We live in a extraordinary age where most people in the world can gain access to knowledge and information easily. You no longer have to necessarily take classes, or go to night courses, to get training for many skills, including writing. Writing classes never hurt and I still recommend them, but much knowledge can be gleaned from studying and using computer software designed for writers. Case in point; Contour Story Development Software. Contour is an outlining software designed for script writers, but it is also much more than that. It is, in essence, a course on outlining a movie script. I had the opportunity to put it through it's paces and here are my observations.
First and foremost Contour was created to help you take your idea for a movie and turn it into a sellable script. It does this by forcing you to think about what happens in your movie one piece at a time. The four essential questions you must answer are; “Who is the main character?”, “What is the main character trying to accomplish?”, “Who is trying to stop the main character?” and “What happens if the main character fails?”. These questions are the seeds for your story, but they are not the only ones that must be resolved. Contour helps you through the entire process by guiding you in creating plot points and characters interactions to make your script interesting.
You're not on your own when it comes to answering all the questions that need to be addressed. This is where the learning part comes in. Contour comes packaged with outlines from over 15 scripts from major films for you to study. By studying these films, that are all successful, you can now learn what to add to your story and how your characters should interact. Easily switch between each sample movie with the click of the mouse. The cool part is that while you are writing your own original outline, you can compare your answers to the questions with examples from the sample scripts. This helps to keep you on track, while at the same time teaching you what works.
At the top of the screen you will see a gauge that slowly turns green as you complete the process of answering the 4 essential questions, creating the character through the use of archetypes (which are described in great detail in the software) and then describing the action through all three acts. There is also a “formula” section that helps you write a description of your movie in a couple short sentences, your elevator pitch in a sense.
This is a neat feature for us visual people. Once the gauge at the top is all green then all you have to do is take your outline and create the dialogue in a screenwriting software of your choice. It exports seamlessly into Montage screenwriting software. Also, at this point, you can print your outline or save it as a PDF.
A very clean interface, combined with an easy to use question and answer format makes Contour an outstanding choice. Any scriptwriter who needs help organizing or just does not fully understand story structure in a movie will find Contour an awesome addition to their writing arsenal. By answering the questions and creating the basic characters in Contour, you simply can not go wrong. I appreciate the thought that went into this piece of software, and I believe you will too. It's affordable at under 50 bucks at The Writers Store.
Pros — Works on Mac and Windows, extremely easy to use, teaches story structure using popular films as examples, exports seamlessly into Montage screenwriting software.
Cons — I would love to see it export easily into more screenwriting softwares.
Bottom-Line — A very clean and fun to use software that can get even the most confused writer organized and writing a sellable screenplay in minutes.
ON SALE for $39.95 until May 25, 2013!