Template Creation and Narrative Structure Retention

I am absolutely convinced that it used to be possible to save a timeline file as a template with an existing Narrative structure in place. Although, in fairness, it has been a while since I created a template from scratch, so I may just be suffering with memory loss.

I am looking to create a whole series of templates based around various story planning models, including:

  1. Save the Cat
  2. Hero’s Journey
  3. The Snowflake Method
  4. Three Act Structure
  5. Story Grid
  6. Story Circle
  7. Story Engines
  8. Fictean Curve
  9. 22 Steps
  10. 7 Point Story Structure

and any others I feel inclined to try to recreate inside AT3. I have pulled together a comprehensive Snowflake Method template and wanted to have the Narrative Structure baked in to the template to act as a visual guide for users. Much like Plottr does with its Timeline functionality.

I was playing around with a free trial of Plottr the other day, and as others have stated here in the forums, it is a pale shadow of Aeon Timeline’s functionality. Where it does excel however, is with its built in templates for various story structures. I think writers like the idea of someone holding their hand and imparting knowledge. Which is understandable.

I will be making these templates downloadable via a link shared on my Medium blog once I have a handful up and running. Each template will be accompanied by a description and user guide on how best to plot and plan a story using said template.

But to make these templates user friendly the ability to save down Narrative Templates is vital. Hoping I’ve missed a setting somewhere, but if not, can this be added as a feature request please?

I could always just save a timeline file with all of the necessary starter elements in place and make that available, rather than turning it into a template. But I think it would be better for these to be templates rather than using files.

Many thanks


There has been a discussion on this topic not so long ago.

As we have seen, the system works differently here than, for example, in word processing programs such as LibreOffice, where templates can also have content for newly created documents. I think that this experience has led to some misunderstandings here.

A look at the file structure of Aeon Timeline shows that, among other things, there is a part for the project setup that defines the possible item types with their allowed relationships, and another part that describes the concrete instances as they are created by the user and arranged in the diagrams.

A template is, if I don’t see it wrong, nothing more than a file that contains all the information for the setup part. If you wanted to add diagrams for exemplary structures, you would technically already have a full project.

As a template combining setup and content, as you have in mind, a project file would indeed come into question, as you mentioned at the end of your post. To make it easier to use, there could be a menu item like “Create file from sample project”.

The template also contains the definition of the calendar system. This, however, can be seen independently of narrative patterns.

Hi @Peter_T thanks for your reply, but I’m not sure that templates work as you describe, in AT3.

I have managed to create scenes and chapters and acts and characters and locations and saved all of these into the template, along with properties etc, as there are options to tick to include them when creating the template. There is also an option to save down the narrative folders as they exist. And they have come through into the template file, just not with their relationship to the saved scenes. It makes sense to me then that the relationships between the narrative folders and the constituent elements of the narrative should also be included in the templates.

Part of the discussions during the alpha and beta phases was surrounding the reusing of timeline file data to be transferrable to other timeline files to facilitate series characters and locations etc. And this was implemented. I could have sworn that during the beta I created a timeline file to assist a user with a question they had over running multiple narratives. I suggested using item types to denote books in a series etc and attaching these item type relationships to narrative elements to filter views. And I was sure that I saved down a narrative structure in a template for them to use. Not that I can now find said template (typical).

My memory may be hazy on that last part, but I’m still convinced that it should be possible to bring a starting narrative structure through into a template, even if this feature is not currently implemented. If not, I suspect this is one area software like Plottr wins out on, despite it being far more limited in features overall.

Ah, that’s interesting to hear. If that’s the case, my knowledge from the early beta testing phase is probably outdated. At that time the template structure of Aeon 3 looked very similar to Aeon 2, only the file format was different.

Or maybe not? But now I’m also confused. :no_mouth:

Another idea: Have you ever thought about importing a narrative structure via synchronization from Scrivener or similar?

Assuming that users prefer individual project setups and calendars, it would also be worth considering providing narrative structures as csv import files. However, the options there may be too limited, especially as far as sample diagrams are concerned.

No. I hadn’t considered that. Though to be fair I’m trying to package a template for new users, or users who have little interest in getting too involved in tinkering in the settings, or who don’t know the workings of some of these story structure models. So I was trying to avoid workarounds. For my purposes I can use the file I was using to generate the template and just resave that. But it isn’t ideal.

To be fair, the narrative structure I have created is very basic:

Three Acts, Four Parts and a handful of blank chapters and scenes inside those chapters. For the Snowflake Method template, I just added four scenes with titles: First Disaster, Second Disaster, Third Disaster and Ending. This acts like a diagram of sorts and beats (pardon the pun) just having a list of narrative elements in the spreadsheet.

Users can tweak template settings upon import and I haven’t messed too much with the stock Novel template. For exactly that reason. I’ve basically added some properties to characters to help users develop character bios and motivations etc. I’ve also added Story Development notes to a new Story Development Item Type for The Snowflake Method to help flesh out the plot. It all works really well in AT3. Only the narrative structure not carrying across remains an issue.

I see. You have done a great service.

Well, that’s easy for English-speaking users, of course. For the rest of the world, templates have the great benefit of translating all the days of the week, months, item labels, etc. into their own language. For Aeon 2 I did this once to generate all my timelines with it.

So you can actually see two dimensions here; for me as a programmer, that makes the difference between classes and objects, just by the way.

Anyway, I wish you much success. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you with your original question.


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Hi Andrew,

When we added the feature to be able to include items such as Characters etc. in template files, it looks like the Narrative Structure part was not included. We will look at including it soon. In the meantime, you are right that you can just save copy of your timeline file with the structure that you are after to share with others in the meantime.

Hi Jess,

Thank you for clarifying. It would certainly be great to have the ability to include the narrative structure. As I have stated above, these are not full blown narratives but rather example structures containing a few chapters and scenes to illustrate major structures and plot points relating to various story theories.



I have found that the Story Arcs function is a powerful way of looking at a novel’s structure according to a story beats model.

Though I haven’t had the need for a template – it was easy enough to simply create the beats in Story Arcs – if I ever need a template, I’d just save my project separately with these beats after first removing the events.

That said, creating a range of story-beat templates sounds like a worthwhile project. In case it’s helpful, here is how I did it (screenshot) for Save the Cat using, as I said, Story Arcs (screenshot).

I have a dumb question. If we can save a project file with everything we want for future projects, isn’t that the best possible template? If so, what does a template file do for us that simply saving a project does not?

Your system is effectively the same as mine. The only difference being that I keep Story Arcs for sequences of scenes relating to sub-stories. I created new Item Types for Hero’s Journey or The Three Act structure or whatever story system’s beats I wish to use. Then these are attached as relationships to scenes.

The beauty of templates is that users can adopt the template elements whilst changing and customising some of the calendar settings etc. or they can choose to use it as provided.

Interesting approach, and one I hadn’t considered.

I see what you mean. This can really help authors to get started with AEON.

That’s a creative approach. If it works for you, it’s perfectly fine.
But it might be confusing to outsiders, because “arc” actually means a different concept, namely a chain of interdependent events or scenes. Common examples would be strands, storylines, or character arcs.

It would be recommended to choose a different term for your concept, so try to rename “arc” to “plot”, or copy the “arc” category with its relationships under a different name.

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Good suggestion, Peter. Done.

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