Aeon Timeline: Outlining Made Easy

Aeon Timeline is a great way to plan a novel.

I broke down and bought Aeon Timeline.  It was $39.99 in the AppStore, but so far it has been worth every penny.  Even though there is currently not a Windows version, I have found the program to be probably one of the greatest tools for planning out multiple story arcs, keeping track of character relationships and viewing all of the subtle nuances of my novel at a glance.

After watching a detailed video tutorial found on Scribblecode’s website, I was off and running, plotting out my fictional future timeline with ease.  The interface is simplified down so that an author can choose to place three different types of markers on the timeline: events, entities and arcs.

Events are things that happen on the timeline, but they are much more than that.  Once an author has set up a number of “arcs” (which I use as story arcs) the event can be placed in any of those arcs.  This way events do not have to be moved around manually, but that choice is also available.  Events also have notes that can be added so that the author can keep details about the event.

Entities are not just characters.  They can be an object, organization, person, place, project, technology, theory or timespan.  These entities will appear at the bottom of the screen, and then the author can select the relationship that these entities have with the events on the timeline (participants, observers, birth or death).  If you want, you can simply tell Aeon Timeline how old the character is when introduced on the timeline, and it will automatically determine when that character was born and place that event on the timeline.

Arcs are like story arcs.  They can be anything the writer wants them to be.  They are a way of organizing events on the timeline so that events do not become jumbled and unreadable, even though no event will ever overlap its text.  Events simply move down and to the right to make an easy to read list.  However, if the author wants to see only one story arc, they can select the events of that story arc only or see all of them at once.  It is up to the user as to what is seen or viewed.

One cool feature is that the calendar is not bound by the real world.  Yes, fantasy and science fiction writers can create epic timelines with their own custom calendars.  If the planet where the novel is set has a shorter rotation than Earth, the calendar days will be shorter and one can even name the months and days.  Tolkien’s calendar would be easily placed into this program.

Above all I found it easy to use.  I was able to make detailed character notes that were editable on the fly and gave me even more freedom when planning the plot line of the novel.  My favorite feature by far is the fact that if I want to see everything that has happened to one character, I simply go to the entity viewer and I will see a list of events that entity has experienced.

If one owns a Mac and writes long form fiction or even non-fiction, this program is perfect for planning out complex and detailed events, character relationships, symbolic connections, extended metaphors and other limitless uses.  Give it a try.  I’m not sorry I spent the money at all.


12 thoughts on “Aeon Timeline: Outlining Made Easy

  1. Pingback: Getting Lost in Aeon Timeline | Research Methods

  2. I wish someone would write an easy, basic guide of how to make a timeline for a short story with a limited time span (say 100 years) three characters and seven events (excluding their births and deaths). I am sitting here looking at Catherine of Aragon and while I somehow managed to give her a birth date, I can’t at all see how to give her a death date, or how to enter the date of her marriage to Henry VIII and their divorce.
    Either the software is terribly untransparent or the manual is terribly terrible. Or both.

  3. Pingback: Software Review and Sample Use: Aeon Timeline | Rose B Fischer

  4. I downloaded a test version and tried to use it – setting up a 19th-century birth date and a 20th-century death date for a character. I failed. Tried adding a ‘global arc’ to see would that help; no.
    Even after trying to watch the online tutorials I couldn’t work it – they images are too tiny and distant to see on my laptop’s screen. This is a very very complicated piece of software. Really sad; it would have been so handy.

  5. Pingback: Better Novel Outliner? « A Writer's Convenient Truth

  6. This looks like a great tool for ‘worldbuilding’ – I understand that one of the main bugbears Tolkien had was keeping his chronologies straight amidst relentless improvements and revisions.

    Though, as a general principle from the broader authoring perspective, I’m always personally a little wary of software tools that offer structural help in writing the actual text, because often – subtly, even unnoticeably – we are guided by the frameworks that the software offers. We do things the way the programmers think we should – and while that may well be fine, I suspect we are subtly led away from opportunities for lateral creativity. Of course, every writer is going to be different – it may indeed work very well for some, and that’s both good, and important.

  7. I’ve been wondering how to coordinate the timeline of a real life person with my character’s timeline. Paper and pencil aren’t really helping. This looks like it might be the answer. Thanks for the information. 🙂

  8. I took a look at it when it was mentioned some time back. I shuddered, backed away, and thought there has to be an easier way. If my arcs ever get complicated enough to require timelines, even paper and pencil would make more sense. Especially at that price. An app that’s almost as expensive as Scrivener itself to do one specialized thing? No way.

    But it’s great if it works for you.

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