A few days ago  in the Pitches and Plots group I moderate with three others on Facebook, my fellow moderator and friend, Denise, posted a summer special that Eastgate, the maker of Tinderbox, is having. The price for this extraordinary software has been reduced by 50 percent.

Denise swears by Tinderbox; it is an essential tool for her because she is writing a multiple tome fantasy epic, which can get terribly confusing with her cast of thousands. Tinderbox lets her map it all out, connecting the relationships, the settings where they occur, but also the events. In essence, it’s one efficient outlining, brainstorming, note-taking program.

I was curious about Tinderbox and downloaded it (you’re only given thirty notes to fiddle with). At first I had no idea of what I was doing or whether it would be useful because I don’t have such an extensive cast of characters or numerous locations, but I was intrigued by Denise’s complex map and how the characters’ actions and events formed a visual and cohesive storyline.

BUT, and I add this for those who don’t have the patience or attention span, there is a huge learning curve. I didn’t have the patience to sit through a 20 minute tutorial so I decided instead to play with Scapple  just to have a clearer picture in my mind of the relationships between my characters. This is how it looks:

Scapple Sample

There’s practically no learning curve for Scapple, and that’s a huge plus. If you watch the short tutorial, you’ll be up and running in no time at all. So now that I had a visual clarification my characters’ relationships, I decided to do another block that contained all the locations in Julius.

BUT… that’s when I made my discovery that Tinderbox would be useful because I had many more locations than I thought and  each of those locales had sub-locales i.e., restaurants, homes, train stations, parks, museums, a movie set, a cemetery and so forth.

Nonetheless, I still played with Scapple and plugged it all in. This is how that looks after I added the locations, some character backstory, and a handful of Corinne’s obsessions that have a role in the story:

Julius Roadmap Using Scapple

You might wonder why after all this time I decided to use a visual aid to help me with the book? The number one reason was I wanted to see the relationships between characters who have vast ideological differences and who knows whom. They were somewhat clear in my head, but I discovered that one character has a common acquaintance with another one, which didn’t really register until I linked them together.

Back to Tinderbox . . .

Although the Scapple mapping was eye opening and answered some questions, I realized that my story isn’t quite as simple as I thought. While I fiddled with this limited version I saw how one can plot a novel, making all the needed and interrelated connections between characters and events. Tinderbox combines note taking, outlining, storyboarding and mindmapping in such an intuitive and visual manner that I was sold on it.

If you like to visualize your story, I strongly recommend a program like Scapple, but if you really want to  get into the nitty-gritty of planning it out then Tinderbox is the way to go, but beware it is tricky. And on that note, once I have the full version of the program, I will be providing my learn-as-I-go tutorials.

Before I sign off, I’d like to thank my lovely Pitches and Plots partner Denise Wilson Falvo for introducing me to Tinderbox, and to the ever so charming Sevigne for encouraging me to keep writing and learning. I hope this upcoming project (yes, that’s between the two ladies and me) will make them proud.


  • Wow! May I say Bravo? What a great start. I just love how you were able to boil down the key differences between the two programs in a succinct manner. I adore and depend on both TinderBox and Scapple to aid me with my work. Awesome post and pictures; you have such a gift for presenting information in a clear and relatable manner. This will be a huge help for anyone who wants to explore alternate ways to visualize their stories. 😀 You are so awesome (and so smart).
    I am truly looking forward to your tutorials on TinderBox, because with your keen ability to drill down and really learn anything you set your mind to, I’ll get to unlock the true power of TinderBox–and so will everyone else. Yay! Just can’t wait!
    You always make me proud of you, my dear friend. xxxd