herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Do they all live happily ever after? Well, that's up to you...

A NEW digital novel will overturn centuries of literary tradition by allowing readers to choose how they would like a story to end.

99 Reasons Why, a 99-chapter family drama about obsession, offers a choice of 11 possible endings.

The conclusion depends on the reader's tastes and mood and on their answers to multiple-choice questions on colours, numbers and objects.

The idea came to author Caroline Smailes on hearing that some readers wished the dark stories in her two earlier books had had less gloomy dénouements.

For her latest work she decided to make every reader go away contented, with endings ranging from a "happily ever after" to a grisly Quentin Tarantino outcome.

Star Wars and Brief Encounters versions are among others.

"Different readers will have different reactions, interpretations and feelings about the story, depending on which ending they choose. This is the reader taking responsibility for the ending," she said. Her publisher, Scott Pack, said recent advances in ebook software had made such interaction possible.

"I'm not aware of anyone having done this digitally yet," he said. "There is more freedom now. So we wanted to exploit that."

99 Reasons Why tells the story of a housebound woman who spies through her bedroom window on the world outside while her family pursues lives of crime. Smailes said: "The book was never intended to be in a print version, which which altered how I approached writing it."

Readers with a Kindle or other device answer simple questions according to their interpretations of the characters.

The combination of answers determines the ending.

Readers can reread it for a different ending or even read all the endings by answering questions differently.

Pack said the technology was more than just a gimmick. "The whole book is structured, leading to these alternative endings."

The only snag is for people who like to read the ending of a novel first.

hnews@herald.ie

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