COVER STORY: Inside the Ebook Test Kitchen
Choose Your Own Beefcake
Speaking of creative empowerment, Bay Area publisher Coliloquy and its interactive ebooks are doing their part to revolutionize the writing process itself. Building on classic branching novels (aka "Choose Your Own Adventure"), Coliloquy is using ebook technology to allow readers to shape the story in other ways, as well.
"We have an erotica series called 'Great Escapes,' and the preferences that users put into the system can be used to customize the protagonists," says Google alum Waynn Lue, co-founder with Lisa Rutherford of Coliloquy. "The reader has the ability to customize hair color, eye color, amount of chest hair" and a number of other options.
Readers are presented with three levels of customization:
● No customization, in which the text is as it came out of the author's brain;
● Preset customizations, such as Latin Lover, Southern Gentleman, British Lord and the like; and
● Advanced customization, which allows the reader to choose physical attributes like age and hirsutism as well as the level of steaminess of individual scenes.
This does, of course, create challenges for editors and authors. "It's similar to problems that editors have faced for years," says Lue. "Branching narratives can change the storyline in various ways. You don't want to write end-to-end different branches or else you have this content-creating explosion."
Coliloquy helps its authors create narrative maps to "graph out where the storyline should go and help them write toward that. It's not fully fleshed out at that point," says Lue, "but it helps authors avoid writing themselves into corners they can't write themselves out of."
Coliloquy's authors have found inventive uses for the publisher's technology. "We had a feature that was almost like Mad Libs—in-line replacement text technology," says Lue. "Authors saw that and said it would be cool if we could make text appear and disappear at specific points in the book, like Harry Potter's Marauders' Map."