?

How do you feel about character development?

  1. Interactive links are a great way to give info without it getting in the way of the story.

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  2. Inline character development gives more substance to the overall story.

    2 vote(s)
    50.0%
  3. Mix and match, in some places inline development is great, but other times links would work better.

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  1. Ru3n

    Ru3n New Member

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    How to make an interactive novel?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ru3n, Sep 1, 2017.

    In this day an age, printed books are being pushed back into the background, while books on tablets and phones take over the reading world. Throughout the past couple of years I have had the chance to read a few good books on Amazon. While reading these stories, character names are made into links that you can tap or click on and it will take you to a all new page with information about that character. (Below is an example that i found online that displays my visual intention.)
    [​IMG]
    Most of the time, this information is not included in the overall story. It is almost left to the reader to investigate about the characters. What I would like to know is. Do you enjoy interactive novels, or do you enjoy stories where the full character development is in text that is included in the meat of the story? I will make a poll, but let me know how you feel about the process.

    Lastly, if you have ever published a book that has these linked pages of information, I would really like to talk to you on how you accomplished that task. Thank you for any feedback, also I have been loving this site since joining, a lot of helpful and great people.
     
  2. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe I'm missing the point of the thread but I'd have liked a forth option for 'I don't like the idea at all..'

    I'll also add that people have been saying printed books are dead for the last five years or so, and they still outweigh the digital format.
     
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  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    Not a fucking chance.
     
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  4. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I have to agree with @Homer Potvin - although probably not quite so strongly :D

    There would be no better way to kill the immersion of a good book than have links that take me to a mini-bio of the character. It could work in non-fiction, but in fiction, no no no and no again.
     
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  5. Ru3n

    Ru3n New Member

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    Hello OurJud,

    I don't believe I said that the medium is dead, and I don't believe that it is any way better than a printed book. However, I do believe it has it's place and when done correctly, it can give a story a lot of expansion. I fully agree I should have added the fourth option, I will make sure to give all options on future polls.

    Hi Homer!

    LOL obsessed Simpsons fan right here! I appreciate your candor, but would you explain what about them you don't enjoy.
     
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  6. Ru3n

    Ru3n New Member

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    Thank you, this gives a lot of good feedback before i go wasting my time trying it out.
     
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  7. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Don't let me or anyone else dissuade you. These are only our opinions, remember, and you probably owe it to yourself to pursue your idea.

    For the record I was obsessed with CYOA books when I was a kid, but they're not quite the same.
     
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  8. Ru3n

    Ru3n New Member

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    Very true, it was more or less an idea that popped in my head so i figured I would ask. Although I see how it could be used to benefit a story, like you said something non fiction works but not in fiction. I want that immersion feeling so for me it would be better to add the information into the story rather than make the reader break away from the story to learn about a character.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    Short answer: I read books to exercise my imagination, think about things differently, explore subtext, search for hidden meanings, read between the lines, etc. In other words, this:

    That's the fun part. If I can click on a link and receive all the information there's no reason for me to read the book. I might as well play video games and pickle my brain with Scotch since I won't be needing it to read anymore. Don't get me wrong. I love video games, but I'll take my books over here and my interactive entertainment over there.

    Me too... I even tried writing an erotic version of one once.
     
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  10. Ru3n

    Ru3n New Member

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    Very good point. I have never quite felt the same excitement from a video game that I have had reading a well written scene in a book.
     
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  11. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Your an Eve online player? (I'm part of the Drone Region Federation).

    -

    To your point, I've read Visual novels (I'm a huge Type-Moon Fan) and I've enjoyed some of the interaction aspects, but only in the vein on exploring 'What-if' scenarios. I am not a big fan of -you picked the wrong option, death time- when it comes to reading.

    -OJB.
     
  12. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Senior Member

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    I know this sounds cliche, but it will work if you find a way to make it work. I've been surprised by how many writing concepts that I thought looked bad on paper turned out to have an audience.

    Just off the top of my head: could the printer package a paper version of the book with a sleeve to hold character 'baseball cards'? Middle grade readers may find that pretty cool.
     
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  13. Ru3n

    Ru3n New Member

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    That is a very good suggestion. To be fair, the information would be written either way, so there is no reason I couldn't publish it both ways. Published fully written in context, and scaled down with your "Player Card" idea to reach younger readers.
     
