Sunday, July 29, 2012

iPad/iPhone app: Writers App

Writers App
"Writers App" app in iTunes (usually $0.99, sometimes free)

What it is: An application to help authors plan a story/novel. A place to enter notes about characters, places, the plot, individual chapters, etc., and to keep it in an organized database. It is very intuitive to use, and does not require each field to have content.

You start out by adding a story (you can work on several at once, each with its own entry). For each story you then add relevant details: a title, information about the story (synopsis, premise, plot), chapters, characters, places, and there's room for further notes. You can add as many characters (or chapters, or places) as you want. For each character there are fields for name, general info (role, occupation), attributes such as strengths and weaknesses, habits, biography, hobbies, personality, and physical characteristics (hair, age, eyes, etc.), and of course further notes. Each entry for "Places" also expands to the name of place, about it, environment, description, characteristics and further notes.

So as you can see, it's structured but has a lot of fields and room for freestyle notes. There's no customization for the fields (I'm sure future updates will include this; it is always something users request once they start using an app like this). There's also no way to include pictures, and I'm not sure there ever will be, but if needed that can be added via export: Currently there's only one way to export, which is to email yourself the list: whatever level you export from, will include the info on that level and below it. So if you export from one character's view, you will only get the info for that character; if you export from the main story level, you will get everything you have entered for the entire story (all the characters, places, etc.). The emailed text can be copied and pasted into a simple document, and if needed pictures can be added. Format nicely and print.

How we can use it in Tx: This is a great tool to keep track of characters and plot twists for an author in the planning stages of their great novel... And for us, it's a great tool to help pts slowly put together their own life story. While there are a few fields in this application that won't play a role (and may confuse a pt if they are doing this independently) I think this is a great tool to use *with* the SLP to work on reminiscing, map out one's family members, one's life story, and even better--all of these. Since the information is so well fragmented into characters, places, story... we can concentrate on one section at a time (for several sessions, as needed). And the best part is that the resulting information from these sessions can be printed for the patient to keep.

This may not be the perfect app for doing this, but it's a nice start. And it lets you keep a list of what the pt has already contributed, go over it in future sessions, and proceed from there. And of course this can also be achieved with just a pad and paper, or any number of note-taking apps (some that also allow pictures and sound attachments). But I like the organization of this one that makes this open-ended task into a structured exercise, easier to follow through with and to pick up where you left off in future sessions.

Goals we can target with this app: Memory goals mostly, and since it uses a pt's personal information about their life and family, one hopes there's increased motivation to participate in the task. Sequencing and categorization, attention and question/answer goals are addressed almost inherently as part of the task, and there could be added focus on these goals as needed. For example, a pt could be asked to recall something from grade school, something from high school, something from college (if they attended) or military service (or whatever else they did after HS) and work on sequencing these stories into chapters (which came first in life, which later). Orientation is also addressed as part of discussing previous events, younger age, different locations (that was then, this is now).

Some specific examples:

1. Reminiscing: for a pt that isn't able to remember a lot about their own life, you can create a chapter for certain decades (20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's...) and think of famous characters from each era (Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, etc.). and famous events... If you don't remember much from your grade school history classes you can do some minimal research online and find enough famous events and people for each decade within minutes, surely. Or you can do the research together with your pt, and let them participate and recall some of these milestones. I had a pt who had a really hard time remembering anything about his own life, with LTM and STM goals. I brought in a reminiscing task with pictures of famous events or people from various decades, and we went through them. My pt said he won't remember any of it when we started, but as we went through my list he did in fact recall quite a few of the events and people, and had a few bits of information to contribute about them, some even from personal experiences. It was a very successful session that left both of us smiling.

2. External memory cues: work on a pt's family tree using this app by adding each family member as their own character. Go over each character on multiple occasions trying to get pt to recall additional attributes; maybe add descriptions based on photos in the pt's room... You can get additional info from visiting family members if possible. Just have fun with it. And this is certainly something you will want to export, format, and print for the pt when you are done.

3. Write a pt's life story, especially if it's a pt who has lived in several places. Write a chapter for each time in their life (as I mention above, one for grade school, one for high school, etc.) and again, let them fill in bits and pieces over several sessions (give the specifics recalled previously and ask for more detailed info, e.g. "so last time we talked about your time in the army and you mentioned you were stationed in Italy. How long were you there?").

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