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I'm attempting to lay some groundwork for a story that I've been working on in various aspects for a good many years now, and I'm finding myself in need of a visual representation of character relationships. I've done some digging looking for software that would meet this need (I looked through many suggestions in some older threads on the same subject at Software for developing and organizing characters and geek-related.com: I need a relationship mapping tool) and have so far not met with much success.

Most of what I'm finding is either mind mapping or flow chart type programs, neither of which are going to work for my purposes as I'm trying to incorporate more characters than any of this sort of software could realistically hold without being buried under all the connective lines- I need something with a filter or selective view.

The best option I have found was the WriteItNow program, but I don't care at all for the rest of the program and the one feature that I'd use isn't polished enough to justify me dropping a load of money on it- especially when my detailed character files are elsewhere already and it wouldn't provide enough of what I'd need to choose it over other programs.

So, I'm hoping that since those other threads were made, some other options have come up and ya'll have had better luck finding them than I have.

  • Mind mapping software is OK if elements can be isolated to show only things that connect directly to it. Otherwise, this type of software isn't going to work for me.
  • I'm looking for something that isn't based online in such a way that it's visible to the public (looking at you, Kumu) - my preference is for something that can be downloaded.
  • I need to be able to customize the connections in some capacity.
  • Otherwise, I'm pretty open to ideas. At my wits end here- I've been surfing the internet looking for something useful all day and have pretty much nothing to show for it.
  • have you tried a more standard relational database program like FileMaker? (I'm on a Mac; I have no idea what the equivalent for PC is.) – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Aug 24 '16 at 0:39
  • Or alternatively, Wikidpad is something I use often. It's a stand-alone wiki (that can be installed locally or on usb), and if you are just using that to create connections then it is quite good for that. And it's free – Thomo Aug 24 '16 at 1:34
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    Pen and paper? (No, seriously.) – Ken Mohnkern Aug 24 '16 at 13:11
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    I like to use sticky notes for character relationships because they are easy to move around and that helps me figure out how everyone is related and develop my story – Lisa Aug 24 '16 at 13:41
  • In a perfect world, what are you imagining the interface would look like? How would it work? – C. Louis S. Nov 1 '17 at 5:30
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I'm writing a historical fiction novel with literally hundreds of characters. I went through the stage of cards for each, then went through the stage of multiple diagrams (which could never include all the characters at the same time) and then I discovered Realm Works, a software for RPG GMs.

Realm Works allows users to create 'articles'. Let's say I've got an article for each character (and place, object, vehicle, etc) in my story. I can then write more or less detailed information concerning each character (or anything else). Let's say character X was born in city Z in country Zed, is the child of A and B, sibling of C, best friend of D, is polite to E despite hating them, etc. If all those places and elements already have an article, then links are automatically created. You also have a section where you can see all the characters X is related to, including information on the nature of the relationship (friendly, lovers, enemies, etc) and any comments you wish to make.

Another feature is that you can choose a character and see a web of all their relationships. Note that this feature is still a bit basic. Furthermore, you can search all the articles using all sorts of filters.

I also use concept maps (I use yEd for that, since I can customise them with colours and make them as complex as I wish with absolute control, which the relationship net of Realm Works doesn't allow) to visualise relationships concerning specific groups. I use these maps as an index, since images can have pins placed on them which are then used as hyperlinks.

Note that yEd is free but Realm Works is not.

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I've used MindMeister.com for my story, and so far I have 17 characters connected in various ways.

I personally use different colors for the type of connections/relations between the characters; Family=Green lines, Friends=Blue lines, and so on.

IT'S FREE

To my knowledge, it's only available as apps for mobile devices and as an online-version for pc and mac (don't know about Linux and other systems, but I assume it works there too.)

You can export PDFs of your 'maps' which is a nice feature I've used quite a bit.

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You could try Eastgate's Tinderbox. The initial learning curve is steep but there's very little like it out there.

  • Looks like that's just for mac, unfortunately- I'm only on PC – Miria Aug 24 '16 at 15:40
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Have you looked at Scapple? It's by the same people who make Scrivener. Similar to mind mapping, but you aren't limited to a single structure.

30 day free trial is nice, and the price is pretty low.

I've been trying it and it seems useful.

  • I'd looked at that one previously, but there doesn't seem to be any way to customize the connections from what I've seen on their website- so I don't think it would work for me as I need to notate different types of relationships. – Miria Aug 25 '16 at 2:28

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