Edits as a storytelling device

Toggling edits on and off in ebooks could reveal deeper layers and intent.

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers’ project “Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder’s Guide to Digital Books.” We’ll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It’s republished with permission.)

By now you’ve probably seen that crossed-out text style that bloggers use to indicate revisions:

Never, ever Only if you’ve tried everything else is it okay to give your crying baby a shot of vodka.

While some regard this kind of formatting as overly cutesy, it serves a genuine editorial purpose: either slyly injecting a bit of humor or, for accuracy-minded folks, publicly preserving the revision trail. In a digital book, with just a bit more special sauce added (namely, animation), a live view of such changes could serve a similar role — one that might add an entertaining bit of dynamism to the writing.

In the hands of the right author, the creative possibilities are intriguing. Early passages in a novel could be presented anew to the reader, updated in front of them to incorporate new information. Characters could shine a spotlight on previous exchanges and “edit” or comment on what they said, or what they wanted to say. It’d be like having the ability to re-do a fight with your spouse. Okay, maybe that one’s better left imagined. But that’s why we’ve got books! So we can read about crazy people and gauge how closely, or not, they resemble us.

I’ve run across one example recently where the writer — a video game reviewer — used the effect to underscore the iterative story that awaits anyone who plays “Infinity Blade”. You can watch the page in action by visiting it yourself, or get a quick taste by checking out this screencast I recorded.

Infinity Blade review example
In a bit of meta commentary, this video game review shows the iterative nature of the game “Infinity Blade” by altering the review text.

And here’s a similar example, created by “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin” author named, um, well, @MrHoatzin is the shy guy’s Twitter handle. He’s an incredibly talented cartoonist who used the effect in the “Technical Considerations” section of his website.

As always, I’m on the hunt for other examples that use this kind of not-possible-in-print maneuver in a reader-friendly way. Let me know — I’m at peter dot meyers at gmail dot com — if you’ve seen anything worth checking out.

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