Wikis For Universe Tracking

· 4 min read

This one is going to be quick, so bear with me. I mentioned previously I had a bugbear with Scrivener and one of them came from the way it consolidated information but also didn’t consolidate it enough.

I’ve tried a number of different methods to tie together all of the thread and snippets of information I’ve come up with when world building, often time these have been in notebooks surrounded by haphazard scribbles, sums and lists of tasks I was meant to do (and likely forgot). Quickly I learnt that a single notebook was a bad idea, so I multiplied how many of these A5 notebooks I kept, one for each story, I figured they’d keep the notes bound together. They eventually made their way into Scrivener, but only when I was at a computer, and then only when I remembered.

The ability to keep my notes digitized and neat is a struggle I think I will always have, but then I thought to myself, why not a wiki? A quick and simple way of linking things together, I could have ‘disambiguation’ pages and every major character could have a biography page all their own. It sounds like Scrivener from the outset but then you can link characters that interact across stories, or link snippets of important information, say a unit of measure, to another piece of information, maybe the person for whom the measure is named. Basically I figured I could harness the power of Wikipedia, or at least the underlying wiki system, mediawiki, for my story writing purposes. But of course that brings its own hurdles, named the backend, setting up and maintaining a wiki. Not to mention, do I make it world facing so I can access it from anywhere and protect it with a password? If not I can only use it whilst at home, unless I hosted it locally on a laptop. But then the laptop becomes the thing I need to access it. But the real question was, do I need that much power, and to access it from anywhere, and am I comfortable with just have a wiki ‘open’ to the outside world?

Turns out all of these were too big to deal with long term, I started the wiki project several times over the last few years and concluded it was not the way to go. So my notebooks say with a half-dozen pages filled, my wiki’s repeatedly got created and then scrapped, heck I even tried to use OneNote for a while, and whilst I appreciate the program, I am not a fan of it when I have that many tabs setup in it.

So now what?

Obsidian, that’s what. Obsidian takes the wiki idea and makes it local and better (and has a cool purple/grey theme to boot). It stores notes as large or as small as you’d like and provides backlinking so you can join pieces of information together. It also uses markdown which whilst a nightmare for me trying to build tables in, is extremely good for writing and making sure you get what you typed (assuming what is presenting the document understands markdown) - I actually write most of these entries and my short stories in markdown. It also means it’s fairly light if you keep your information to just text and because it’s just a locally stored file you can drop it onto your cloud storage without a huge issue, if you so choose. It can store images and has a stack of other features obviously, but I’m not trying to sell you on it (mostly), I’m just giving you the TLDR on why I started using it.

The Graph View of Obsidian.

Also it has a neato-burrito graph view which, if you zoom in a little further than pictured, shows you how all your ideas are linked to one-another.

So why, I hear you ask, have I dragged you down this path, was it just to tell you about Obsidian?

Well, in some respects, yes, but since I lambasted Scrivener previously, I felt like I should at least start providing alternatives to some of Scrivener’s features. And yes, some of these alternatives will be specific to my particular brand of insanity, but chances are I’m not the only one (right?). Next week we’ll discuss why markdown is better than rich text (I won’t actually, I promise).