Porting from WordPress to Storyspace, 3: alt stories and references

In the last article – before macOS Sierra was upon us – I had been building the spine of a hypertext document ported from a series of WordPress articles. Since then, I have completed building that spine, and this article looks at how I have integrated an alternative account with it.

Before I get started with that, four words about Storyspace 3.2 and Sierra: they’re very happy together. I haven’t tried out any of Sierra’s new features with Storyspace, largely because they are superfluous. The app’s interface is a very comfortable and productive balance which I do not wish to disturb, therefore I’ll let Eastgate decide how it might accommodate any of the additional features of Sierra. Storyspace already makes excellent use of tabs, for example, so the new tabbed views just lets lesser apps catch up with Storyspace.

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So after a bit more work, I now have a spine of Milestones, forming the narrative thread for the history of oil painting, linked together in time sequence using plain links. There’s a container for all the paintings, named Gallery, and a container for my prototypes.

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The Gallery is quite rich now, with all the small and large versions of paintings used in the writing spaces which make up the spine. For the moment I have just laid them out roughly, so that I can access them as I need during the writing process. I’ll come back later and tidy them up.

With these busy layouts in Map view, it is worth adjusting the scale of the view to suit the work that you are doing. The View menu contains three commands for this: Magnify (zoom in), Shrink (zoom out), and Standard Scale (equivalent to 1:1 if you wish).

The first alternative account which I want to integrate with my spine is an old version provided by Vasari, in his still-popular Lives of the Artists. Thankfully there is quite a good translation in Project Gutenberg, so that is what I will use. The relevant section is that devoted to the life of Antonello da Messina, which I locate in the text.

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Looking at that text, its paragraphs are quite long, but they are coherent, and splitting paragraphs up between writing spaces seems a bad idea, potentially confusing. Unfortunately the Project Gutenberg text has hard line-breaks, so I need to take those out to get the text to flow properly, and do some other tidying up. I do this using BBEdit again, and separate the text for a reference citation, as a separate item.

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Back in Storyspace, I need to create two more prototypes, although these will only differ slightly from the default at this stage: Authority, which I will use for the writing spaces containing Vasari’s text, and Reference, which will contain the citation itself. I give these suitable colours and badges, and ensure that they go into the Prototypes container.

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I set a new writing space to use the Reference prototype, paste in the citation, and style it up. This then goes into a new container called References; although it would be wise to draw greater distinction between the names of the container and the prototype, I don’t think that I will get them confused.

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Next, I create a new writing space, name it Life of Antonello 1, as the first in the thread, and set it to use the Authority prototype. Into that I paste the text of the first paragraph of Vasari’s account.

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I have looked in other articles at different ways of dealing with references. Now that Storyspace supports stretchtext so well, it is an obvious choice here, so I use that to offer the reader the full citation, which they can access on any of the pages containing Vasari’s text.

The only pain here is ensuring that the quotation marks are ‘plain text’ “” and not ‘smart’ quotations – using Control-Shift-“. With ‘smart’ quotation marks enabled, editing the text around ordinary quotation marks can quickly lead to their being transformed, and breaking the stretchtext insertion.

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Once I have added all the writing spaces for Vasari’s thread, I link them up using plain links so that they will be read, by default, in the correct sequence.

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Next I need to add text links to enable the reader to break out of the appropriate writing spaces in the spine, to link to Vasari’s account. These are quick and simple: select the text which will form the link anchor, then drag down from the parking space Ⓣ at the top, to the destination writing space.

There is a slight interface issue here. These text links use the same blue text styling as stretchtext, which could be confusing. Although a reader may be able to work out whether any given blue text is a text link (which will take them out of their current writing space) or stretchtext (which will keep them in the same writing space), they shouldn’t have to think much about that.

So I need to choose my anchor words carefully to make the distinction clear. It might be worth adding a Unicode symbol to help distinguish links, for example with an arrow character like →. I’ll need to keep an eye on that.

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The other problem is knowing where to return the reader when they want to go back from Vasari’s account to the main spine. I’ll presume that they will normally want to return to the point in the spine from which they left. The simple and clear approach then is to add a text link, using an anchor starting with Return to…

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I also add a default plain link from the last writing space of the alternative account, to the latter writing space in the spine, for convenience. Note that writing space has two different text links, offering the reader a choice.

This leaves a fairly busy mesh of links between the spine and the Life of Antonello series. It is worth making those clear, so I select all the writing spaces in that series, drag them out a bit from those of the spine, and then tidy up the link terminals so that I can see the links more clearly. This doesn’t just look more pretty, but is important if I need to do anything with those links.

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That leaves me with the two, integrated narratives, using links to move between writing spaces, and expressions to embed content from other writing spaces, for paintings and references.

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You can download my Zipped Storyspace document, which should also work fine in the free Storyspace Reader app, here: historyofoils1

My next task is to look at how I can start to build more detailed explanations of each item in the spine, and the subject of the next article in this series.

Happy hypertexting!