As mentioned in this past post, “How Authors Can Use TREEbook™ – Time-Sensitive Rules to Enhance Narrative”, notifications are optional when creating time-sensitive rules. Notifications are bits of information you display to the user in dialogue windows. The information can add narrative, special alerts to the reader, or just about anything that enhances the novel. There are a couple types of notifications, but all must be assigned within a time-sensitive rule.
A time-sensitive rule is often associated with branching a story line, but in-line rules can also be defined where no branching takes place. The purpose of an in-lined rule would be to conditionally display a notification while keeping the reader on the same story line. Future versions of TREEbook will include additional actions, such as playing a sound, dimming the display, or some other physical action or combination of actions. For now, notifications can be used in many situations. Before we talk about applying notifications, let’s recap where notifications are defined.
- A rule-level notification is set to display at some point in time when the rule is triggered and remains active. Zero or more notifications can be set on a rule.
- A range-level notification is assigned to a range. Often a range is associated with a branch but not always. Range-level notifications display immediately if the range condition is met. A time-sensitive rule can have one or more ranges where each range may have zero or more notifications.
Types of notifications include simple text-based messages that act much like texts you receive on your phone. Text-based messages are typically brief and scheduled to display immediately or in the future. The second type is a pop-over window, in which content is rich and may contain multimedia elements loaded from an html document either local to the EPUB or on a server.
Now let’s cover interesting scenarios in applying notifications.
Nudge the reader
A body of text has a time-sensitive rule: If greater than 20 minutes elapses, the TREEbook diverges from the main trunk to an alternate story line. At the point where the rule is set to begin calculating time, set a rule-level notification to display in 15 minutes. If the reader app is closed and 15 minutes elapses, the text-based message is displayed informing the user that some event in the novel will transpire in 5 minutes.
Clue the reader
When a branch point decision is made by the processing of a time-sensitive rule, each potential branch is assigned a range-level notification that displays subtle clues that the plot is taking a new turn. Each reader may experience a different story and notification resulting from a branch.
Alternate dialogue “Easter Egg”
As the plot unfolds, new characters are introduced by way of a pop-over notification. These characters may interact with the main characters in alternate dialogue, but if a rule condition is not met, some readers may never experience this alternate dialogue.
Instead of displaying a simple text-based notification, use a pop-over window to load a movie or interactive graphic. This technique would be well suited to drive a TREEbook-enabled comic book or graphic novel.
Load content residing on a Web server dynamically in a pop-over window. Perhaps the content is a fictitious character’s blog that stays current over time. Or swap the content at regular intervals to enhance the setting or tempo of the novel. It is possible that few readers experience the same story depending on how frequent the content is refreshed.
Use a date-time rule for determining the time of year or season to dynamically change the setting in a scene. The setting adapts over the course of a year, so depending on when the reader experiences the TREEbook, use branching for more elaborate story arcs, but notifications are a good choice for brief narrative establishing the setting.
The possibilities are endless! Please let us know if you have any questions about defining notifications or TREEbook technology in general. We’d love to hear your ideas.
I can be reached at brian (at) medallionpress.com. Shoot me a message and follow me on Twitter: @TripleThreatMob.