Home » Aeon Timeline » Building the Big Time

Building the Big Time

This week I’ve shown all these different tools I use when I’m writing.  I’ve got modeling programs; I’ve got Scrapple; I’ve got Aeon Timeline; I’ve got Scrivener.  These are great tools to have, but they’re just that:  tools.  They help build the world and create the story, but there is nothing magical about them.  One won’t start plugging numbers into Aeon and suddenly find the plot to their novel.  They’ll act as a map, but just like Kerry in London, you gotta use that map to figure out where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there.

I’m constantly thinking about my stories when I’m starting to set them up, and they aren’t far from my mind when I’m writing.  I might be working over lines of dialog, or created back story, or mulling over things to come.  That’s how I work; that’s how my stories are built.  And I’ve thought about this story for going on almost two-and-a-half years now, so when it came time to plot it out, I had a great Foundation from which to work.  (Pardon the pun–naw, don’t.)

But there’s still things that need writing, and believe it or not playing with my plots isn’t always out of the question–particularly if they’ve had a couple of years to lay about and simmer.  With that said, I’m going to do something I’ve never done:  I’m going to show you a part of my upcoming story, one that has yet to be written, but is plotted, and show you some of the process I have used to get it what the story to the point where I can start writing.

Let’s go, let’s go!

Act Two, Part Seven, Chapters Nineteen through Twenty-Four:  The Big Time.  This is where, as the kids say, shit gets real.

Sure, it doesn't look like much now . . .

Sure, it doesn’t look like much now . . .

8 November, 2011, an attack is launched by known hostile forces against various educational centers run by The Foundation.  Though Salem isn’t targeted, Director of Security Isis Mossman–who went through The Scouring and lost friends to the bad guys–isn’t about to take chances.  She begins the process of locking the school down, preparing for the worse.  As you have probably guessed, worse does come knocking:  all communication channels go dark, Isis orders the school into full lock-down and activates all defenses, putting Salem into siege mode.  This means cranking up the magical defense screens in the outer wall to full power–which encases the entire school–and throwing up a similar defense screen around The Pentagram, protecting the students who’ve been sent to their towers.

Ramona Chai and Helena Lovecraft take selected instructors and students out to the grounds proper and ready themselves as a rapid response ground-attack force, while Vicky Salomon and Erywin Sladen take command of the best fliers–most of them from the Coven Race Teams–and uses them as a combination spotter unit and, when things get bad, air assault unit.  Coraline sets up triage outside her hospital with the help of her aides and student volunteers, Trevor seals up the library, and Headmistress Mathilde Laventure retreats to Sanctuary–the code name for her bunker–while Mathias Ellison and Deanna Arrakis are sent to their separate locations to act as her seconds in case something happens to her.

Over all of this Isis Mossman–code name Fortress, which is more or less what everyone calls the locked-down Pentagram as well–stands watch in her security center with Wednesday Douglas at her side as her second, and the person who pretty much helped Isis get all these new defenses into place.  None of this “bring the stone statues to life and protect the school” stuff:  Isis would have dragons with frickin’ laser cannons flying around the school if The Foundation would allow such a thing.  As it is, she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve, not to mention some bad-ass people with heavy attack magic, over-the-top sorcery, and super-science weaponry out in the field.

Here’s what that looks like on the time line:

That's it?  Doesn't seem like much . . .

That’s it? Doesn’t seem like much . . .

I pointed out in another post that you can actually use points in one time line to drill down to another time line.  This is one of those instances where there is a time line on the other side of this point–you can tell because there’s a little icon there under “08 November 2011”.  We click on that and . . .

Okay, then . . .

Okay, then:  this looks interesting.

This is a full-on view of the attack using all the functions of Aeon Timeline.  I have events posted, I’m showing arcs (the information on the left side of the screen, such as “Kerry’s Story”), and entity relationships, which are the names at the bottom of the screen that show if a person was involved in an event, and if so were they an observer (the open dots) or a participant (the colored dots).  It might seem a little complicated, but once you’ve plotted a few of these, it becomes a pretty simple matter of knowing what happens when and to whom.

The Scrivener part was created first, with the Aeon time line produced later as a way of checking my work.  At the beginning of this event things are happening slowly because not much is going down.  Vicky tells her fliers when they start out that she hopes they have a very boring day, because that means there aren’t any attacks.  Vicky’s only saying that because she’s not seen Chapter Twenty-Two . . .

Vicky really shouldn't read ahead.

Vicky really shouldn’t read ahead.

Chapter Twenty-Two, Attack.  Pretty much sums up what’s going down.  The bad guys finally play their hand in a big way, and while Isis has done everything possible to protect the school, nothing is one hundred percent effective.  There are minor incursions and things get . . . interesting.  This is where I needed to get my times sorted out in a big way because things are happening quickly and in various parts of the school, and though it might not be important to the reader to know that stuff is occurring in the correct order at the right moments, I needed to know this.  This is why, in Scrivener I have the times laid out, and I ported those times over to Aeon when I began checking this work.

It was also possible to drill down even further in Aeon to get the scenes right.

Even when things go bad, Isis is on top of the situation.

Even when things go bad, Isis is on top of the situation.

Like Scrivener Aeon Timeline has an inspector, and the inspector allows one to see all the functions for an event, and even add notes for what’s happening.  As we can see in the scene Fortress, Isis sees an attack occurring against the outer defense screens, sees a breach, and ordered all non-essential fliers out of the air before losing the school-wide detection grid and communications, rendering everything outside The Pentagram dark.  Not a good time to be out there between The Blue and the Black (a term the fliers use to describe the defense screens of The Pentagram and the main school walls).

Believe it or not, there is a scene I’ve thought about that happens during the attack, and it’s not there.  Why?  Because it’s something that I came up with while writing Act One.  I know where it goes in the chain of events that is the attack, but I’ve yet to place it where it should go.  Some might say it’s not needed, but I’m not some.  The scene will also keep things flowing, and show how Isis is keeping the Headmistress in the loop, even when things aren’t going one hundred percent.

There you have it:  bad times come to Salem.  Will the attack be beaten back?  Will there be blood?  Will the good guys win?

There’s an Act Three, isn’t there?

9 thoughts on “Building the Big Time

    • I get strange this way. Robert Heinlein once talked about how he was speaking with a NASA engineer once about his story “Space Jockey”, and how he needed to check the calculations for an orbital burn that ended up being one line in one paragraph in the story. So he got a huge amount of butcher’s paper and started working out the calculations. After he was finished, his wife went over the calculations, and then he rechecked her work before she rechecked his. He told the engineer that they’d ended up spending close to three days getting this calculation correct, and the engineer asked, “Why didn’t you just use a computer?” Heinlein said he smiled, then said, “My dear lad, this happened in 1947.” So, yes, some times you throw in a lot of detail that, in the end, never gets noticed unless you talk about the detail.

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