Michael Brown

The Paradise Wars and Clark Ransom Thrillers

Using Tinderbox to Revise a Novel, Part One

Tinderbox is  software that adapts to your level of computer sophistication.  It is a personal content manager, meaning it organizes your notes and allows you to access them and visualize the connection between them in as many ways as you can imagine.  As you use it, your skill and power grows.  I began by taking what had been the final draft of my novel Hidden Laughter and brainstormed what I thought the revision process might entail. I then slid notes into visual groupings, arriving at the following map.

Tinderbox Map

Tinderbox Map

This preliminary grouping, allowed me to see the power of Tinderbox. I then decided to create a note for every character, whether main, walk-on, or referred to (historical or from literature).  I then did the same thing for settings, used or mentioned, in as much detail as seemed significant: sometimes I referred to a single part of a room, sometimes to an entire state.

Once completed I had around 300 notes from which I created a map view that allowed me to move these notes around and cluster characters and locations in ways that my brainstorming imagination found relevant.

Tinderbox allows you to create prototypes (a “template” note, which can have many different attributes of appearance and behavior that can be inherited by any notes to which the prototype is applied).

My Character prototype was a dark red rectangle; my Setting prototype a yellow oval. As I moved and arranged notes, the map grew in complexity. I made more prototypes, containers, and colored areas of the map. I now had a Secrets prototype, for secrets held by characters that drove plot revelations, and also a prototype for Tasks: next logical steps in the revision process. I ended up with the following overview map.

Tinderbox Overview Map

Tinderbox Overview Map

A metaphor for the structure that was inherent in the material began to emerge.  I saw that this metaphor (roughly: a play within a play/all the world’s a stage) could be applied to characters, setting, and secrets; and it felt right.  The material was giving me this metaphor; I wasn’t imposing it from some book on the craft of writing a novel.  I had:

Character Map

Character Map

Settings Map in Tinderbox

Settings Map in Tinderbox

Secrets Map

Secrets Map

I could see that the densest areas of activity were perhaps obvious choices for POV and turning point scenes. And I saw areas that needed more development.

I then linked characters and settings.  Tinderbox allows as many links as you can imagine, and allows you to define the type of link. So I defined a Character_Location link and began linking my two map areas. The results were that for any character I could instantly see all locations he/she was associated with:

Character Roadmap

Character Roadmap

Or look at a location and see all characters associated with it:

Location Roadmap

Location Roadmap

This is where I am now. Next steps and material for future blog posts:

  •     Link Characters to Secrets
  •     Link Secrets to Locations
  •     Create Event prototype
  •     Use Agents to shift perspective
  •     Map draft plot points to Events
  •     Create Tinderbox Timeline
  •     Plot Events to Timeline
  •     Create final structure and outline

Understanding these relationships, I’ll be able to start the new revision with confidence.

Tinderbox is available as a free trial download.  Play with it, you may surprise yourself with how fun it can be to be a little geeky:) Go here for a free download:

http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/

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One Reply

  1. Michael Brown

    Corrie,

    Thanks a lot for this feedback. I just realized that somehow the images are missing out of my Media Library in WordPress and I’m going to have to go track them down. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know they are up again.

    Thanks so much for finding this. I really appreciate it.

    Michael

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