Linking a character's birth or death with an event
This article describes how to create an event representing the birth or death of a character, and to tie it to the dates associated with the character.
For this article, we will use the example of the birth of a character named "Archie Smith", which we will tie to the event "Week old baby found abandoned at an orphanage".
Step 1: Enable Automatic Constraints Resolution
Before we begin, you should first ensure that you have enabled automatic constraints resolution. With this enabled, any changes you apply to one item will be automatically transferred to the other item:
- If you move the event on the timeline, the birth date for Archie Smith will be adjusted accordingly;
- Likewise, if you directly change the birth date for Archie Smith, the event will be moved to the new position on the timeline.
To enable automatic constraint resolution, open the Settings modal, click onto the Dates tab, and make sure that Automatic Date Adjustment is set to Resolve constraints and adjust children, as per the image below:
For a fiction timeline, we would also recommend that Dependency and Constraint Adjustment Limits should be set to No limits. This setting is primarily for project managers, who would not want tasks to be moved into the past to resolve a scheduling challenge.
Step 2: Create a Constraint between Character and Event
With that setting enabled, we can now create our two items and tie their dates together with a constraint:
- Click on the Character icon in the sidebar to open the Character Panel, and add a new character with the name "Archie Smith".
- In the Spreadsheet or Timeline View, add a new event and give it the label "Week old baby found abandoned at an orphanage", and set a date for that event
- With that event selected, open the Inspector, and click on the Dependencies & Constraints tab ().
- Under the heading Date Constraints, click on the + icon to add a new constraint, and configure a constraint where Start -> equals start of -> Archie Smith, as per the image shown below:
- In most cases, the above will be sufficient. However, in our example, Archie was one-week old when he was found, so we will apply an offset of 1 week to the constraint:
- Click on the Add button to create the constraint.
Step 3: Review what has changed
If you select Archie Smith from the Character Panel and click onto the Dates tab in the Inspector, you will see that a start date has now been assigned to Archie Smith where it didn't previously exist.
Due to the offset applied in the constraint, Archie's birth date will be one week earlier than the event in the timeline:
As items default to having zero duration, you will see that Archie's death is now also set to the same date. We can fix this by entering a new Death date, or by ticking the Ongoing checkbox to signify that Archie has not yet died:
A note on Automatic Constraint Resolution
Automatic constraint resolution can help you keep things in order by automatically updating related items as you make changes to your timeline. This can be useful in the early stages of fiction writing, when things are still in a state of flux and not set in stone.
However, there may be particular cases where you do not want this to occur, either for a specific event that must have a fixed date, or perhaps at a later stage of your planning where you want to be in control of every single change.
In the former case, you can choose to lock the dates of individual items by clicking on the Lock icon in the Inspector (to the right of the Ongoing checkbox). By locking an item, you are telling the program not to change this item's dates under any circumstances.
Alternatively, you can disable automatic constraint resolution altogether by changing the Automatic Date Adjustment setting in Step 1 above to any other value.
In both cases, moving one item will no longer result in the other item being changed. Instead, your change will be allowed to persist, but the constraint will be marked as violated.
Violated constraints are marked with a red exclamation icon in the Inspector alongside the constraint:
The same icon will also appear alongside the item in the Timeline and Spreadsheet Views to alert you to the error.