October 12, 2016

Ditch the Whiteboard: Here's an Online Real-Time Story Mapping Tool for Your Screenplay

Is your whiteboard too cluttered with rewritten story points? The HartChart app might be for you.

Screenwriter James V. Hart (Hook, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Contact) has shared his story mapping technique dubbed the HartChart at screenwriting seminars and festivals across the country. To make his technique more accessible, Hart has teamed up with WriterDuet creator Guy Goldstein to create the HartChart app, an online, real-time collaborative story mapping tool.

Many screenwriters use whiteboards and note cards to map out their characters' emotional journeys and interactions. But, as we all know, making a series of adjustments to a whiteboard or note card can create clutter, confusion, and potential losses over time.

The HartChart app allows screenwriters to make adjustments easily to their story maps as well as add various supporting elements—such as images, audio, songs, and video—to convey specific story ideas. Additionally, the app allows users to invite other writers to collaborate on a story map in the app in real-time. Users can also import existing scripts into the app in order to see where their stories may be running into trouble.

The HartChart app launched at last year's Austin Film Festival, and over the past year, Goldstein has been updating the tool based on user feedback to make it more useful for screenwriters. Here's a quick intro that demonstrates how it works:

And here's screenwriter James V. Hart explaining how he developed the HartChart over the course of his career:

Key features of the app include:

  • Access to your online story maps from any computer
  • The ability to import your existing scripts or to create a new chart from scratch
  • Real-time collaboration with other screenwriters
  • Core story questions and signposts developed by screenwriter James V. Hart, which users can modify to suit their own story mapping needs
  • The ability to add your own story questions and signposts
  • Videos from Hart about story structure with specific examples
  • Example story charts from Hart
  • Access to live and recorded seminars with Hart and other screenwriters

If you would like to try the HartChart app to see if it's right for you, you can sign up for a 7-day free trial. Annual subscriptions for the HartChart cost $79, and a lifetime subscription costs $159. Students get 50% off the regular price. Use promo code NOFILMSCHOOL and get 20% off through Oct. 31, 2016. Subscriptions give you access to all future updates to the app.

Is this the story mapping tool you have been looking for? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.     

Top photo: 'Contact,' screenplay by James V. Hart 

Your Comment

19 Comments

Just write.

October 12, 2016 at 8:13AM

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Joseph Moore
Creative Director
206

exactly. and this is a tool to aid us luddites when we need it. which i do. the HC helps me manage multiple projects; map out an entire season of episodes before they are written and breaks story that are character driven rather than plot driven. for the many professional writers who write living we don't "just write". that is the luxurious part of this curse we share.

October 12, 2016 at 11:27AM

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jim hart
writer/producer
154

It's interesting to visualize a story but:
1. It looks like it takes more time than actually writing.
2. 159$ to "find the pulse of a story"? 159$ for an online app than I can't even use when I don't have internet (nomadic life, always on the road somewhere)? COME ON. It's way too EXPENSIVE. I could pay around 30-40$ if it was a real software... Maybe 20$ for just an online app. But not more.
People need to forget about technology and to just write. A software doesn't write a film (well maybe now it's possible cause many big Hollywood films look like they've been made by a machine), you do.

October 12, 2016 at 8:41AM

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Vincent Galiano
Filmmaker / Screenwriter / Photographer
633

