Many writers have a large notebook or digital file affectionately called their “Writing Bible”. It contains everything they need to remember—details about their characters, plotting, locations, fictional races, ancient history, research—you get the idea.
I’ve always been one of those writers who puts it down by hand in an A4 notebook with a rainbow of tabs. Eye colour, height, hair colour, background, beliefs—all on paper, because I hate trying to wade through a digital word-dump even if it does have “ctrl+F”—I’m fussing about presentation and organisation.
On numerous occasions, I have been SUPER TEMPTED to start Wikia pages for my novels, to insert links to other relevant pages, to set out section dividers, pictures and collected information sections.
AND NOW THE PERFECT TOOL HAS ARISEN!
In 2013 a project caught my eye on KickStarter called “StoryShop”. Devised by two writers they proposed to make a piece of software that was everything I already did in a notebook. Since I want to pursue writing for a lifetime, I gave $200 for the lifetime subscription. It’s taken almost four years but StoryShop has arrived, and I recommend the heck out of it.
First and foremost, StoryShop has a “worlds” section. Here you can find all of your stories neatly packaged in one place. There is always a world called “The Land of Oz”, which is there as an example of how to use all the features inside…
My favourite feature! Character profiles! As you can see, you’re able to upload profile photos (I use artwork that gives a feel or mood for the character I’m writing), and just like a Facebook profile, you can insert a header image as well. You can favourite characters you reference the most and their names will appear in the drop-down sidebar. I favourite liberally as I find it easier to have almost everyone on roll-call. You can rearrange every file you create by simply dragging and dropping.
When you enter a character profile, you’re presented with this beauty. A catalogue-like list on the left that I choose to use for basic information – the kind I easily forget, like eye colour and age. On the right is your character summary. This is a great place to write your character’s background, but “character summary” is open to interpretation. As you can see in the image above, the name ‘Siddiqah’ is blue. You can turn names and elements (I’ll describe elements in a minute) into hyperlinks that take you straight to other profiles or info files! No more ctrl+F or flipping through notes to find a note related to something you just read – there’s a direct hyperlink!
Beneath the summary is a list of your character’s relationships with others. Again, if you click on these, you will be taken to the character profile. Beneath “relationships” is the “gallery”, where you can stash all of your relevant character art.
On the right is a thought-provoking section called “character DNA”. A random generator asks you questions about the character’s personality, goals, family history etc. meaning you can develop characters within the programme itself. No more hunting for “100 questions you should ask your character” across the internet, they’re all in one place.
The “Elements” section really stands for “everything else”. Here I can leave snippets of information that I need to remember as detailed or as short as I want, and all of it I can easily find again. This is where I dump info on made-up religions, side characters not important enough to really warrant a whole profile, geographical and historical research, lore and world-building “codex” stuff.
As you can see from the screencapture above, you can give these “elements” an image, titles, and TAGS. The magnifying glass in the top right allows you to search for tags, which will filter down things to the topic you need to revisit. Just as with characters, you can favourite elements you use the most often and they’ll appear in the left side-bar.
StoryShop does have a writing tool, but it’s the one feature I’m not a big fan of yet. I haven’t had the patience to play with it enough to tell you exactly why, but when I try to copy and paste content from Word, all my paragraphs and italics are lost, making it a massive trawl to edit those back in.
I don’t write directly into the application because I’ve never been a huge fan of writing in compartmentalised…bits like Scrivener gets you to do. StoryShop currently only offers a way to write in sections – so you can see a visual path and breakdown of the novel – but I find this off-putting and get bogged down by following other people’s structure “rules”.
This 100% does not detract from how much I love StoryShop. I’m familiar with writing in Word and my novel is immediately backed up to Dropbox, meaning I feel a little bit safer writing in Word anyway.
As a planster (the type of writer who is a planner AND a pantser), I super recommend this tool. I have access to my novel notes everywhere I go—no more notebooks or digital contents pages needed—so long as I have signal or wifi. The presentation is clear and visually stimulating, everything runs smoothly, I can find whatever I need in seconds, and I feel like I plan characters better than before!
Visit StoryShop for yourself and have a browse of their tutorial videos.
Does it look like a tool you’d enjoy, too? Do you use StoryShop already – how do you like it? Or are you a total pantser who doesn’t need planning and loves to write amidst scraps of notes and sticky paper? Let me know in the comments!