An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 2

Continuing  background:  An Author’s Inspiration is planned to be distributed with writer configurable files.  These files describe characters, plot, setting, and (most importantly), stress.  As distributed, these files currently describe the adventures of Harry Potter in the film version of The Order of the Phoenix.  The outline generated by An Author’s Inspiration combines these elements, expanded into 28 beats.

In The Order of the Phoenix, there are a lot of characters each with their strengths and weaknesses. In An Author’s Inspiration, each character has a file of trait descriptions and character sketch provided by the writer.  The emphasis on these traits are largely psychological.

The beat format of the generated outline allows for 80-90% of the scenes from the film to fit into beats’ settings.  The plot is a matter of interpretation, but with Harry Potter, the elements in the file describing plot can be arrived at through what is largely formula for the Harry Potter series.

What of the stress I describe as (most) important?  Research has borne out Kurt Vonnegut’s observation of the emotional shape of at least six types of story.  Each shape is a simple curve expressed in a flow of shifting levels of both good (eustress) stress and bad (distress) stress.  The writer can not only establish a plot point, but can attach a level of stress to it.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 3

With the background established, I move on to my own experience using An Author’s Inspiration.  As I am also the designer, it allows me to adjust the design of the software to suit short-falls, add flexibility, and to create new features that were unanticipated during early stages.

The first thing that hit me was about the design at a fundamental level.  I had planned on the writer having the ability to write free form notes into unlimited text fields.  Unfortunately, that design has constraints.  The writer cannot use punctuation in this text (that made it easy to write the code).  However, I as the writer need the ability to separate ideas into sentences, and this put demands upon me as the designer to step up to the plate to make that happen at a very fundamental level.

So, the first lesson of using my own software is to add a robust method to allow me to enter complete paragraphs with punctuated sentences into the text field.  This will be mildly complex, and demand deep testing as changes at the fundamental level can cast dramatic problems into what should be high level subtleties.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 1

I have decided to start a journal to express the Aha! moments that are arriving now.  However, some background is needed to say how I got to such moments.

I have put in roughly six months (or 1,000 hours) of design and development of the idea I call An Author’s Inspiration.  In fair market prices for a senior software developer, that would bill out at $80,000.  There is more design and coding to go, but I am at a beta release version of 0.7 that suits many functions I set out to achieve.  Going the distance from beta release version 0.7 to product release version 1.0 places new appeals to my designer’s inspiration.

I am currently re-purposing my beta for use in my own fiction writing, and I am discovering short-falls of design.  In the culture of software design, using my own product is know as “eating your own dog food.”  That is, in my release package, I have files designed specifically for Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix.  I am not writing a Harry Potter story.  As needs must, I have to replace those configurable files with files that describe my own story with its own characters.

Currently, beta version 0.7 does that very well.  That is, An Author’s Inspiration has exceptional flexibility, allowing for many levels of character and plot invention and tailoring by the writer.  It presents the writer’s effort with a fully fleshed out psychological tone map of their story in a linear outline format.

And on this point of tone map my design effort turns (and eating my own dog food emerges).  As I modify the distribution files I am beginning to see the shape of how I might proceed outside of the forced linearity of the process.  Fortunately, An Author’s Inspiration‘s flexibility allows the writer to leave out many details, and develop them later.  I designed that feature deliberately, and as a writer using An Author’s Inspiration, I find it brings me considerable relief not to have to decide every character trait from the outset.

More to follow.

An Author’s Inspiration, Characters

An Author’s Inspiration, announced earlier, proceeds.

My expectations for this software design is to produce character profiles, and describe character interactions within an A.I. generated outline.

To achieve this my design will take in files written by the author for integration into a structured format.  My design will then produce a text file that presents a full novel or screenplay in a schematic three act style with smaller substructures much like scenes (but called beats).

At the lowest level of utility to an author, this will give a perspective of the complete work within one unified file that offers instruction as to where plot points are located.  To achieve a more distinct outline, An Author’s Inspiration requires that the author create character files.  Within those files are going to be specific characteristics of each character.

Characters are described in their own file.  In that file, a text file, the author enters the following characteristics:

  • called name,
  • age,
  • hardiness,
  • role,
  • shadow,
  • and so on.

These terms deserve attention because the author’s entries for these characteristics are limited to specific terms, or numbers to within certain limitations.  So, my prospective design will look for something with this criteria:

  • called name: a single word such as “Jack” or “Jill.”
  • age: a number as simple as 10 (as in 10 years old).
  • hardiness: a number (integer) between -3 and +3, where negative numbers inform of a low hardiness for this character.
  • role: one of 18 specific archetypes choices (e.g. innocent, warrior, lover, demi-god, demon, ghost, ruler…).  The sense of this entry for the author is for the author to think of their character’s positive persona.
  • shadow: again, one of 18 specific archetypes choices (e.g. innocent, warrior, lover, demi-god, demon, ghost, ruler…).  The sense of this entry for the author is for the author to think of their character’s negative persona.
  • and so on.

As a user of An Author’s Inspiration, the author will probably stumble (or simply experiment) with the concept of archetypes that are invested in their character’s role and shadow.  Experimentation with character files will reveal how changing these entries impacts their character’s responses to plot challenges.

An Author’s Inspiration

I am about to embark on a five novel series I call X-Division Assignments.  I have another series I have been writing, but the time it took to write each novel seemed to take too long.  While reading Charles Willeford’s The Woman Chaser, I was inspired by his protagonist’s commitment to direct a movie.  But first his protagonist, to be professional, had to write a treatment.

It was then that I took this as a sign that I needed to write a treatment of my series.

For fiction (not movies), this meant more about me writing an outline…but treatments I understand too.  I have degrees in both English and Cinema.  However, with a career in engineering, I considered automating the process.  With some experience in design in A.I. (which, in this specific case, relates to artificial intelligence), I have set my sights on using the computer language of prolog.

An Author’s Inspiration will be my software design of an outline generator.  My design will read character descriptions, settings, plot points, and produce an outline based on the three act play format, also known as beats in the film industry.

In future posts I will describe this software tool, and relate the progress of my design work.