|Sector||Publishing and the creative industries|
|Target Users||Professionals and semi-professionals dealing with story development, i.e. authors, editors. Also self-publishers, screenwriters, esp. for adaptation|
|Nature of the initiative||Private|
|Contact||Olaf Bryan Wielk
Before authors can begin to write a story or novel, they must develop ideas for plot and characters. The process of developing and structuring a story is separate from the act of writing. Most authors outline plot and characters before beginning to actually write the text. Typically, such outlining is still done using analogue methods, such as jotting ideas for scenes on index cards and sticking lots of these to a cork board or wall.
Beemgee is collaborative web-based storytelling software (Software as a Service) that helps authors, editors and publishers conceive, develop and outline the plots and characters of stories. It provides the first web-based solution dedicated to the outlining process, thereby making possible:
– multiple sort orders of the scenes (in particular, the narrative and chronological orders of events);
– saving multiple drafts;
– online collaboration in real time between author and editor or in a virtual writers’ room;
– connectivity with web-based text editors;
– views of story structure such as story arcs or act and chapter structure;
– and much more.
While programs like Scrivener include modules with basic outlining functions, their core functionality and focus lies on word processing. Beemgee separates story development from the writing of the story in the same way that index cards are something different from a typewriter.
From the user’s point of view, Beemgee’s unique selling proposition is the arrangement of the events of the story in a timeline that is always horizontal. You zoom out to see structural views of the entire story or, for example, check the dispersal of aspects like point of view or motifs, or even the arrangement of scenes according to paradigms like the Hero’s Journey. To work on specific aspects of the story, such as individual characters, you highlight or filter to see only the event cards relevant to the aspect you are working on.
Efficiency for Authors
Successful authors and publishing houses need efficient work processes. Beemgee brings an easy to use digital tool to bear on the process of developing story material, which hitherto has been largely analog and text-based.
Writing books or stories is a creative process but this does not mean that efficiency is irrelevant. Publishers know, for instance, that if an author’s first book is successful, the next title must follow soon. So the publisher sets deadlines for the author. The author is therefore under time pressure. Beemgee addresses this need by providing an easy to use tool that will help make the process of developing a story more time-efficient. Beemgee’s intuitive and non-prescriptive outlining tool allows the author to outline the plot and work on the characters in the browser (even while offline), with all the benefits of Software as a Service (no need to send files by e-mail or carry sticks around; multiple drafts within one project; access from any device, including mobile). Outlining reduces the lengthy process of rewrites, as well as the risk of writer’s block.
Benefits for Publishing Companies
Beemgee is also a significant benefit to the publishing company. Beemgee provides editors with an alternative way to quickly grasp the plot of a story, based on visualizations of story structure rather than on copy text as in exposés. Better still, the editor can easily collaborate with the author, working together in real time on the plot, without having to physically meet or exchange verbal or written messages which are time-consuming and have a relatively high potential to be misunderstood. By conferring on and agreeing to the story structure through simultaneous access to the online project, the editor can be sure to have set a guideline to the author which the author has understood and agreed to. All this is independent of language or style; the work may be literary or commercial – either way, it will still have characters and structure. Furthermore, when it comes to selling story rights, Beemgee’s visualization of the plot is a simple sales aid. For example, when selling the movie rights to a production company, the publisher does not have to ask the producer to read synopsis copy describing the plot, or indeed require the producer to read a whole book, but can grant access to the Beemgee project which provides a breakdown of the plot elements.
Beemgee solves a problem in the publishing sector by separating the process of developing story structure from text, writing, style and language. Beemgee’s natural user interface and intuitive and fun user experience coupled with clean uncluttered “flat” design means that even technically averse authors will quickly enjoy bringing their story ideas into shape and putting their scenes into narrative as well as chronological order.
Beemgee provides help organizing the complexity inherent in the creative process of story development with modern web standards and sophisticated functionality:
- The timeline of plot events (or scenes) is always horizontal
- You zoom in to focus on a part of your story, or zoom out to check the overall structure
Drag and Drop
- You arrange the plot events by simply dragging and dropping the event cards into the order you want on the timeline
Multiple sort orders
- You can set the order of plot events twice, once for the chronology of events as they happen in time, and once for the order in which you want to relate the events, the narrative. Then you switch at will between the two to check for consistency.
- You can tag each plot event card with various data dimensions, such as: location, which characters are present, recurring motif, point of view, scene type, etc.
- You can choose which of these data dimensions you want to see when. The data is represented in a simple data grid beneath the event cards – you turn on which data dimensions you want to see.
- You can select data points in each dimension by highlighting or filtering, for instance: “Show me all plot events at location 3 featuring character X”
- You can collaboratively work on the project online in real time with people anywhere in the world, be they co-authors or your editor
- You can work on your project while offline. As soon as you go online again, your projects will be synchronized.
- The first time a user tries a particular functionality, she is guided by a so-called wizard, an assistant. The assistant explains in simple terms what the author can do with this function. Further on-site help texts go into more detail as to why this particular aspect of storytelling may be relevant.
- Beyond the wizard there is a great amount of tutorial material to explain the various aspects of storytelling to novices. For each function there is a separate blog entry, explaining aspects as diverse as “what is point of view?” to “why does a main character need to have a problem?”. For novices, Beemgee provides a much more satisfying experience than reading one of the many how-to books on storytelling, because with Beemgee, the novice is learning by doing, and reading up on every little point of technique as she encounters it in her own story. Professionals don’t need to click the unobtrusive little help buttons.
The role of technology
Beemgee is a cloud-based single page application. The architecture is built with AngularJS (client-side) and Symfony2 (server-side). The UI will be optimized for tablet devices and adapts to the size of the display. Offline work will be supported by using local storage and synchronizing with the cloud as the device gains online access. As to databases, we will stick to a polyglot persistence model. Which means that we will use different database solutions for specific use cases. The databases communicate using micro services. For accessing relationships between cards and cards, between characters and characters, as well as between cards and characters we will use a graph database (Neo4j). We use a document-based database to provide versioning for saving multiple drafts of a project. A RDBMS will store the user data. Beemgee will provide exports as PDF or DOCX as well as a REST service to connect the data of a Beemgee project to a project in, e.g., an online writing tool like novlr.org or an app like Ulysses.
Online since March 2015 - Our character building tool has been online free at www.beemgee.com since March 2015. Hundreds of characters have been developed with it to date. User groups are diverse and include self-publishers, established authors, filmmakers, and video game studios.
Demo version since October 2015
At the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2015 we showed selected partners how our plot-outlining tool will look and function. Partnerships with publishers are in the pipeline.
We will put an improved version of the tool online as closed beta at the beginning of 2016, and open it to early adopters and test customers before March 2016.
March 2016 we will present our working product to the publishing industry at the Leipzig Book Fair. Public launch of the full outlining tool is planned on www.beemgee.com in summer 2016.
Our business plan has reached the finals of two of Germany’s biggest business plan competitions, BPW and start2grow.
Beemgee was selected as Top 50 ACE Creative company 2015, a European business accelerator for the creative industries, and was chosen as top 15 to take part in the Creative Business Cup in Copenhagen in November 2015.