I've been shopping around for a writing program for a while. It's not any impediment to my writing – most of the features I'm looking for can be done with a quick sketch in real life. But it's really surprising to me that none of the methods I use to map out my stories have an easy software equivalent. Here's what I'm talking about:

When I want to keep track of a bunch of characters and their relationships, I put a bubble on a sheet of paper for each character, and draw a line between each one representing the relationship between two characters. This is a social network – a graph of people and relationships. By analyzing it, I can find where a relationship between two characters is lacking or underdeveloped. For instance, consider a protagonist in a group of four characters. While every member of the group has a relationship with the protagonist, I might discover that not every member of the group has a relationship with each other. This really helps for large ensembles, where it might not be immediately obvious that two characters have never been in the same scene together.

I remember reading that Orson Scott Card used a similar method when planning out the relationships between the characters of Speaker for the Dead, although I'm not sure where I read it.

It just seems so intuitive to me, and it's kind of baffling that none of the writing programs I've seen do this. I know it can be done, even in a system which dynamically updates. One of my favorite JRPGs is Xenoblade Chronicles, and what I've described is essentially its Affinity Chart, which gets filled in with data on each of the NPCs as the game progresses. It's astounding to me that even programs that advertise character-focused planning don't formalize the very thing that makes characters interesting: their interactions. It feels like every single one is interested in making me flesh out the unimportant details about my character, like name, age, and blood type, while leaving all of the heavy lifting in relationships to me.

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A conflict isn't built in isolation. Even a characterless conflict is characterized by the interactions between two competing systems. I feel like a visualization of that would be more productive than filling out what amounts to a personal questionnaire for each character.

So here I am. My question is, is there anything out there that does this, that I missed? And, if there isn't, is there any interest in a program that does? I'm a software engineer in training, and I've been considering doing this as a personal project, to round out my resume. I imagine I would get great use out of it, but whether anyone else would has yet to be proven.

Source: reddit post


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