given your negative response without really exploring whether or not this tool might have some benefits for you in your craft, i might suggest what i did when i first developed this tool. it was originally conceived as a rewrite tool. I would take the first draft of a script i was writing and apply the character questions that Francis Coppola enlightened my with during Dracula that were a huge assist to my craft and see where in my first draft the answers to the questions showed areas i need to improve. [you apparently have not bothered investigate that part of the app] then using the signposts on the chart check my narrative structure to see the points i need to address in the rewrite. Most valuable when you are on deadlines and have producers and directors waiting on your to deliver. the "pulse" literally came from my heart exam every year. I watched the needle on the EKG and wondered if I could follow the heartbeat of my characters through the script as I wrote it. many using the app have found this a fresh approach to writing that is less restrictive and mechanical and character driven rather than plot driven. as far as you internet woes -- apple is making the world wireless. i only access the chart when needed. also you can print out the chart and your questions and sign posts. As far as price, we just raised it because the app is way undervalued in the market place. and still are. there is nothing like this as in interactive story mapping tool. Technology is a tool. What people do with it is their choice. The HC is not an AI autowrite program. I have to do the writing just like you. This is a serious writing tool for serious writers. No two charts are the same. You tell the story. You determin the success and failure and progress and setback of your characters. Not the app. Before being so critical without really investigating if the HC could assist you in your writing endeavors, I would suggest following the tutorial and would even offer a personal tutorial to take one of your own scripts through the rigor of the HC to see if there might be any new solutions for you in your rewrite process. However is you are against technology you should make that statement and not criticize a tool that has already helped many writer who have invested the time in the HC with positive results. To be continued. JV Hart - Screenwriter

October 12, 2016 at 11:56AM

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jim hart
writer/producer
154

Yeah, sorry. No ones gonna buy this lol

October 12, 2016 at 9:10AM

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Hmmm...
Digital tool, 79$ to 159$, "forever" (updates through years and operatives systems and web browsers and...)
Physical White boards in Amazon, +-20$, forever.... no updates.
hmmmm...

October 12, 2016 at 10:09AM

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Carlos Luis Pujol
Director of Photography
225

for rhe record, the HartChart was born on the white board and is still my primary too for my story mapping HartChart. I will be using a whiteboard when i present the Hook 25th Anniversary HartChart session at the Austin Film festival this week. The app is a traveling white board then now fits on my laptop instead of having to buy one at every stop on my writer's journey. if you go th HartChart FB page you will see pics or me and my whiteboard which I will never abandon. The white board is my yellow writing tablet. but my laptop is the tool is use to produce the screenplays and books and Teleplays I have done and will continued hopefully to do for many years. JV Hart - Screenwriter

October 12, 2016 at 12:01PM

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jim hart
writer/producer
154

Oh man... I know this is your baby, but think that for 70 more I can get a FinalDraft copy... I'm not saying this is not useful, is that isn't well priced for what it is, a fancy digital white board, thing that is/will be a feature in FD or any other developer that could pick up the ball.
But don't mind me, as myself I will spend extra money for some extra fancy gear for my camera... I think

October 12, 2016 at 10:02PM

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Carlos Luis Pujol
Director of Photography
225

Yeah, pricing on this a fail.

Monthly subscription? BS. No one is gonna buy this.

October 12, 2016 at 10:12AM

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LJ
730

we do not offer monthly subscriptions, that would be BS. and as you are so critical without really investing anytime in the free trial to see if the method and craft rigor could benefit your writing I would be happy free of charge to take one of your existing scripts and run the HC diagnostics on it to see if the chart offers any solutions for your rewrite. the HC was conceived as a rewrite tool. the writer still does the writer. not some AI fucked up app. The HC is tool to help the writer get their script market ready. JV Hart - Screenwriter.

October 12, 2016 at 12:04PM, Edited October 12, 12:24PM

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jim hart
writer/producer
154

I've seen Jim Hart do the Hart Chart live at the Austin Film Festival four times. I bought the lifetimes subscription to the Hart Chart last year after testing a demo at AFF. I wrote a script that's now a second rounder in this year's AFF.

For those having a hard time following, it doesn't write your story for you. It lets you chart out the beats of your story and makes it easy to set up and read character arcs. You still need to do the work, this just lets you see where you might be having problems (because you WILL have problems).

Personally, I can't say enough good things about it. It's changed the way I go about structuring a story and doesn't tie me to the white board in my home office. It's worth every penny if you're serious about writing a script.

