg. To Do), or linked with settings, plot lines and characters. The sample project – Harry Porter and the Guitar of Fire provides enough sample data to make understanding Hiveword’s features easy.
You can add as many stories to Hiveword as you like. The data is always yours, exportable as an rtf file.
Charahub gives you an online database for characters. Like Hiveword, it’s free, with a catch – you can create 100 characters for free, with up to 10 images on each of these. But if you want more than 100, there is a referral scheme or subscription plan. The free plan will have advertising in the future (I am presuming the large gap at the top of the UI is where banner ads may make an appearance) whereas Gold plans offer no adverts and more characters and images.
Once inside Charahub you are in a community, so be aware that your characters can be searchable and viewed by other users unless made hidden or private. You can follow other writers, and favourite other characters.
Characters are built from a series of tabs, and basic field inputs. Each field must be saved before moving on, making the process a little cumbersome compared to, say, just using a character profile or sketch sheet on your desktop.
Unfortunately my attempts to upload an image from my device library faulted with bad requests at the time, so I resorted to the desktop with better success.
Once you do have some characters in Charahub you can contain them in groups, and link profiles together. The social aspects of having public characters also may work for discovery and research. My own search for 12 year olds (the search seems very slow) found five characters meeting that filter, most of whom appear to still be living their lives through a distopian world.