How to Write a Holonovel

M.G. McIntosh




  • Voice in the Wind Magazine Inc.


Ever wonder what a holonovel would look like to the writer? Ever tried to figure it out. I was curious too, and my first thought was “what is the closest thing to a holonovel in today’s world?”. The answer: a video game. The only thing that’s truly different about a video game, especially with VR available, is that we can’t make the ‘virtual world’ into matter. It’s not tangible. We cannot touch any of the objects or pick them up – they don’t exist. But what if there was another way?


Before I answer the last question, let me expand on the first question: How would a writer lay out all the elements of an immersive world? Logistically, it would be a nightmare. Or very close to it, right? Then I had a brain storm. I’ve always wanted to write the story for a video game but I never knew where to start. These complex stories always seemed to be an organizational nightmare. Let’s imagine the character – we’ll call her Paige – is navigating this fictional world. In front of her is a desk with a memo on it. She picks it up to read it. As a writer, I have decisions to make. Does the reader need to read every document in the fictional world? Probably not. Do they even want to read them all? Again, the answer is no. The average reader will probably not be that immersed in the story. But then, there is the ‘cult fan’. The one who will read everything. And still want more. And more. And more. These kinds of fans genuinely love the fictional world and often are very invested in it. Often, it is an escape from their own lives into a world where they can be all the things they aren’t in real life. 

So what’s the best way to create the writing? Or perhaps the real question is: How can I make everyone happy? That seems a little pie-in-the-sky, I know. But the answer came surprisingly easy: In college I majored in Accounting and we had a case study set we had to take home as a project. The set contained the main book (General Ledger and all other major Ledgers) and many booklets (cheque books, invoices, receipts, etc). That seems like a pretty boring book – and it was. In a more creative setting the case study set would look a little different. Let’s use our friend Paige as an example. She lives in a city. Otter Lake. She will visit two locations: her office (where she found the memo) and her home. The case study set would contain the main book or novel, from which you read the story. In this book the memo is simply mentioned by title: Paige’s To Do List. The case study set would also contain booklets (Office Files, Diary and Otter Lake Information). The Office Files booklet would contain Paige’s To Do List in full for the reader’s reference. There would also be several other documents, photos and memos – all of which are the equivalent of ‘real world’ items or things that a person could hold in their hand. This will be important later – as you will see. As Paige navigates the town of Otter Lake, her office and her home the collection of documents would grow, of course. For the purposes of the reader they would appear in the booklets listed above. This format serves a couple of purposes. The first is to allow a casual reader to ignore all the extra reading without the annoyance of flipping past pages. The second reason is to allow for an expanded format – by which I mean the interactive novel.


The interactive novel is the precursor to the holonovel. Five hundred years less advanced, it offers all the extra reading (booklet contents) as separate documents. This is called a ‘document set’ and it allows for the interactive novel to be used in cosplay. Yes, that’s right – cosplay. (You may remember that earlier I equated the documents with real world items that you could hold in your hand. This is why.) Costume play, or cosplay as it’s colloquially known, is when you dress in costume and role play. To add some depth to the experience, one can place the individual documents wherever they want and pretend to find them, just like Paige does in my illustration. In this way, a person can become Paige, seeing the story through her eyes. The expanded format of the case study set (Paige’s Adventures), allows the readers to read as much or as little as they want. They can also role play as much or as little as they want too. The novel can be sold as a stand alone book too. It’s versatile. The extra reading can be sold as booklets (for individuals) or as a document set (for cosplay). It’s about as close to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ format as anyone can get. In the future, the cosplay format will be adapted into what will become the holonovel. You’re welcome ‘world’. 


I hope you all enjoyed my walkthrough of the holonovel. Maybe it will inspire such books to be created in the not too distant future. Please like, share, subscribe to read my book and tell all your friends to follow me on twitter. Thanks to you all!


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