  14. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Senior Member

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    And really, the example was just a throw-away... I'm not wedded to it. The idea is that if you have a whiteboard, you can brainstorm/ishikawa/whatever and write down all the different variations, some of which may have better legs and be worth further exploration.

    I'm sure somebody was in a stuffy, smokefilled, coffee ring stained room one day and said, "Hey, let's write a screenplay, only the scenes will be shown in reverse order. I'm not sure how to make it work, but..." Sounds like a challenge to the audience for sure. But there was room out there for at least one Memento.
     
  15. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    It's no mean feat to do this kind of thing.

    I don't fault your enthusiasm to do something interesting with the form. And e-books are built for this stuff. It's just straight up html, you can make linked documents like this no problems at all, you can have clickable links. The format itself allows for you to embed pictures, audio, video, whatever you like. You can technically do this stuff, no problems at all. The problem is with the practical side of actually generating the material in a way that is interesting and that is worth the readers time clicking through it all. As anyone who has had a hand in trying to make a narrative game; writing good text and good stories that allow the player to dick around doing other stuff than is obvious is the real challenge. Yes, it's cool stuff to click on the links. But then that's going to be absolutely death to pacing and immediacy in the plot. And if they don't then, well, why go to all the effort?

    Because lets not mince words. It's a lot of effort. To give you some context on the picture you posted; that's from a game called Eve which is an MMO (internet spaceships online; it's a complicated game full of jerks and it's awesome). The one you posted up is a default bio for that characters bloodline. But most players will make their own bios and everything else on their is generated over the process of literally years by the players actions. No two are the same and people work hard on them. Not necessarily all players but quite a lot spend a long time playing with the character creator, buying pretty space barbie clothes and so forth. Suffice to say that yes, these are really cool artifacts to look at and you can write some really amazing fiction on the back of the stuff that happens in Eve. I've been in battles with five thousand players per side fighting to conquer the known stars. And you can click through every one of those players and see how they came to be there. You could write a book for all of them. And that would work. Because they are all real people, living online lives and doing things on a daily basis. More than that they are all seeking adventure and treasure out among the stars. Even those that lose live in interesting times. But for someone on the outside trying to create all that themselves and make every story both interesting and unique and worth reading... That's an incredible amount of work to go to. When you have, functionally, a thousand space monkeys at a thousand space type writers then you can come up with that material. But when it's just you that's something else.

    You will be talking about coming up with as much material for the plot and the actual book as you will be writing to put in character biographies; really mundane crap that is really dull to write and is a real damn slog. And that will interfere with your writing of course. I mean, just chucking out that information there really could mess about with you covenant with the reader. Either the bio has to lie sometimes, which will break that bargain with the reader because something metatexual and outside the plot lied to them about the plot, or you have to put information there that will give away some things the characters don't know in the moment and that's going to be a problem.

    If you want to do this I would suggest that you make the link an integral part of that world. It has to be sci-fi and it has to be something where that immediate and constant access to information is integral to that world; make that information that the reader can go see something that the other characters can see when they look at each other too. Make that part of the plot, the fact that they can just see at a glance all this stuff about someone. Make it something that the plot allows to be massaged or falsified ever; like a facebook profile or similar. And then play with that, get the reader used to clicking on stuff. And then have them run into people or go to places where that information is all gone. That's how you do it.
     
  16. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    I read a book that included a puzzle within the text of the book itself. It was distracting, at best, but the author thought it was very clever. When I read a story, I want to be entirely involved in the story I'm in. I wouldn't like links or games or any other kind of interactive experience with my book, because it'd be like hitting a pause button on a movie to look up information online for a character. That would ruin the flow for me, even if it's just an option. Granted, links are probably the best way to go about something like that if you're going to do it, but I would prefer to have that extraneous information worked into a separate story.

    In some ways, that kind of "interactive link" to the information the OP described seems...arrogant, though that's probably too strong a word. It's as if the author is saying, "Look at how well I've developed this character! I couldn't fit it all into the story, but I want you to know just how much work I put into this." That's an assumption on my part, yes, but that's how it comes across. Would I necessarily avoid a book entirely because of it? No, but it would be distracting.

