Not sure how to end your novel? Part 2: Coliloquy has a solution

Yesterday I mentioned Ernest Hemingways’ 47 attempts to finish A Farewell to Arms. If you’re having the same problem, you could turn to a relatively new website called Coliloquy for inspiration. It’s an eBook publisher with a twist. It refers to its publications as “active fiction specializing in reader engagement and serial storytelling.” Essentially, you get to choose the ending that you’d prefer for the book you’re reading. I can’t hope to paraphrase this correctly, so here’s what the founders of Coliloquy say about it:

Coliloquy was founded on the belief that digital fiction can push the boundaries of how we think about narrative and storytelling.We publish all of our books as active Kindle Fire (and now Nook and Android as well) applications, rather than static files, allowing our authors to build ever-expanding worlds through episodic, serial storytelling and engagement mechanics, like choice and voting, branching story lines, re-reading loops, and personalized content. The result is an incredibly fluid and immersive story-telling experience…

At the moment they have eight titles, mainly, it seems to me, aimed at YA audiences (apart, I assume from the erotic novel…). They require their authors to be published already, then they help and guide them in producing this different style of fiction.

Tawna Fenske

I bought one of the books (which you buy as a Kindle Android app, not a Kindle book, which is not interactive) and enjoyed it. But I found a bit of a problem with Coliloquy’s take on their books. They aren’t selling a series of books, where the main character has various stand-alone adventures. What they sell is a serial – a different kettle of fish altogether. I purchased Getting Dumped, having read a couple of sample pages and deciding that the style and subject matter would be fun. Author Tawna Fenske is a terrific writer and I laughed out loud at several places in the book. She has a great way with words, and this was reminiscent of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. The Evanovich books are a series, however. Getting Dumped was not. After paying $4.99 for the book, I read it in a couple of hours and the realized that I was only halfway through it. In order to find out what happened I had to pay another $4.99. And although there was one place in the book where I could choose from three alternative scenarios (heroine calls one of three possible love interests) the subsequent chapters were all identical. I know, because I tried all three. Essentially, what you get is identical plot development with three different ways of delivering the same information to the reader.

If I’d bought the first volume of the book when it first came out, I would have been very irritated to find that I hadn’t purchased a whole book. And I’d have had to wait several months for the second half.

When I asked founder and CEO Lisa Rutherford about this, here’s what she said:

You are correct that the choice in GETTING DUMPED PART 1 takes the reader to one of three different scenes, before reconciling the story. It’s actually one of the simplest uses of our technology (compared to some of our other authors), but arguably the most powerful, both in terms of reader behavior and how Tawna uses the data. (She uses it to help plot the next half of the book GC)

With regard to series/serial, we had early feedback that it was more confusing to refer to some titles as series and others as serials, particularly since the two words are often interchanged in common American usage. 

I guess that’s fair enough. Point is, this is an interesting new way to use technology to craft eBooks. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on. Maybe they’ll start a subscription service. How about unlimited installments for a fixed annual fee? I could see myself going for that.

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