Is your screenplay sick? Contour can cure it
$39.95 Developer Mariner Software, marinersoftware.com Requirements OS X 10.7 or later
If you think you’ve got a blockbuster in your brain, Contour can help you get it out - but it isn’t a writing or screenwriting app. It’s a story development system, an app you use before firing up Final Draft or Scrivener.
What Contour does is very simple. It encourages you to think about your story in terms of the tried-and-tested three-act structure that’s used in many blockbuster books and films, and it includes a good selection of real screenplays so you can see exactly how that structure is used in big-name movies. If seeing your story nestling among American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, The Dark Knight, and Star Wars doesn’t motivate you, nothing will.
Instead of a blank slate, Contour presents you with questions. Who is your hero (ine)? What is
their goal? What’s in their way? By asking these and providing explanations and illustrations, the app forces you to think very clearly about your characters and your story, moving from the initial setup to the second and third acts, describing plot points and key moments as you go. Rather brilliantly you can move from your story to the real screenplays and see exactly what they’ve done in the same sections, which means you’re learning from, and comparing your work to, genuinely successful films.
We’re not huge fans of the new, dark interface (the old, lighter one is still there in the app’s preferences), but Contour is very simple and straightforward, with useful options including a pop-up guide to the current story, printable structure sheets and beat sheets, and a pop-up panel for recording stray ideas. The export options are fairly limited, though: You can only export as Contour XML or as rich text.
We like Contour a lot, but there’s an obvious flaw here: if you fancy yourself as an auteur or intend to create experimental cinema that laughs in the face of three-act structures, this app is not for you. On the other hand, “blockbuster” needn’t mean giant robots battering lumps out of each other: The model used here is just as applicable to Pixar’s Up or Jim Carrey’s Liar
Liar. If you’ve tried to write a hit but found yourself running out of steam halfway through, Contour may be just what you need to finish your masterpiece.
The BOTTOM LINE Contour’s a simple but effective story development app for wouldbe Hollywood hitmakers.
The new interface is a little dark for us, but it is clear and effective.
Not all ideas occur when you’re at your desk. Contour also has an iOS app you can use when you’re mobile.