Follow James Stark's blog to find out the latest about the multimedia experience that is The Frequency Effect and about a new wave of multimedia novels.

What’s different about the 2018 versions? 

When I created the first version in 2018, I genuinely wasn’t sure how it would be received. I knew that it was new but I also knew that I was going solo with no publisher behind me, and introducing a new format. 

It was hugely rewarding to see that the reviews picked up on the potential of the concept. Monocle is an amazing publication, and I was hugely honoured to be on the radio talking about it. The same can be said for London Live. In fact, we had had three meetings and been allocated a reporter for ITV News at Ten to cover the premiere, but sadly it didn’t happen due to the Brexit vote the week before. It was just as well in hindsight. I didn't have the funds or time required to deliver it to the highest level at the time.

This has always been a project that relied on people seeing, reading and liking it. Those in the close circle loved the idea, but those further needed the concept to be delivered perfectly. With that in mind, after launch, there was no promotion. The reviews highlighted that their was enough interest though. It was purely the delivery wasn't quite right. The editorial quality was not anywhere near as good as was required. 

The new versions take into account all the feedback. I have had enough time to research all the themes further, to add new chapters and plot twists and also to painstakingly edit the story again and again and again. It is now much more engaging and compelling and something that I am genuinely proud of. I would like to thank so many people who read it and provided edits and story suggestions. 

A feat regularly missed at launch was that this was always meant to be about the story first and foremost. The themes are so prevalent in our society. I therefore thought it essential to write a standalone version for the reviewers that simply didn't believe interactive novels would ever take off. At same time, those that loved the concept wanted it to go further. They wanted it to go much further, so I turned the experience into a much more exciting one with a new cover design, slicker online experience and integrated multimedia illustrations.

This is the far as I can take it. It would require a movie publisher to invest in the development of the trilogy. If that happens, then there is immersive gatherings, spin off projects and so much more in store. In the meantime, I really hope that you enjoy it. 

Welcome to The Resistance. 

What is the science behind The Frequency Effect?

The Frequency Effect is a science fiction novel that draws from proven science to provide a pseudo-real storyline. Every area of the storyline was researched to make it as entertaining and realistic as possible from the very beginning.

The main crux of the story, the thought that technology devices resonate at the frequency of the human brain, isn't a surprising as you might think. It all stems from the concept of entrainment that was devised by electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla - the inspiration for the car brand Tesla. He was fascinated by the way in which all objects resonate at a particular frequency. He showed that by aligning the frequency of one with another, it was possible to match its frequency. He went further to show that he could take down buildings by putting an oscillator next to them and matching their frequency. 

It was then interesting to consider how the entrainment of the mind can happen. The first point to consider is that, just like every other object, the brain resonates at a particular frequency. In fact, the brain resonates at different frequencies dependent on mood. This article outlines them clearly - Beta, Theta, Alpha, Delta. It wasn't too much of a stretch to think that devices might be able to change the frequency and therefore 'dumb' the senses. 

The story highlights how Ben manages to control The Frequency Effect and, in fact, harness lucid dreams to gain a better view of reality. You might be surprised but there are many machines designed for this process. It sounds like science fiction but they are actually real and there are many reviews to prove it. I haven't tried them myself though, so I am as skeptical as you may be. Have a read here if you would like to learn more

A final point, is that music forms a key part of the story, particularly when pushing Ben over the edge. This is also an area that is supported by significant scientific research. Monroe in fact took Tesla's theories of entrainment and adapted them to the brain. You can see in this scientific study that entrainment using music has been used in the treatment of many disorders. There are many words of warning in doing so, so please remember the story is a work of fiction. Don't actively try it at home. 

I hope that provides a view for the background to the story. It was always meant as a work of fiction, so please don't believe it to be real. 




Isn't Screenslaver in The Incredibles 2 a bit like The Frequency Effect?

Funny you should say that! I suppose it is in many ways, but at the same time, it's not as if the story is too difficult to come up with. In The Incredibles 2, Screenslaver hypnotises the audience through their TV screens. That is exactly the main storyline for The Frequency Effect.

If you liked that story arc, then you'll love The Frequency Effect as it takes it to a whole new level. The whole process is scientifically researched and brought to life in a multimedia way. You will become hypnotised through the multimedia experiences along the way as you go beyond the screen. 

The storyline was never meant to be unique. Instead, it was meant to simply be a dramatisation of reality, so it is no surprise that since it's first inception thousands of articles have been written on the themes it covers. Screen addiction is now one of the biggest challenges we face as a society. 


Why did you choose to cover the themes?

