Time-Sensitive Rules to Enhance Narrative
While interacting with up-and-coming TREEbook™ authors, we’ve identified some common questions. One of the most exciting for us is “How do time-sensitive rules work?”
The TREEbook™ format is freeing in that, as an author, you no longer have to choose just one direction for each plot point or one ending for a story. The TREEbook™ allows you to explore many different branches (story lines) and endings to your story.
The TREEbook™ has four kinds of time-sensitive rules that will trigger branches within your novel. We want to help you understand these rules so you can use them to their full potential to enhance your narrative. Below, we detail these four rules and provide narrative examples of how each might look to a reader.
1) Real Time
The Real Time rule represents time as it exists in real life. As much as we wish we could, we cannot stop, slow down, or speed up time. The Real Time rule works just like that. So the fun of this for authors is that you can now create situations in your novel in which characters have a certain amount of real time to accomplish something: catch a bus, get to work, say “I love you,” etc. If a reader doesn’t read about them accomplishing the task within your specified amount of real time, the story can branch to a different outcome.
It was nearly midnight. Her gown would turn to rags in front of him and everyone in the ballroom if she didn’t get away in three minutes.
He drew her gloved hand to his lips, then raised her fingers high above her head and guided her into an endless twirl. Her blue gown, his dark eyes, the marble floor—everything blurred. The room spun and tipped, the door now two footsteps away.
She could barely speak. “I have to go,” she said, rushing to the door on unsteady feet.
A gust of wintry air greeted her as she pushed her way into the night.
In this example, the author might have the story branch if the reader does not finish this passage within three minutes. This time limit applies even if the reader closes the book.
2) Average Reading Pace Rule
The Average Reading Pace (ARP) rule calculates an individual reader’s pace in words per minute (WPM). The technology will calculate the reader’s average pace while he or she is reading the first few chapters of the book. The ARP rule will stop calculating the reader’s pace when he or she closes the book and will restart when he or she begins reading again. For readers, it’s not about how fast or slow they read. It’s just about reading at their normal reading pace. When the reader consistently reads at his or her established pace, the story does not branch.
As the author, you can have fun with this rule by putting your characters in scenarios that result in alternative situations if the reader doesn’t maintain his or her average reading pace
Rob trudged across the darkened bookstore floor.
Kristina had waited a lifetime for this moment. Her pulse beat a deafening rhythm in her left ear, which was pressed against the carpet. The blade chilled her forearm. She held her breath to feign death but knew she could only hold it for a few seconds more before her ruse would end.
An author could include an ARP rule here to branch the story. If the reader slows down to take a phone call, for example, the story could branch to show Kristina taking a breath. This could lead to any number of situations that you, the author, can dream up.
3) Instant Rule
The Instant rule coincides with dates and times in real life. It involves a specific date and/or time and branches the story only if the calendar or clock on your reading device is set to this date and/or time.
Megan pulled from her pocket a sealed envelope addressed to her, dated October 31. She unfolded the letter and began reading. This note was different from the rest.
In this example, use of the Instant rule could mean that if the user reads the passage on October 31, the letter will reveal different insight to the story than if the passage were read on any other day of the year.
4) Random Chance Rule
The weatherman says there is a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms in the forecast. This means there’s a 30 percent probability it will thunderstorm and a 70 percent probability it won’t, which makes the chances of it raining where you are pretty random, wouldn’t you say?
The Random Chance rule works exactly like a weather forecast.
Dr. Jones said, “Mike, you have an 80 percent chance of surviving the operation.”
Should the author decide to use the Random Chance rule in this part of the narrative, 80 percent of readers will get the branch of the story in which Mike survives the operation, while 20 percent will get the branch in which he doesn’t. Where the story goes from there is up to you, the author.
So, those are the four rules that authors can use to create story branches within a TREEbook™. Talk about making writing exhilarating in a brand-new way
In addition, TREEbook™ offers two more tools you can use to enhance your story
When someone calls your cell phone and you don’t pick up, a box might appear on your screen notifying you of the missed call. The same might happen when an upgrade is available for an app on your mobile device.
Similarly, TREEbook™ allows you to use notifications to keep readers engaged with your story. With each time-sensitive rule, you have the option of branching the story and/or triggering a notification to alert the reader about events, people, plot twists, and just about any type of info that enhances the reader’s experience. A notification appears, much like a text message on your phone, whether the device is on or in sleep/standby mode.
She exhaled into the receiver, then said calmly, “If you don’t deliver the million dollars in an hour, I will detonate this bomb.”
If the Real Time rule is applied to this passage and the reader closes the book immediately after reading this sentence, a notification could be sent to the reading device warning the reader that a bomb will explode soon if they don’t return to the book.
If the reader quickly returns to the book and completes the remaining section within the Real Time rule parameters (in this example, one hour), then the bomb in the story will not explode. If the reader doesn’t return to reading and finish the passage within that time, the bomb in the story will detonate. Different outcome, new plot twist.
In addition to notifications that act much like text messages, you can provide dynamic, alternate content in the form of a pop-over window that loads rich Web media from a specified URL. This can appear with a text-based notification or on its own. However, unlike a text-based notification, a rich media pop-over can be displayed only if the reading device is opened to the TREEbook™ triggering the rule. If you used the bomb narrative example above, you may choose to display a pop-over of a ticking time bomb 45 minutes after the user has read that passage if the user hasn’t finished reading this bomb story sequence yet.
We hope these rules and examples help explain time-sensitive rules and inspire you to think outside the box with your stories.
Do you have questions not answered here? Let us know in the comments. We’re eager to remove the limitations of traditional book formats and explore a new world of storytelling with you.
I can be reached at brian (at) medallionpress.com. Shoot me a message and follow me on Twitter: @TripleThreatMob.