Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Free Your Mind-- Mind Mapping Software

Because of my new-found love for Wordle as a writing tool, I thought I'd share a tool I use for just about every stage of finishing a first draft. Mind mapping software. What is a mind-map, you ask? Remember those bubble diagrams and flow charts you learned to make in grade school English? That's a type of mind-map.

The easiest way for me to brainstorm--whether it's a new story or one I'm trying to finish-- is longhand. But sometimes I need to have a more concrete worksheet to go from. I am a huge mess-maker when it comes to flow charts, which is counterproductive to my brain, so software works for me to keep me organized.

I prefer FreeMind for its simplicty of use. It's also FREE, plus, one of the label icons is a penguin (for Linux, I know, but still, it's adorable).

So what can this program do for me, you might ask. I can't tell you that, but here's how I use it.

During the initial "What-if" stage, where the story is in its infancy, I use the software to follow different story threads simultaneously, searching for the one I like best. I like being able to compare ideas side-by-side, and because the roots are collapsible with a click, I can hide the nodes I'm not currently working on-- the alternate realms of possibility. Once I have all my potential ideas organized, I find an ending that works for me, and work toward it.

For those honest-to-goodness outliners, it's easy to format a mind map into your standard three act structure-- or the beginning, middle, and end, if you prefer. Because of the ability to create so many child nodes, as the program calls them, you can continue adding story ideas as you write to flesh the story out further and keep yourself organized.

Another way I like to use it for plotting is as a character development tool. I usually try to plan my main characters around their purpose in the story: antagonist, obstacle character, double-crosser, etc. You can make a node for each character, give their relation to the main character or protagonist, and add character traits, quirks, physical features, and their role in the story. I tend to make one outlining each character's motivation, as well.

The right tool for the right job, as my father always used to say. At least this one is a multi-tasker.

Anyone use any other free online software for writing besides wordle and mind maps?

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