Contour Software box

Mariner Software, the company behind Montage and StoryMill, has released a new application Contour aimed at those wishing to develop stories into potential film blockbusters.

Developed in collaboration with Emmy Award-nominated Jeffrey Alan Schechter, “Contour 1.0 is a proven story development system that streamlines the process of turning movie ideas from first glimmer to full outline” says Mariner.

The Contour story development system teaches the writer how to use the same character-based structure that all blockbuster movies use. With an intuitive, fill-in-the-blanks approach, Contour shows what elements need to be in a script, never leaving the question, “what comes next?”

Contour also integrates with Montage, Mariner’s screenwriting software.

Other Contour1.0features include:

  • Record random ideas while you write.
  • Search script concepts by content, notes and feedback.
  • Print beat sheets and structure reports.
  • Import and export industry-standard XML.

Contour costs $49.95 ($44.95 download version), around £34 and £30, and is available to buy at the Mariner Software online store.


In response to this a ‘respondent’ said of Contour:

“Judging by the features, this looks to be Totally Write under a new name.

Well, it’s not bad. Totally Write was what it claimed to be. I bought it years ago, before the price was cut in half, alas. It worked with a Microsoft database (MDB) to store your input in its template. As a consequence of something or another Microsoft changed with one of their system updates, it stopped working on my desktop with Windows Xp, but not on my laptop with Windows Xp — go figure. I dialogued a bit with Mr. Schechter over that, and in the end, decided to just use it on the laptop only.

Schechter does have some worthwhile insights into what makes for a hit movie, and he lays those into the software for the writer to plug their own version of the content into the right slots at the right time so as to meet the Hollywood story criteria. Act I is the most front-loaded with marks to hit; Act II is basically a simple yes/no oscillation revolving around the Central Question, though it’s insightful enough to recognize the mid-point, as I recall, and Act III has a few more marks to hit. I knew the Act I stuff pretty well already when I bought the program. Most helpful to me at my stage of development were the suggestions for a four-part statement to define the story progression at the outset; the suggestion that that the story progression take the character through four “archetypal” stages, and which archtypes those ought to be; and, when I saw the simple progression laid out for Act III, I recognized that he was right, and these factors did influence how I wrote scripts from then on.

Aside from the idea/ tracker features and the accompanying PDF user guide, with its basic but important observations (which a writer might or might not have made on their own), once any well-organized writer has used Totally Write, and I assume the same is true of the new “Contour,” s/he could simply lay out a table as a word processor program template and get the same results. It is outlining software, after all, and, of course, won’t write a selling script for us, however much we may wish at times we could find some software that could do that.

If you don’t feel sure you’ve really mastered script structure, in my opinion, it would be worth fifty bucks. If you’ve already gone far in your development and accolades as a feature writer, it may not be.

I have tried a lot of the software for writing and, for the most part, I wish I had my money back. Totally Write was as advertised and I don’t knock it. I do like a fairly obscure program called “Fiction Master,” from the wise old author-editor, Sol Stein. I still think it’s the one to get if you write prose fiction, and want to go in depth. It isn’t meant for screenwriting, but it’s more useful than a pretentious program like Dramatica in that it will help you, in a suggestive, step-by-step way, (in a deeper way than Totally Write) to develop the factors writers actually use in the real world, characterization, plotting, dialogue, and obstacles. Work all that out, and you’ve got some real meat to work with, no matter what the format. After that, fitting it all into “Contour” would be a piece of cake, and would definitely be very helpful in writing a movie script. Plan your work, work your plan.”

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