Software Review: Storyist

Storyist Software

$59 download; $79 download plus boxed edition.


Storyist is a specialized story creation tool for writing novels and screenplays. It combines a word processor with tools to track your characters, plot and settings, and manuscript and screenplay templates that format your work for professional submission.

On first launching Storyist, I was prompted to pick a template for my document, either blank, novel, screenplay or "Hero Adventure", which is based on Joseph Campbell's "Hero With a Thousand Faces" used as George Lucas's basis for the Star Wars Films). Both the screenplay and the novel templates, when opened, provide the writer with a tongue-in-cheek written tutorial (the script version is hosted by the Greek muses of comedy and tragedy) which acts as a guide to getting started in the program.

After I chose my template and opened Storyist proper, the thing I immediately noticed was the little cork-board graphic called the Storyboard at the top of my document.
The Storyboard is a digital bulletin board that functions as a place to stick and organize notes, plot reminders, pictures and character bios. The program expands upon this basic concept by using the little notes as icons to access the program's more interesting features.

These features (helpfully named Plot, Characters, Settings and Notebook) are basic but powerful organizational tools. Each tells you exactly how to use it when first opened, and can be accessed either via the toolbar or the more traditional menu on the right. The Storyboard then displays little index cards with plot notes or customizable character portraits and setting pictures. A click on these icons leads to the setting, character or plot point opening up into a more detailed view, where the writer is prompted enter biographical character information, specific character development points, even the sights, sounds and smells of the settings.

Plot point and character development point cards can be organized into sections (or scenes, if you're writing a script) which also contain chapters. The cards can be used to quickly move around within parts of the story arc. The plot points, characters, settings and notes can also be organized into groups for faster navigation. The whole thing is very organized and well-thought out, though the system might take some getting used to for writers who began in other programs or traditional writing media.
The only real problem I have encountered is a slight lag that sometimes comes up when switching between the manuscript and characters, plot and settings menus, which relates directly to processor speed. The lag is never more than a few seconds, but it can be irritating when trying to quickly refeence some detail of the setting or a character's appearance. Also, as there is just the one window, this lag cannot be avoided by having more than one view open at a time.

All in all, Storyist is quite the helpful program for those who fall within its somewhat narrow focus, namely script and story writers. The system, controls, and formatting are plainly presented every step of the way, and no reading of the manual is necessary to get started on writing immediately. The whole program gives off a cute, quirky feeling. Those features required for writing are here, those not required are excluded; you will find no pie charts or bar graphs in this program. It is tightly and thoughtfully designed.

I would reccomend Storyist for professional or hobby writers who want the most specialized and refined of tools for their trade.

–Emily Travisano

Storyist System Requirements
Requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later

Storyist Features
Word Processor
Full-featured word processor with support for headers, footers, and style sheets.
Page layout view that supports 2-up and mirrored pages.
Automatic manuscript and screenplay formatting with Quick Styles and Smart Text.
Text Inspector for quick editing of formatting, style, and page settings.
Support for comments and bookmarks.
Automator Action-based text plugins that extend Storyist's functionality.

Story Development Tools
Corkboard with support for photos and index cards.
Collage view to visualize the relationships between your story elements.
Flexible, color-coding outliner.
Customizable plot, character, and setting sheets

Project Manager
Project view to keep all your writing organized and accessible.
Import and export support for popular file formats, including RTF, .doc, .docx, Final Draft, and more.
A project trash lets you keep "discarded" items around until you're sure you don't need them any more.
Automator workflow support to handle routine import and export tasks like smart quote conversion and style replacement.

Copyright ©2009 by Emily Travisano. This review appeared in the November 2009 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.