of Power Structure -
Story Development Software
Sandra C. Durham
©2003, Sandra C. Durham
review covers the Power Structure Story Development and Outlining Software
available for the Mac and Windows platforms from http://www.write-brain.com.
I have been using this software extensively over the past few months to
plot out my first novel, and I believe it holds a number of key features which
can enhance the new writer's ability to remain focused on the building blocks
necessary for good story design.
a novel takes a series of considerable steps that go beyond the actual act of
forming well-constructed prose. Vision
articles have recently focused on some of these areas and will present more in
future editions. Key aspects of
novel writing include:
story development - Including aspects
like themes, synopsis, story background, world-building.
creation – Physical
descriptions, emotional development, background, reasons for being in story,
- Story movement - How the
story will flow from beginning, middle, to end.
- Plotting - details of the
main story arc, conflicts, and major or minor subplots.
you are the kind of writer who likes to determine everything upfront before ever
typing a word of your story or the kind who likes to follow the Muse and see
what develops, all of the above steps will be part of your creative process.
Structure provides an organized method to design
and maintain these detailed steps in the creation of your story.
While it could be useful to those who create on the fly as they write by
providing them a way to outline their story for possible queries to publishers,
I believe the primary users of this software will be those who prefer some level
of plotting and story development before the writing process begins.
Structure allows the writer to start at the very
seed of an idea and develop the story from this original premise.
The main menu of this program provides seven useful views into the novel:
Story/Theme, Characters, 3 Act Structure, Chapters, Plot Points, Gestalt View,
and Conflict Overview.
at the story/theme view, and taking successively more detailed views into the
story, the writer develops things like the Theme and Synopsis. With Power
Structure's ability to edit prompts, you could add your own overview tasks
like World Geography, Magical Rules, Culture, Family Genealogy, and Back-story
issues. From that point you could
enter the Character view, wherein you have menu items to develop your characters
to whatever depth you like - physical, emotional, history, driving needs,
strengths, weaknesses etc. From
within the Character View you can outline the development each character will
experience throughout a 3-act structure.
3-Act Structure view is one of the less thought-out parts of Power
Structure. The program attempts
to provide templates for creating novels or scripts, but there is no way to
remove this remnant of a script from the novel template.
Rather than ignore it, I chose to view it as a high-level Beginning,
Middle, and End view of my novel. With
that in mind, it provides the next level of depth into the novel and the ability
to group the Chapter View into each of these three sections.
Chapter View provides the ability to write briefly on what is happening in each
chapter - opening hooks, how it moves the story forward, etc.
It also provides a way to group the more detailed and more interesting
plot points together.
Plot Point view provides what I feel is one of the strongest aspects of the
software. Not only does it allow
you to write in detail how you want each plot element to move forward, it also
provides the ability to create conflicts that a plot point introduces, heighten
existing conflicts, or resolve a conflict.
While these may seem pedantic steps, they provide a way to measure the
percent of tension as your story progresses.
my current work, I have some five overriding Conflicts that are central to the
story. Each plot point in some way
relates to one of these five conflicts. For
me, they are items like family disintegration, political infighting, love
triangle, mysterious demonic forces, etc. As
I develop plot elements, I link them into these conflicts, and make a
determination on what I think the overall tension level is at that point in my
story as it relates to that conflict.
there, I can go to the Conflict Overview screen and Power Structure
builds me a graph with different color lines for each conflict, stretching out
across all my chapters. I have an
excellent visual tool to see where my story is perhaps too flat or indications
of how I may have left a conflict untouched for too many chapters.
final view is the Gestalt view, which opens a rather cluttered window that shows
which Chapters are in each Act, and which plot points are in each chapter.
I found this less useful because it is so cluttered and the text in each
section is truncated.
there are a built-in word processor, a spell checker (which can be rather
demonic, as it will spell check in the midst of your typing), a limited
thesaurus, and a name bank. You can
generate printed reports of any combination of the above views, as well as
export similarly to RTF files or other outlining software programs.
There is also what they call Access Mode, which shrinks the program to a
menu bar at the top of your PC screen, allowing you to write in your favorite
word processor while still having visible access to your story outline.
summary, I found the flexibility, customization options, and overall thought put
into Power Structure to be immensely useful in my first endeavors into a
full-length novel. I must comment,
though, that all this comes at a significant price.
The program is available from http://www.write-brain.com
for $179, but you can download as a demo to view and use all the aspects I
discussed above before making your own decision on this software.