Fiction, Fun Stuff, Indie Author, Social Media, The Writing Process, Writing, Writing Tools

Is the Writers’ Notepad Becoming a Thing of The Past?

Do you use notepads to plot out your stories?

When I was young, I could always be found wedged between my bed and the radiator with a notepad and pen in hand. As writers, we are always creating something, whether that’s a scene, new idea, character bio, or even a poem/story.

I loved writing and as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil I started creating little stories and filling page after page of notes. When my parents moved house recently I was given the obligatory ‘box of crap memories from your childhood’ that every parent keeps in the loft.

Mine contained old school reports (apparently I talked too much!!), my vinyl records, and a collection of school books/notepads.


Most of the stories were written back in 1982 when I was a bright-eyed ten-year-old, and they were highly entertaining to re-read. The memories of long forgotten ideas, recollections of ‘camp’, and my horrific attempts at poetry (and illustration), had been preserved for the future generation, however, my kids – that future generation I was talking about – could only fall about laughing at the wallpaper I’d used to cover my hand-made notebook!


The other week I was jotting notes for my current WIP, curled up in my favourite chair while my thirteen-year-old daughter sat opposite me tapping away on her phone.

“Why don’t you ever write any stories?” I asked her, remembering the brief year when she filled a small journal with micro tales and a beautiful poem she called my mum’s biscuits.

“I am writing one, mum.”

She proceeded to wave her mobile phone in the air and I rolled my eyes (something the future generation taught me how to do so eloquently).

“Snap chat doesn’t count as story writing!” I told her.

“It’s a story app,” she announced, climbing onto the chair beside me.

I was amazed to see that she was indeed writing a story using a nifty little app called Plotagon.

Designed for iPhone and PC, Plotagon is an award-winning educational app that allows you to create instant, animated videos just by writing. You create your characters in a SIMS kind of way, deciding on hair colour, size, sex, and age, and then you write the story to fit a scenario (restaurant, airplane, etc.). The app offers you various options.

Image from Plotagon


The fun aspect of this app was that upon completion you hit ‘play’ and the little cartoon images act out your written words. You have a choice to use the slightly wooden automated voice over effect, or record your own voice. The idea is highly creative and certainly engaged my daughter in her story writing because she could watch her idea come to life.

The app is free to download and you receive a certain amount of generic scenes to work from, however, there is an option to purchase more advanced settings such as fantasy backgrounds.

There is a specific page dedicated to teachers who might wish to introduce the app into the classroom and engage students in dialogue, character building, and script writing.

So, would I opt for a more modern way of story writing? Absolutely not! Give me a notepad and pen any day, but if this app gets the youth of today writing stories and building creative skills then maybe technology isn’t all bad after all.

Do you use any kind of app to help build your characters or stories? Would you be tempted to try this kind of feature in the future?


36 thoughts on “Is the Writers’ Notepad Becoming a Thing of The Past?”

  1. I think that app must be brilliant fun for children, but it’s not writing, is it??!! However, as you say, it’s still making them think and create, so it’s good. As an adult writer, though, I’d say that if you need this sort of app to write then you might want to think of trying a different hobby….!! But then again, the publishing industry is about making money, so perhaps if you’re submitting work to a publisher… A writer told me earlier today that a agent had told her this: a lot of agents don’t even know what good writing is – they just understand what will sell in the current market – everything else can be fixed before publication.

    And so we come back to self-publishing… perhaps where the most genuine creativity is to be found!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, Terry. I loved my daughter’s passion for the story/plot she had created (which I had to ‘watch’ about four times!) but I agree, there is no way it can be classed as a writing app. However, it did teach her the valuable skill of reading work out loud to see if dialogue flow was okay. Since I started book reviewing, I have noticed more and more how certain books are ‘designed’ to fit the genre. The self-pub books certainly stretch the boundaries – which is what makes them so much fun to read (and write!). Maybe this app will spark the indie-vibe in my daughter? 🙂


    1. I totally agree with you. I also love going back over my notebooks after a book has been finished to see what changed during the writing/plotting process – those pesky characters! 😉


  2. I am a journal addict! I’m always looking for new ones. It’s gotten so bad that friends automatically stop when we’re walking and run across a book store or stationary store. There may be some rolling of eyes, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A notebook for me! I’d probably struggle with getting to grips with any kind of technology all creativity would fly out the window. It took me years to write directly onto a computer and even now if I hit a sticky patch I pick up a pen and write the scene in longhand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I totally agree with you Mary. It was when I took part in my first NaNoWriMo that I started typing straight to my computer instead of writing everything long hand in a notebook – always plot on paper though.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That sounds like a really cool app! That said, nothing quite beats a proper notebook. I’m a bit obsessed with buying them, and I can only bring myself to write in the cheap ones! Even though I type a lot of story ideas into Evernote, nothing quite beats the tactile sensation of the pen on paper. My free writing is always far more successful wherI write by hand.