October 12, 2016 at 11:36AM, Edited October 12, 11:37AM

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thank you, Joe. I remember you from the Imitation Game chart at the AFF last year. I will be posting that chart as an example on the app. Graham Morris' script is a gem and no wonder it won Best Screenplay. He was most complimentary of the HC process. hope to see you at this years HC session for the Hook chart. Congrats on being a second rounder at the AFF screenplay contest. Glad the chart could help. And correct - you are the writer - not the app.

October 12, 2016 at 12:27PM

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jim hart
writer/producer
154

I didn't even start brainstorming for my first short, I just started writing and revising. And it does make a huge difference. It took me 159 revisions to get a half-decent script. Tools like this might have helped, but structure can't force creativity to erupt out of a writer.

And $160 is a bit steep for this type of software.

October 12, 2016 at 11:55AM

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and you did 159 revisions to find the right structure. structure does not stifle creativity. structure is lightning in a bottle. the best story tellers around campfire and village squares knew structure. how to keep the audience leaning forward wanting more. stand up comics rely on structure, improv is highly structured. perhaps had you applied a few writing tools after you first draft on your short you could have been more efficient in arriving at that satisfying ending you wanted. and if you read the offer there are discounts which bring the price down and the HC is still way undervalued against other writing software and apps. try an experiment - test your short agains the sign posts on the chart before passing judgement on a tool that serious writers take seriously. Jv Hart - Screenwriter.

October 12, 2016 at 12:33PM, Edited October 12, 12:33PM

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jim hart
writer/producer
154

Hello Mr. Hart! Thank you for replying to my comment!

I'm not trying the minimize the importance of structure, nor am I trying to say this is a bad product in any way. I think this is a fantastic resource for those trying to organize their story.

Structure is crucial for any story, and I definitely took the long way to achieve that. But having an expensive software can't change a bad writer into a good one. It can sure help, but it's not magic.

However, at least when I read the article, I saw it targeted towards beginners like me. And though I'm sure it's a great resource, I personally think that the money it would cost to use this software could be better spent elsewhere for a beginner production.

And I'm for sure going to use the free trial for my next short, to see for myself if this is a product I'd be interested in down the road. But right now it's just not what I would spend my few resources on.

October 12, 2016 at 6:42PM, Edited October 12, 6:42PM

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I certainly appreciate the Cinderella story as a template especially when knowing the work of Kurt Vonnegut.
I would have appreciated more if you included the 5 other emotional curves that exists. It would have been interesting to have multiple layers of reading such as structures, or sequences in order to have both structural and emotional graph.

October 12, 2016 at 8:23PM

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Martin Brewer
Director, DOP
552

I am sure that such simple charts can also be created in Excel. Those are just lines connected between values.

Edit:
I did a test. It works and it only took me a couple of seconds. Is there a way to upload a screenshot to prove it?

October 13, 2016 at 12:17AM, Edited October 13, 12:22AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
2098

I've never heard of the Hart chart methodology. It seems very promising as I am quite visual and physical. I love being able to go macro, then micro, and everything in between. So, thanks so much for showing how you and many others use the Hart method.

But seeing as I could do this on a spreadsheet, the real benefit from this app would have been innovative UX and good design. The app is remarkably static and the design is uninspired. I would rather use the bareness of a spreadsheet, because at least its lack of design and personality can be used as a plus (like a blank page).

Looking forward to where this goes and how it will develop!

edit: without the aforementioned qualities, I would pay money for this, but maybe a tenth of its current cost.

October 14, 2016 at 1:29PM, Edited October 14, 1:31PM

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Ian Park
Documentary Editor / Director
372

I really like the idea. A visual story board of your script or screenplay... so that you actually get to see the big picture in a flowing way. Adds great value.

But I agree... the annual subscription is a bad idea, this is the wrong approach. And the purchase price is way too high. As $39 or even $49 software, I think you'd have a hit. But $149 is just too much. I'm a real software and app geek... but hey, just my opinion.

February 28, 2017 at 7:24PM

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themartist
Director / Animator
67