Pros: Walks you through the development of your story
Cons: Some tedium; unworkable due to frequent crashes
Rating: [1.5 out of 5*]
*For once, I feel the need to point out right from the start that since StoryWeaver is Storymind’s most popular product, I can only assume that my results with it were not typical. That said, I have to write my review based on what I experienced, not what I’ve heard about it. So, I recommend that if the concept sounds interesting, you look around for more reviews. I’d welcome any links to other good reviews (positive or negative, as long as they’re well-considered and informative) in the comments section of this review.
I evaluated StoryWeaver 3.1 on Macintosh OS 10.3.9, although it’s also available for Windows. Its purpose is to walk you step-by-step through pinning down your story ideas, generating inspiration, brainstorming characters and character details, through developing and detailing your plot, and so on. It includes plenty of questions to ask yourself and exercises to play with, links to web pages containing further information on various topics, and so on.
Individually I’ve seen most of these exercises and tips before. However, it’s really nice to have a piece of software to walk you through them, and I was very much looking forward to playing with that. One of the niftier features is the program’s ability to print your answers to previous questions in a sidebar box for you to refer to while working on relevant later questions, and I found this quite useful as I filled out character information.
I did find that some of the exercises got a bit tedious. For instance, some of the character development exercises have you take your brainstormed list of possible characters and play around with, in successive iterations, swapping such things as profession, age, and so on. If you do this several times with a short list of characters, you’ll probably end up with some of your characters back where they started; if you do it with a long list of character’s you’ll probably get very tired of the exercise very quickly (I found it very tedious after a couple of iterations, and that was despite copy-pasting and then altering rather than writing the list over from scratch each time). Perhaps it would have been better to have one exercise with suggested variations rather than trying to stretch the idea out through several iterations.
I really wish that I could evaluate the rest of the software. However, this is the point in the program at which it started crashing repeatedly. Not just once, not once every so often, but within two minutes of my opening the program every single time. Finally I opened my file at one point and found that much of my information was gone or mangled.
I did run a thorough check-and-repair program to try to make sure the problem was with the program rather than my computer. Then I started fresh with a new file and a new set of ideas to develop. Unfortunately, the whole thing happened all over again.
Perhaps it’s the Mac version, and the Windows version is fine. Perhaps it’s the Mac version on this particular version of OS X. I don’t know what the problem is. I can assume that it isn’t universal since there are apparently other people who use the program just fine, but I can’t tell you under what circumstances it will work.
I apologize for the delay in this review as I wanted to take the time to make sure it wasn’t just the one file that had gotten corrupted, or some problem with my computer. However, at this point the only real evaluation I can make of this program is that on the whole the process looks very useful, and there are some good features. However, some of the questions become tedious, and apparently under some circumstances the program simply isn’t usable.
Again, please do post comments linking to other reviews if you find them.