This Novel Needs An App To Help Readers Understand It — And It May Have Just Revealed The Formula For Writing The Perfect Story

Get ready to redefine the way you read, because author Iain Pears has just written a book so complicated that it needs an app to guide you through it. Pears has previously written 11 novels, and felt like he had finally “reached the limit of storytelling in book form.” Which is a pretty massive claim, because novels have told some incredible stories so far. Pears’ new novel, Arcadia, is just so complex that he “needed some new tools” to help him write it.

Arcadia has 10 separate narrative strands, which intertwine and overlap with each other so extensively that Pears worried readers wouldn’t be able to keep track. By using an app to tell the story, readers are able to glide effortlessly between storylines to follow the plot at their own pace, and in their own way. This isn’t a gimmick; Pears says he had no intention of making readers “go wow.” This mind-map structure is actually necessary to unlock a whole new level of reading. Not only does it allow the novel to combine multiple genres, it also combines multiple perspectives. Depending on which route the reader takes through the book, and how much of each person’s point of view they read, they will have a different understanding of each character — which, if you think about it, is actually a lot like real life.

Katie Hall on YouTube

While a printed version of Iain Pears’ Arcadia will be released next month, it will only contain 180,000 of the app’s 250,000 words — and Pears stresses that readers really do need the app to help them understand; it's not just a digital companion, but a whole new art form. Pears compares our current e-books to the early days of cinema: filmmakers started by using cameras essentially just to film plays, but now we know that film is a totally different medium to theater. Pears is convinced something just as new and different in the world of literature is on its way.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, in the process of writing his novel as an app, Pears discovered something pretty revolutionary about writing fiction as well. Instead of scribbling with pen and paper, or even tapping away into a Google Doc like the rest of us, Pears’ writing process was pretty high-tech, and required the help of several coders. Once he was up and running, by looking at his narrative strands visually on his writing program, he could “on every occasion” improve his writing by deleting or expanding strands to make a more aesthetically pleasing shape. Take a second to think about how amazing that is. There is actually a formula behind creating the perfect story, and we are this close to figuring it out. The bad news is we all have to learn how to code in order to get there.

The app is out now, and the printed book, published by Faber & Faber, will be out on Sep 3.

Image: Katie Hall/YouTube