So What’s The Fuss About Aeon Timeline?
Timelines – they are the bane of many a writer. Whether it be discovering that your character has to be half a world away in a day with only a slow sailing ship and a camel for transport, or keeping track of all the different reality streams in your time travel novel, knowing where your characters are at certain times can be a challenge. And then just when you think you’ve got it all worked out you discover that your protagonist wasn’t present at a conversation where an important clue was revealed.
Many writers will make huge spreadsheets to keep track their characters and events. JK Rowling famously drew up grids with the major events of each book and chapter. But even then it’s easy to accidently overlook timeline issues, only discovering well into the revision process that your character could not possibly have been in that place at that time, or be in possession of that piece of information. If it’s happened to you, you’ll know just how frustrating this is.
This is where Aeon Timeline helps. As the name suggests, the software is purely for tracking your timelines and can help you ensure problems like this don’t crop up. If you have a huge cast of characters or a complicated continuity it can be a Godsend for stopping your plot getting you tied up in knots.
It’s available for both Windows and Apple computers and will set you back $40 for either version. However, like most writing software, look for special offers around the time of NaNoWriMo, and it’s possible to get a discount on a package of both the Windows and Mac version for those of you who write on multiple computers.
At its most basic, Aeon Timeline will allow you to mark events, people and places on a rolling calendar, such that it’s very easy to determine where your characters are at all times and if there are any conflicts. It’s highly customisable with a lot of neat features that will be of use to writers of all genres.
Aeon Timeline allows you to specify your timeline, so whether you set your story in the modern day across a single evening or hundreds of thousands of years in the past (or future) it will cope. It’s also possible to zoom in and out. So if your epic fantasy spans millennia, it’ll still be easy to manage. If you don’t have specific dates in mind and just want to track events based on how they relate to each other, the software can handle that as well.
And for those of you who’ve built your own calendar consisting of five named months and twenty weekdays? Don’t worry as Aeon Timeline allows you to create your own custom calendar. You can even specify the number of hours in a day.
You will start by adding events to your timeline like you would an event in an online calendar. You can be as specific as you like, just adding a year or drill right down to the minute as your writing project dictates.
Your timeline is likely to become very cluttered as you add more and more events. As a result Aeon Timeline allows you to group events together into arcs. This can allow you to follow a specific subplot or even background worldbuilding information. What arcs you need will depend on what you are writing but the beauty of the software is that it is flexible enough to match what you need rather than dictate to you about how you should write.
Aeon Timeline lumps people and places together as something called entities. They also encompass things such as theories, organisations and objects (useful for tracking that magic item that’s going to be all important come the climax of the novel). You can even specify an age of a person or thing so that you can track this over the course of your timeline.
Entities get added to events, either as a participant or an observer. This can help distinguish who is actually doing specific actions during an event and who was just present to observe them happening. With events on the timeline denoted by a vertical line and entities by a horizontal one, observation or participation is denoted by an icon at the intersection, giving you a very quick visual view as to who is where, when.
If you happen to be using the software on a Mac it’s possible to synchronise data between Aeon Timeline and the popular writing software, Scrivener. Aeon Timeline will add dynamic metadata to your Scrivener file allowing you to amend data and see the changes reflected back in Aeon Timeline. The sync with Scrivener feature is planned for a future Windows release.
A 20 day trial of the software is available from the publisher’s website so if you’re currently in the thick of plotting and tracking all your characters is giving you a headache, why not give Aeon Timeline a try?