Nov 032010
 

I really have no idea why I decided to give Power Structure (Novel and Screenwriting Software) a try. If you’re the one who recommended it, please let me know and I’ll give you credit. One thing for sure, I doubt I would have found it on my own. With NaNo on the horizon, I decided to give this piece of software a try for my manuscript. Before I get into my review, a little about this nifty little (BIG) program. :)


Whether you write screenplays, novels, plays, or other fiction, Power Structure software helps transform your good ideas into great stories.

The 90 second walk through from the website describes this program as a “tool that writes the way you think.” In many ways, I agree with the statement, but the program is not a no brainer. This wasn’t a piece of software I jumped right into. There were so many features, I ended up referring to the quick start manual, which I found very detailed and easy to follow. I probably would have been a frustrated camper without it. One thing I would have liked to see were descriptions of the archetypes in the quick start guide, but perhaps it’s available in the full version.

So the first tab (Story/Theme) is the overall synopsis of the manuscript. It’s quite useful and includes quite a few prompts to get a writer going. If you’re the type who starts with the big picture, I’d definitely suggest starting here.

The next tab involves the character creation. As an all-in-one product, I have to admit, this area was quite well done. It isn’t as extensive as Character Writer (see review part one here and part two here), but it is thorough and and has quite a few prompts to help a writer get a good sense of a character. It’s actually quite nice and pleasing to the eye.

For my review I chose the Campbell & Vogler’s Mythical 12 Steps (Hero’s Journey) template.

So plotting. If you’re using the Hero’s Journey template, the stages are preset making the task quite easy. Simply add scenes in the Journey Stages tab. What I found early on is as I inputted my entries, the program synchronized my data across the board. This was a good thing, as it reduced the need to duplicate entries. I liked that. :) If you decide to freestyle it with the Novel template, it takes a little more planning, since the program doesn’t automatically place the chapters in specific Acts.

One of the aspects I loved with Power Structure was the Plot Arcs. When I wrote Shadow Cat, I noticed I had quite a few loose ends when I went back to read. I had to patch them up and reread several times before I was sure I got them all. This helps prevent that. The story I used (Alley Cat) included 6 different issues (Arcs) I needed to address as I went through the story. Some were easy to forget as I plotted. But having them listed, I could easily identify which plots fell to the wayside and needed scenes to address them before the ending. Absolutely magnificent.

Another  feature I really enjoyed as I entered the scenes into the program was the Conflict section. Stories are supposed to build, the problems escalate until it reaches a climax. The software includes an option to introduce a new story arc, heighten a story arc, and/or resolve a story arc. At the bottom of the respective tab, the writer can specify the tension level at the particular stage in the story. As I mentioned, the tension in stories build until the explosion. :) If the user flips to the Conflict Overview tab, the program displays a line bar graph depicting the tension level as the story progresses. It’s a nice feature for a quick look at the dips and whatever is the opposite a dip. :) One limitation with the conflict. The program only allows the user to heighten and/or resolve one conflict per scene. As it was, I encountered at least one scene where the tension heightened for two conflicts.

Okay. The short comings from the eyes of Reena. :)

Power Structure provided the basics then leaves the user on their own. Unlike Character Writer, Power Structure does not include additional questions to help define the character, plot, or scene. Take for example the subheading: Physical Attributes. Power Structure provides the prompts “Distinguishing Physical Attributes,” “How would an observer describe him or her?” and “How would he or she describe himself or herself?” Simple prompts such as these are pretty much standard throughout the program. Character Writer, on the other hand digs deeper: Scars? Hair color and style? Unusual heights and weights? Dress? All the things I fail to think about until asked. In truth, this isn’t a limitation to Power Structure. It just doesn’t baby the user the way some programs do.

One feature I didn’t spend much time on was the word processor. I will say it has a nice thesaurus, a spell check feature, and basic font formatting. What I didn’t find was paragraph formatting.

Other than some fields being a little glitchy (Sometimes I was unable to type in the field I wanted until I clicked out of the feature and clicked back again.) I didn’t really find too much wrong with the program. Really it’s quite a powerful tool. If I had extra money to blow, I’d certainly purchase it.

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  2 Responses to “Novel Writing Software Review: Power Structure”

  1. I purchased this program a few years ago, but apart from the intial play with it, I haven’t used it for any writing projects. To be honest, I wish I’d bought the simpler Power Writer.

    I like to see the notes for what I’m writing without too much flipping between boxes. You didn’t mention the Gestalt view, which I’ve found the best feature of the program, allowing you to see the overall novel in one window.

    I think there are better programs for the price and couldn’t honestly recommend this with the enthusiasm I’d recommend, for example, Write or Die.

  2. Thanks for mentioning the Gestalt View. I did find myself using it. I messed up when creating my outline and used the Gestalt feature to reorganize the chapters and scenes. It certainly makes tweaking easier. Still, I would have liked the ability to see all the scenes at once in the Gestalt view, rather than just the scenes associated with the highlighted chapters.

    I’ll be honest. I like to plot more than I like to write. I can spend days in the character development and plotting stage and not grow tired of it. :) So Power Structure definitely appealed to the plotter me. As for using this program to produce the actual manuscript, I’d certainly turn elsewhere. As I mentioned, the Word Processor seemed a little lacking.

    Without being too argumentative, :) I will say I haven’t found a program which offers the level of details, in terms of plotting, as Power Structure. That’s not to say there aren’t less expensive products available which likely suit the needs of most writers. I’ve plotted stories using just the steps of the Hero’s Journey, which many can find with a simple search. Then there’s the fact I haven’t tried EVERY writing software available either. :) If anyone has any plotting software which tops Power Structure, leave me a comment or email me. I certainly want to give it a test drive.

    Thanks for the software recommendations, Catherine. I’ve done a few software reviews during this sabbatical I’ve taken. Maybe I can give Power Writer or Write or Die a try also. I enjoy finding out what different programs have to offer. Next up for me, after NaNoWriMo, is the windows beta version of Scrivener. :) Drool!

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