Crap, I Need a Topic: Timeline Software (Or Why I’m Going Old School)

Google Image “Conspiracy Wall”. It’s like that, but with made up politics. Well . . . MORE made up politics. Here’s a bunny.

It really shouldn’t be this difficult.  Are we as writers really asking so much of software makers?  I mean, I really don’t know, because I don’t know how to code anything, but why is it we can’t just have reasonably priced software that allows us to create our own calendars, complete with freaky names for our months, odd numbers of days within them, not twelve in a year, and then organize plot events based on that unique information?

Not so many hours ago, I was working on Eleasia, taking advantage of the creative burst that can come from conquering an existential plot crisis that only thirteen years of world building can help create, when I felt the dawning of a new desire coupled with a new obstacle; timelining.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had the desire or need for such a mythical program, but it is something of a driving need this time around.  Unlike previous occasions, where it would be more convenience than anything else to be able to input my own months, days, and years to each point, this occasion comes wrapped up in the recognition that having so many events over an extreme length of time leaves me somewhat unsure of where my true beginning can be found.  I have beginnings I’ve always considered, but now I have new information to subtly weave into the fabric of the world to build an even tighter foundation than that which already exists, and while I’ve always planned to make each set of books accessible in a way that doesn’t demand that you read them in the order they’ve been released, to those loyal fans who would follow from the outset I would like not to leap so far back in time as to offer events that would, on the surface, seem completely irrelevant.  That is exactly what I think I might end up doing, however, without a visual timeline to play with.

There are always options out there, but most of them require a bit of compromise in order to enjoy, and I feel just crabby enough to not want to offer compromise for anything.  Dammit, I want the software in my brain to exist on my computer, and I want it now and better than I could possibly imagine!  Ideally, I would turn to my laptop, plug in my writing buddy Eloise (a flash drive), and open up some magical bit of software designed just for this occasion, and start injecting plot point and events as they occur to me, but, since I can’t have that, I’m resorting to a good old fashioned, low-tech solution: 3×5 note cards taped to my wall.  That’s right.  You either give me exactly what I want, or I’ll go out of my way to do things with what is quite probably an unnecessary level of effort on my part, which actually does nothing to inconvenience you at all.  That’ll show you!

You see, it isn’t enough to just know that things happen in a certain order (i.e. Gods are created > Eleasia created > Delinithiri created > Other races created > Seleäna does stuff > BLoT gets mad > Future things happen > The Present).  No, no, I set out from almost the very beginning with a specific plan in mind, and it was always meant to be something more complicated than most sane people would ever willingly allow themselves to attempt.  Building off of Jordan’s model, which shows how lives that follow divergent paths can all contribute to the same end, I decided to not only do the same thing better, but to set up concurrent life paths that intersect each other as they would in reality.  Of course this means I need to know enough about what will happen for a particular set of characters far enough in advance that anything I set up with other characters who may cross their paths doesn’t disrupt the necessary sequence of events to come.  Since I can’t use the convenience of software and computering to save space, though, this means that after I paper my wall with note cards and events, I get to dress them up with bits of colored yarn and rainbow thumbtacks like a crazy person looking for a conspiracy in their own high fantasy ramblings.  (“But I just know that given the opportunity, the King of Anovah would have poisoned the HELL out of the ambassador to Alegonfar just to start the War of Flames, regardless of what the historians say.  I never believed Sethrah was innocent!  There was a second mage on the knoll!”)

But now I have to wait, because I don’t even have note cards on hand to start building  my timeline wallpaper.  I think I’ll go play Sims Medieval and see if I can’t add to Seleäna’s story while I’m at it.

*EDIT*  I have the cards, but they’re not on the wall yet.  That is all.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

Yeah, I saw that preposition, and I said “Meh.  Let it hang out at the end of that sentence.  I need coffee.” (07/10/12)

This post brought to you by The Past, when it was written.

Just a friendly reminder:  If you haven’t purchased a copy of “Don’t Let Her In” yet, now is the time to do so!  Until this Thursday (08/02/12) you can download “Don’t Let Her In” for absolutely FREE!  That is 100% less than it usually costs!  Just enter promo-code “SA36R” into the coupon field when downloading to pay absolutely none of the pennies in your piggy bank!  Declamatory statement of excitement here!!

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