My wife is a novelist, now working on her fourth book. The books aren't a series in the sense of featuring the same main character, but they all take place in the same town, and some main characters from one book appear as bit parts in other books, and there are references to town history and landmarks. So she's getting to the point where she has to keep track of all of these people and things, so she doesn't contradict something she wrote in an earlier book.

To help with this, I'd like to make an infographic tracking each character through time, but I'm not sure how to begin.

I'm envisioning something like a graph with time on the X axis, with a colored line for each character stacked up the Y axis. The length of the bar runs from the person's birth to death (or the present), and maybe gets thicker where there's more activity.

Is there a better way to do this? Are there tools designed just for this kind of thing?

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    $\begingroup$ You may want to ask this question on Cross Validated SE $\endgroup$ – Ooker Nov 16 '14 at 4:51
  • $\begingroup$ Is cross posting considered good etiquette? $\endgroup$ – Joshua Frank Nov 16 '14 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ No. Not so sure, but I feel that questions like yours will get better response on that site. This site is better on how to make it nice. $\endgroup$ – Ooker Nov 16 '14 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ If it's about the readability, I'd suggest asking a follow up question on UX.SE. $\endgroup$ – kaiser Nov 16 '14 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ This link may provide insight. Also, offtopic but a simple searchable database may be useful because how can you cram characters, landmarks etc. in one legible representation? Typing a landmark and having it relate to other information would help. Otherwise you would need a mindmap with zoom features maybe? Or more than one flowchart. $\endgroup$ – Amphiteóth Nov 16 '14 at 22:57

Sheesh, this is a good one.
I think that you're on the right path using a "infographic" approach however I would suggest looking at data visualization infographics would be better.
Something like http://www.dipity.com/ could allow you to track time and also provide content with the subject being reffrenced.
Take a look at http://many-eyes.com/#/visualizations and maybe somthing here could allow you to better evaluate your data. I only suggest these sites to help you find a better way of approaching such a fun and exciting project.


This may be a little crazy, but hear me out (this was the first thought the pop into my head, a web/timeline infographic).

What if you make a timeline where starting point is at the center of a circle, and branches outward through rings (like universe expanding outward). Then divide circle into equal section per book. Then add line to indicate where characters were at the given time in the book or books. Ex (Not the prettiest thing, but I hope it illustrates the concept).

Dashed line represent transitions between books

enter image description here

enter image description here

Edit: The dashed lines DON'T need to exist, they are there to help guide you through a characters existence.

  • $\begingroup$ This is an interesting idea, but I think it would be very hard to maintain through multiple books, since the wedge angles would all need to be reduced every time there's a new book, and eventually become very small. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Frank Nov 16 '14 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ If someone appears in Book B and D, then the line goes through Book A or C as well, which I personally find confusing. Also there's the problem when some people appear at the same time in different books and there would be more than one way the route goes. $\endgroup$ – kaiser Nov 16 '14 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaiser - The Dashed lines are guidelines, allow the user follow the timeline (Doesn't mean the character was in the book, hence no expansion outward/circular path). $\endgroup$ – JoKnowBody Nov 16 '14 at 22:27

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