Noveau Story Formats

Sep 26 2021

The good old “book” usually refers to a novella/novel. A “book” typically only contains text, and the traditional publishing industry developed strict standards to optimize physical printing logistics. But when it comes to digital media, your presentation and storytelling options expand greatly. Here’s a list on the frontiers of storytelling.

Web #

The web isn’t really a novel format, it’s a place to transfer data and communicate. This means that the web can distribute any kind of media, such as open-education textbooks.

A long-standing work that’s posted online is typically called a webnovel or web serial. Blogs, platforms, and dedicated communities exist for serialized works.

Pro and Con: Practically unlimited word count. Without much editing, web stories are rough compared to those that pass the traditional publishing gauntlet. However, it also means that prolific authors thrive. The rambly and the wordy can churn out content, and voracious readers await.

Platform ListDescription
Writing hubsSites to post, read and share fiction
Serial platformsAnother list of sites
Top Web FictionWeb fiction voting site
CommunityDescription
r/redditserialsWeb serials posted on reddit
r/HFYDedicated to stories about humans doing good (hopepunk)
webnovel.comBiggest Chinese webnovel site
Wuxia WorldAsian fantasy

Databases #

Illustrated Novels #

Contains images interspersed with the writing. More prose-oriented than comics and graphic novels, although the images and words should serve each other.

Pros: Easier to convey humor with pictures rather than prose.
Cons: Publishing through a middleman will be more expensive. Trad pubs will say, “What a hassle!” and ebook distributors will want to charge you for larger file sizes.

  • Hyperbole and a Half | Allie Brosh talks about depression with ridiculously funny pictures to go with it.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid | A popular middle grade book. Illustrated novels work in the print publishing world, too.

Light Novels #

Borrowed from Japanese conventions, a light novel is similar to a novella in length. They often come with a few illustrations, so I’ve put it under “Illustrated Novels” but sometimes the term is used to mean novella, which may not have pictures at all.

  • Baka-Tsuki | A collection of fan-translated Japanese light novels.

Fake Non-fiction #

Fiction that is written as if it’s real. Perhaps epistolary, memoir, or in the style of academic research and news articles. Sometimes with footnotes.

  • SCP Foundation | Only those who are authorized can examine the case files.
  • r/NoSleep | Horrible things can happen to anyone. Get first-hand accounts from their perspective.
  • Neurocracy | A story/game that resembles Wikipedia

Reference #

Campaigns #

This is a unique form of fake non-fiction which involves telling the story over a course of time, as if reporting live and at present, typically on social media platforms. These “campaigns” are time-sensitive, playing on the way we digest news. It can also be considered a web serial and participatory fiction.

Unfortunately I don’t have a specific example for this category besides D&D. I’ve heard of them, but due to their nature they are hard to identify. I need to find examples. Keywords: twitterature

Participatory Fiction #

Fiction that’s a two-way conversation, where the reader is involved as more than a reader–as someone who drives the story. Often written in 2nd person perspective and has game elements.

Audience Input #

Beyond just accepting feedback, the author will incorporate reader suggestions into the plot. For example, the audience could stand in as a protagonist’s conscience.

  • Forge of Destiny | Ysrillar starts her journey to become an immortal. A xianxia that started as a forum thread.
  • Prequel | Set in the Elder Scrolls universe, a lowlife bumbles her way through Cyrodiil. Involves mini-games. I love this series because of moments like this (best viewed on a computer) which you cannot do with print.
  • Homestuck | Technically a webcomic about the apocalypse, it’s written in second person and presented like a video game.

CYOA #

Choose Your Own Adventure, or CYOA, is a colloquial name for multi-plot stories. Unlike a traditional, linear plot, CYOA needs extra writing and planning to keep track of outcomes. They are often made into video games when they involve decision trees and state management.

Reference #

Visual Novels #

A story-based video game. You not only need script writing chops, but programming and some visual direction too.

  • Doki Doki Lit Club | Starts off pleasant, but don’t get it wrong, it’s about existential conflict.
  • Shut Your Teeth | A young man named Alexey comes to spend the winter in Thailand. His financial troubles become the least of his worries.

AI-assisted storytelling #

This is future stuff. Just as computer-aided design (CAD) has become essential to engineering, architecture, and manufacturing, I believe AI-assisted storytelling will be possible, but with a different acronym. AAS doesn’t sound so good. Or maybe it’s time for AaaS (AI as a Service).

  • Ghosts | “I didn’t know how to write about my sister’s death—so I had AI do it for me.”
  • King James Programming | Bible-esque quotes generated by a Markov chain.

Data Formats #

Ebook #

Technically .epub format is a bunch of HTML and CSS files zipped up. If you know web development you can format your own ebooks.

Corey Doctorow, a sci-fi author, has written about ebooks back in 2004. I agree with his ideas and conclusions.

It’s why nobody likes to handwrite on paper anymore. If you want maximum audience reach, digital is the way to go.

Audiobook #

A great way to add a life to the story, but obviously pricier. An audiobook of a CYOA is probably only going to feature the canonical ending, unless you’re willing to record every voiceline and turn it into a videogame.

Keywords: Podcast, radio, scriptwriting

Braille #

Mentioning braille books. Niche and specific. Imagine a massage machine or a glove that could beat braille into your fingers, like how hearing people listen to audiobooks.


Add to the list #

Do you have examples that would fall under the above categories, or new suggestions for categories? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for hybrid stories formatted differently from plain prose.