    Interactive books are kind of like trying to watch a movie and play a board game at the same time. Your brain will only be able to follow along in either to a limited extent. If you want to follow a story, do so. If you prefer to play the game based on that story, do so. Just pick one.
     
  17. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Yes, that's always a real risk with anything metatextual. I think presumptuous is the word that you're looking for. The author thinks their book is just so good that people will care enough to solve all their riddles. Part of what makes some books with metatextual elements good is that they didn't initially set out to be that, they were just good books maybe with in jokes and references that people liked and slowly the author started to add these little elements into them too. But they didn't presume that they would be a massive cultural phenomena, they didn't presume that people would be making wikis about their work; they found themselves there already and then played with it and that's something else. The last thing you want to be as an author is to be smug and to be dancing around going "Ask me what it means!".

    And that's why I think that if you do want to do this stuff then you should really make it a core part of the plot, make the metatext a part of the text, so that the reader isn't finding some magic easter egg, they are just seeing what the characters can see. When it's a part of the book then at least you can have the characters acknowledge what's there and that at least means you won't sound smug. Sure, it's a bit gimmicky (but easter eggs are anyway) but that's not a bad thing, especially not in a universe where the information in the links makes sense in it's own terms. It means that those links stop being a place where you can hide this stuff to make yourself look clever it starts to be something that the reader is supposed to read where you can just tell the story of the book, albeit in a slightly different way.

    Particularly if you do it well, using the links to not just contain exposition about a character, but you could use it to show 'notes' the characters have left about this person they are looking at, perhaps notes that are automatically shared with their network, and so every time you see someone in the plot there might be a new note from someone else who's met them and we can get a bit more information, just the same way the character would see that note. So maybe we meet someone and the notes say "Lol, big nose". And then "Man he's a complete asshole" and "Totally ripped me off. And then on and on; "Don't mess with him, this guy is dangerous". And finally "Run. He killed Dave, he killed Sasha and he's going to kill you. Fucking run". And then the next time that page is blank, everything gone. And all that information shows up to us as the reader in the same way that it shows up to the character so you can play with the timing of it and exactly what is said and you can do something that is worth the effort you know? Maybe you only have a link the first time you see them, then every time that there's a new note to look at. You could see like conversations in real time, or close to, under the text as the character is speaking to this guy.

    Yes, that's a bit gimmicky. But I like it. It's really making that conceit work for you, another channel of information that we don't normally see in a book. And done this way (where things are only clickable when there's something new) then you make sure that it's always worth the readers time clicking on something, so they always will, and that means you can just put story critical information there and that will go a long way to making this work as a story telling device instead of a metatexual game for weirdos.
     
  18. Aardvark

    Aardvark Member

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    This is an interesting idea! What this makes me think of is an old professor who wrote a book about the relationship of text to its footnotes. I would consider these links somewhat of footnotes. I know they aren't but they function in a similar way. You may be interested in reading critiques about David Forster Wallace's usage of footnotes. Footnotes are also used in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I found rather distracting. I find footnotes distracting when they are exclusionary of the reader. This meaning, when the author expects a tremendous breadth of knowledge from the reader to patch the story together, or when the footnotes are exhaustive and superfluous.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    The overall idea feels, to me, more like a game than a book.
     
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  20. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    It sounds that way to me too, but I have to admit it sounds intriguing. I would want to check it out.
     
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  21. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    I was thinking "game" at first. Like one of those old RPG books where you choose your action (flip to page 58), but from your first post that doesn't seem to be what you're talking about. If it's just "click this link to read information about this character" it just feel like a waster for me. I mean, if the information was important it would've been in the actual book, and if it's not, I don't need to know.

    I don't read e-books, but even if I did I can't see myself checking those pages out. I'd click one, realize that it's boring things that I wouldn't bother to read even in my favorite games, and then I wouldn't click it again.

    Then again, I was thinking that it might be a thing that could attract kids (if done right). I used to work at a school library where we had a hell to get the kids (especially the boys) to read. Interactive books where less information was written and you had to click around to find out more might be an idea to trick their bored little minds. Just and thought.

    That said I think you really, really need to know what kind of people read it. Because to me it sounds like more job than it might be worth if people won't buy it.
     
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