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The Story Tree

An ebook linked to a website of fanatical amateur writers
  [vote for,

His guests have all left; the decorations have come down; Thag is finally settling down for a winters' evening in front of the fire with a glass of wine and a good book, when he realizes an awful truth: He has no good book. True, there's that local history book about the industrial paint mines of Bolton which Aunty Felton had given him... But then his eye falls on a slim volume on the coffee table. Ah; he'd noticed it earlier - one of his many guests had left it behind when they left. Leather-bound, with no title on it, and when Thag opens it he finds but a few sheets of electronic paper inside. It takes a bit of time before he works out how to turn it on, and by the time he does, Thag has noticed that the whole thing is constructed so that as he turns a page (forward or backward), another one slides across underneath, so he can effectively keep flicking through an infinte number of pages.

Thag assumes that it's your basic ebook, with the text stored on it somewhere, and the abilty to download new books and store them onboard. Actually, it's rather more than that.

When he turned the Book on, it logged on to the internet (never mind how, just accept the magic, okay), where thousands of amateur writers contribute a page at a time to several ongoing story projects. These... let's call them halfwriters - can choose any point in the story, and just start writing from there. Each story divides and subdivides, becoming story-trees. Okay? Now, back to Thag.

Thag has started up where his erstwhile guest left off, but within a few pages he's frowning mightily. "What a load of dross." he mutters. Eventually, frustrated, he flicks back a couple of pages. But now the book does something weird. The word "updating..." appears on its page, and when it clears, Thag recognizes the text on the left hand page - but not the text on the right. By flicking back a bit, he's sent the story down another branch, and soon he's feeling a lot happier. This one is much better written, but he can't help feeling there's still something mising. Maybe he should have flicked back a bit further.

While Thag reads, the book is keeping a careful record of which branches his story takes. This information is uploaded to the website, where the poor soul who wrote that particular branch gets another little positive mark next to his storyline. The longer Thag stays on it without flicking back to explore another plotline, the more plus-points our talented halfwriter gets. Badly-written branches wither, while popular storylines will attract more writers with alternative endings.

So Thag ended up with quite a good book; a struggling writer ended up with some recognition and some realtime feedback; and with a bit of luck, both can be persuaded to pay for the privilege.

moomintroll, Jan 08 2006

(?) Tag, You're It http://tagyoureit.org/
An online collaborative writing site at paragraph granularity (i.e. with a remote chance of making sense), but without the "tree" principle outlined here. [jutta, Oct 10 2007]

Amazon's Kindle http://www.amazon.c...7901&pf_rd_i=507846
[shinobi, Nov 24 2007]


       This is a shameless UB imitation. Roland? Plus I should MFD this as magic, you admitted it by yourself.   

       But, as such 'magic' is easily bakeable (I think) and the idea itself it a piece of beautiful writing and a wonderful idea, I will instead give you a warm, toasty bun to eat with your story.   

       I'm hoping that someone says this is baked.
dbmag9, Jan 08 2006

       // shameless UB imitation // This was a different Roland. He was taller. And it was anyway more like an homage. But just to keep you happy, [dbmag], Roland is now Thag. Satisfied?
moomintroll, Jan 08 2006

       I'm sorry, moomintroll. I got that comment in one of my ideas once (admittedly, it was crap) and I wanted to pass it on in vicious spite. Try and find out which idea of mine it was, if you're bored.
dbmag9, Jan 08 2006

       none of us are that bored.
po, Jan 08 2006

       Not even the DB server is that bored. Not even the UPS powering the DB server is that bored.
bristolz, Jan 08 2006

       Yet somehow you still ended up here.   

       If you really want a challenge, find out exactly how many times anyone uses the word elf in an annotation to one of UB's ideas.
dbmag9, Jan 09 2006

bristolz, Jan 09 2006

       I'm so glad that I don't know how or I would actually spend time finding out the answers to these questions. Oh, and [moom], this is one of the better ideas I have read of late and please invite Thag back soon.
wagster, Jan 10 2006

       Bless you [wags]. Always a pleasure.
moomintroll, Jan 11 2006

Trickytracks, Jan 11 2006

       Bizarrely enough, "Thag" seems quite the gentleman.
wagster, Jan 11 2006

       "Hmm", says Thag, "there appears to be 27 branches after the first page. How do I select which one will suit my taste?".   

       Later, after solving that problem, Thag finds a page which somehow links him back to a previous page in a recursive loop. In a fit of rage he carefully puts down the e-book, and snuggles down comfortably with 'The industrial paint mines of Bolton'. +
Ling, Jan 11 2006

       //How do I select which one will suit my taste?//
My thought was that you'd never know how many branches there were - the book would just present you with a story, and only by flicking pages back and forth would you change the plot onto another branch. But as far as Thag was concerned, there was only ever the one story. And anyway, a plotline might start out all apparently innocent but get dark and pervy later on.

       On a more positive note, if you weighted the ebook's choices then older stories would eventually find their most popular route and keep to it, while newer stuff would be more experimental.   

       //recursive loop// heeheehee
moomintroll, Jan 11 2006

       thanks for the link [jutta] - shame that 'Tag' doesn't have a silent h in it...
moomintroll, Nov 23 2007

       Incredible. I thought of a concept almost identical to this idea about 8 years ago (only the harware). Was just a young chap and had no idea how to develop it. And then, it seems Amazon have come up with a rather similar device, which I'm certain is going to make a big impact on the book world (linked). I'm still gonna give you a [+]
shinobi, Nov 24 2007

       Isn't this just an electronic continualy updating version of those old books were you choose the story line? i.e. "If you want Bill to ask Nancy out, turn to page 378, if you think he shold just get another beer, go to the next page."
MisterQED, Nov 24 2007


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