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[Editing] Uncle Josh Visualizes the Story

I have been looking at ways to visualize, or even animate, my stories as part of the editing process. It helps that I just skimmed Chuck Wendig’s post on story shape, as it has given me an idea.

First, I want to consider the basic pacing of the story. This could be visualized by drawing a bar, say 500 pixels wide, and breaking it up into blocks for every scene. As I break up my scenes with a pound sign on its own line, that should be easy to write a script that tells me how many words are in each scene. Were I writing a book, I could break it up by chapters, first, and then by scene.

I then take those words counts in proportion and break up my bar with the proportional lengths.

Then each section can be broken down by paragraphs, proportionally. I think at this point having a master color scheme for the scenes, and then colorizing paragraph blocks by random hues in that range would work. I would randomize the colors at first, just for variety.

This would give me a line showing how fast the changes are happening. I could take it a level further into sentences. I probably wouldn’t try to break phrase, because that’s a lot of contextual computation.

This colored bar could show me the rhythm of the story. After all, what is writing other than an pre-programmed emotional journey on which you send a total stranger?

Another idea to gauge the pacing is to try a sparkline. A sparkline is a small linear graph, usually used to show recent data changes, like for a stock. If I could devise an algorithm to map the lengths of the sentences on a sparkline, that may give me an idea of the pacing, but may lose the flow of paragraphs.

It may even be helpful to map the changes in sentence length, so the acceleration and deceleration of the language could be mapped out.

The advantage of the sparkline and its derivative could be one sentence per pixel, so the length of a story could be felt, too.

It looks like I’ve got a lot of coding to do when I get back home.