StorYBook: a Free and Open-Source Tool for Organizing a Novel

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StorYBook is an interesting application for a specific niche group. It is not an all-out word processor but instead a tool for organizing a novel.

Actually any story could be story-boarded with Storybook. As an example, the demo project included with the install uses The Simpsons show.

Storybook can really allow you to organize your story and manipulate the details as you see fit.

You can control almost all the elements of a good story inside of Storybook so that you can keep track of it. Create a record for your characters, scope out your locations, and everything in between.

Storybook is free and open-source and available for Windows XP, Vista, Suse Linux and Red Hat Linux with a small 16MB download.

simpsonsdemo

It’s also available in multiple languages. Storybook is built on Java, so the only requirement is that you have the Java RE installed.   Storybook, in short, provides you the means to organize the framework of your story. You start with a new project for a story and then fill in all the details as you go along. Create an entry for characters and tag them as major characters or minor characters. Flesh them out with a lot of the vital information (birthday, gender, date of death) and add notes as you go along for quick referral.

character scene

Then add entries for different locations so you can physically locate your characters over time. Manage the threads in your story either by assigning chronological times to the events and a scene and chapter number. If you already have some of the story written down, you can import text files into your threads or just write summaries in the text box blurbs. You can even use a built-in spell check on these text entries to prevent yourself from making small mistakes.

inactions

If you diligently enter the information into Storybook as your plot progresses, you’ll have a very easy time keeping track of even the smallest details. Of course, you can always add additional elements in at any time to any point of the story. You’ll be able to see your story in a variety of perspectives at the click of a button. You can change to a Chronological View or go by Chapter and Scene Order or analyze it with the Book View to see everything come together.

bookview

In the Manage Chapter and Scene view, you’re able to drag and drop scenes into different orders within a chapter or even into different chapters. This is a little more intuitive than just haphazardly assigning them as you go along and is a real strength of Storybook to allow this major re-organization so simply.

chaptersscenesview

Two more features really top off Storybook as a top-notch application for keeping track of the characters in a story. Under the Tools menu, you’ll find the ability to create a Gantt chart for characters, so you can find what year they’ll be in the different stages of their lives. The second tool, which seems to be more useful to me, is a chart called Who was Where, When?. The title pretty much does what its name implies, it provides a comprehensive chart over the entire length of your story and can tell you where characters were at different points in time. This can help prevent any gaping plot holes in your tale.

ganttchart whowherewhen

With the locations you’ve added, assuming they’re real, you can easily find it on a map with Google Maps integrated into the context menu. Just right-click on a location and select Google Maps. Storybook will open your default browser to Google Maps focused on the area of the location you selected.

googlemaps

There’s no direct option to print within Storybook, but you can export it as a snappy looking report to a number of formats like text, PDF, html, CSV, RTF, and ODT. You can then print it, if need be, from any of the viewers that read those types of files.

report

A combination of versatility and practical functionality really makes Storybook a handy tool if you are in any way, shape, or form working with a story. It’s capabilities and particularly the tools like Who was Where, When? can also make Storybook a convenient template for analyzing a story as well. Meaning, as a reader, if you really want to break down a story you could enter all the information from the story as you go along. A neat tool for any English major. Version Tested: 2.1.12 Compatibility: Windows XP. Vista, Linux. Prevent a plot hole and download Storybook (approx 16 megs).