    It’s funny, art and design students are still counselled to keep physical sketchbooks, only switching to digital at the development or final outcome stage, so I don’t know why the writer’s notebook shouldn’t be the same!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s really interesting. Creativity clearly needs a physical output before we start tampering with technology! I’ve only briefly used Evernote but couldn’t get on with it – ended up using my physical notepad again. I do at least try the new apps but my kids just can’t seem to drag me fully into the digital age lol.


  5. I love notebooks, I am a notebook geek and proud of it. There is a notebook for every novel, every story, every idea. If someone was to take away my notebooks, I`d charge after them like a tigress. Although I have played the sims, back in the day and loved it. My daughter and I had some hilarious times with those sims, so hmmm, I don`t know, a story app? No, not for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I love it, Adele – tigress! I use a new notebook for every book idea too. My daughter loves the sims but I haven’t played it – I’m still traumatised from when my son introduced me to Minecraft!! 😉


  6. I like to use responses from twitter chatbots within my blog posts, and then I credit them when I post it – like, ‘hybrid text co-authored with @HappyRobot_v1’ Some of the smarter bots actually provide some interesting and profound comments…they make links that I wouldn’t have though of


  7. I love notebooks and journals. But, like Icy, I can’t bring myself to write in the pretty ones. I’ve always been like that. It’s like I’m a collector. That app sounds so cool! I’m checking it out for my son. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love how everyone buys beautiful notebooks and then writes in old, tatty ones haha, I used to do the same but now I purposely choose a pretty book to match the story idea – and write in it! 😉


    1. Thanks, Jan. We are so funny when it comes to christening new notebooks aren’t we. I must confess, my dad bought me a beautiful leather bound book from Italy but I haven’t written in it yet as the ‘idea’ needs to be right! 😉


  8. I love notebooks passionately and always have. That said, I’ve written more than 600 stories with this app. One thing that makes me love Plotagon with a passion is the fact that this devious app fools children. It fools them because they come for the animation, but they stay for the storytelling. Working with the plotagon community I see this happen again, and again, and again. If you love writing, please give this app a look. THANK YOU for this wonderful blog post. It will make me walk to work tomorrow with a spring in my step. If you would like to see some of the stories I’ve made, you’ll find them here:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and commenting, Klas. I popped over to your site (thanks for sharing your link) and I love your stories. I didn’t realise there was such a wonderful community connected to Plotagon. My daughter loves the app and has created numerous stories. She has even asked if I can buy her a fantasy setting for her birthday haha. You are so right about using animation to capture a child’s interest – they don’t think twice about utilising technology for various projects (I’m quite jealous of them actually haha). I’m glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for sharing your passion. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. As an adult who has been writing much in the same way as you, when I was old enough to learn my ABC’s, I can really advocate for the greatness that is Plotagon. I have always dreamed of seeing my stories come to life, but also to be able to get the passion to finish something and see it through. I’ve completed stories of course, but there’s something about Plotagon that pushes me to be more creative and to challenge my creative process. I’ve been using Plotagon and have been a part of the community for over a year now, and I’ve made many great and creative friends. I’ve also found much more talent in myself than I ever though possible.

    As someone who is working on my dream of getting a story published, Plotagon is the closest I’ve come to being able to share my stories to a wider audience. It’s inspired stories off the app as well. I’ve seen it even inspire the want to learn and write from my own niece, who was 11 at the time of me showing her the app. It’s nothing short of amazing. Take it from a community member – and a writer – who has seen it grow, and continues to see it grow!

    Wonderful blog entry, and I do agree that nothing beats an old fashioned notebook, but if you’d like to see another example of what this app can do, feel free to view my works as well:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment, Shane. I’ve had a look at your Plotagon page and love your vampire stories (I’m a HUGE vamp geek! – you’ll find loads of posts on my blog about all things fang-tastic!) As I said on my reply to Klas, I had no idea that Plotagon had such an active community behind it. It’s this kind of interaction that drives and inspires you. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I don’t know what I think about this. I want to like it. I want to like it because it’s engaged young people. But I’m also stubborn and like my ink stained finger tips just fine…and I am rather fond of a note book too!


  11. Great post!

    I do my outline/character dev sheets/writing in Storyist. One daughter writes in MS Word, another in Scrivener. My youngest daughter (and occasional co-author) uses Storyist for collaboration, but writes in notebooks. She starts by drawing her character, then mapping that character’s traits. Plot is the very last step in her process. (Note: after one too many lost-notebook crises, she now takes a picture of each page as soon as it’s done and stores that online.)

    And (in the for-what-it’s-worth department) the Hub writes in Mathematica.

    At the end of the day, though, we have one thing in common. Every editor any of us has ever used insists on MS Word. So no matter how we create it, we all do our editing care of the Evil Empire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love plotting on paper but can only type my manuscripts directly onto the computer now. I never thought I’d do this as I was such a fan of the notepad, however, my productivity has increased so much since I started doing it this way. I’ll never be able to totally replace the notepad though 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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