As writers we reach a point in conventional storytelling where a number of potential endings could occur and, as a writer, we perhaps know which direction feels the most natural for the character to take. What I guess I’m saying is that there are a number of possible creative routes but we might lean towards one or two that we prefer. The choice we make, as writers, for the conclusion may even reflect our own moods, life experiences or the second-guessing of what we think our readers might want. We react, we make that important decision, depending on how strong we’re feeling at that particular day, hour or minute.
The difference in ’99 Reasons Why’ is that I’ve written out each of those potential conclusions; yes I have my own personal preference, but I’ve allowed myself to create ten other endings too. So, each reader will have the same core story, a traditional narrative, until they reach Reason 88, then the decision on which ending to pick will be made by the reader. This isn’t a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' style book, as some have suggested. This is about the reader taking responsibility for the ending they choose.
There are two versions of the book - an eBook version (a 'Vanilla' version, if you will) and the iBooks version. The simpler eBook edition, which will be available at all major eBook retailers, such as Amazon, relies on user-generated answers to three questions at Reason 88. These questions are entirely arbitrary and lead the reader to one of nine possible endings. The iBooks edition again takes the reader to Reason 88, but at this point there is the spinning of a wheel and that results in one of nine endings. The endings pull on different aspects of storytelling – a Scooby Doo ending, an Agatha Christie ending, a Brief Encounter ending (but without the train station). There’s a tenth ending that is being circulated around the Internet, via social media for the online launch of ’99 Reasons Why’ and an eleventh ending that only one reader will ever see. This ending will be handwritten and auctioned to raise money for charity.
I’ve seen much online criticism and opinion about my decision to write a reader-centric novel, saying that I’m lazy, that the responsibility for the ending should be mine and even that I don’t deserve to be taken seriously as a writer because I don’t offer only one ending. Yet my decision to write the novel stemmed from a passion for storytelling, experimental form and the exciting new technologies available to us as writers. Digital stories offer a new experience for the reader and as a naturally experimental writer I wanted to play with boundaries. I approached this project with the viewpoint of utilising the technology to show an alternative path to storytelling.
The eleven endings for ‘99 Reasons Why’ weren’t simply written quickly at the end, they were mapped out over a six month period as the story began to develop and are all intrinsically linked to the entire narrative. Just like when any writer creates any ending, there are clues layered throughout the story, it’s all about cohesion and trying to convince the reader that each of the endings could happen. The difference is that I had to do that eleven different times. This novel took so much longer than any of my others to write because of the endings, because I didn’t want it to be seen as a gimmick.
Like anything any author writes, I know that not everyone will like the interactive element or indeed the story that I have created, but that is the fantastic thing about the rich diversity that literature offers us. There is something for every reader because, thankfully, we’re not all creating the same stories. And I’m not at all saying that every novel should have multiple endings, my next novel has one. '99 Reasons Why’, quite simply, is an experimental novel where readers who choose to interact with the book are invited to participate in selecting their ending. Let’s not forget that the reader is still only getting one ending to the story, it just happens to be the ending that they choose and not one that I have chosen for them.
Be sure to check the blog on Monday, when I'll be posting the final possible ending of Caroline's novel.