I have grown up in a time where technology has changed everything about our lives. It is difficult to consider any area of life that hasn't changed. But with that comes many considerations. We have gone beyond a point where technology simply improves our lives. It now caters for needs that we never knew we had and takes advantage of inherent flaws in our evolution.

Screen addiction is a logical consequence of our addiction to technology. Whereas once, we thought that being social required going out and meeting people, today social media means those deemed most popular can do so without ever leaving their houses or in fact meeting any of their followers. Screen addiction takes advantage of our subconscious desires, with companies pioneering 'Persuasive Design' as they fight to hook you in. An excellent article is provided by the BBC here.

Of course, there are many reasons that devices are essential for daily life. They have brought with them solutions that have pushed the world forward. The interesting thing is that we simply can't detach to the good from the bad. When I started the development of The Frequency Effect nearly seven years ago, there were early rumblings about the consequences of screen addiction. Throughout the development of the story, we then researched them further and brought together all the research on the topic. It is not a surprise that since launch the number of stories has rocketed and it is difficult to see it changing in the anytime soon.

The premise of the story then lends itself perfectly to the other main theme of the story. Mental illness has been a taboo in society for so long. Yet. often the mentally ill come up with revelations ahead of time. It felt a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of their struggles. Nikola Tesla is known for pioneering so much, but at the same time, had a breakdown and problems with mental illness.  

So many people know people who have suffered from mental illness, yet they are less likely to know about what happens to them, the services allocated for them or the effects of the drugs that they are given. The Frequency Effect dramatises this lack of knowledge by providing an alternate reality.





7 Steps for Writing A Multimedia Novel

The Frequency Effect was a major challenge to create. It took a huge amount of effort. As it broke ground in creating a new category within the multimedia genre, there are definitely quite a few thoughts and pieces of advice that I would pass on to any budding storytellers out there. 

1. Research exactly how to do it.

It goes without saying that the narrative should be the first thing to consider. The story may or may not lend itself to creativity. There are only certain elements that you can play about with without confusing the audience. I didn't want to force the reader to see the main character but instead bring to life key moments through his eyes, to provide additional intensity. My view was that so many books sell out when the movie has been made, so how could you work with them together from the start.

Whatever route you choose, you should be aware that post rationalising is pretty difficult. You can't simply add more bits here and there at the end. The effort and resource required means that you have one shot as you go through. 

2. Layout the elements and storyboard it.

It is always great to have an idea for the full storyline before you begin. You can then plot our how it will work from a multimedia perspective. In the case of The Frequency Effect, we used all the digital tools and research to identify where the future was headed. We read up on all the themes and considered each of the elements in context. 

I knew early on how I wanted to turn the elements into a multimedia experience. Every element was therefore carefully planned with a skilled team. No element was wasted and there is certainly more than enough to get excited about. It would have been lovely to do more, but I'll save that for the next one. 

3. An amazing project needs an amazing team

It goes without saying that creating a fully immersive project on your own is difficult. It is impossible if you don't have amazing people to work with on it. I was luckily enough to work with a team of truly talented creatives to pull together elements that were all of consistently high quality. Explaining the vision and story before it was created wasn't easy. These visionaries were able to bring it to life with me. 

4. Don't forget the quality of the writing. 

I knew before I began that The Frequency Effect would be a risk for publishers to take on - with or without the creative elements. I was unheard of. I had no background in writing. I had no contacts in the publishing trade. 

Of course, this made it an uphill battle to deliver a polished novel first up. I had no budget to find the best editorial team. Instead, I focused initially on the creative elements. I had only one shot at them. Then quietly, after launch, when I had received sufficient interest, I decided to painstakingly go through over and over to redevelop the novel. Having overall creative control, and time, was essential to this process, but I also had to quite literally beg for people to read and feed back honestly on each iteration. 

I would like to thank the professional reviewers who read the first iteration. Their feedback was crucial in the development of the next version.

5. Make sure that you have a way to promote and reach people

We live in a world where ideas are two a penny. There are literally millions of great websites that no one knows about. Finding a way to reach people is therefore an essential part of the creation process. 

In the case of The Frequency Effect, I thought about this from the beginning. I didn't have major budgets to promote it. The story is an immersive one that people find through time. They become part of the experience. There is no doubt that most successful ideas are the result of major marketing campaigns, so there is no shame in not succeeding without them. Just be prepared.

6. Be conscious of budgets at all times. 

It difficult to produce anything these days in the media industry without multi million pound budgets. If you are going to try, you will have to be aware that it comes with major risks and that you are unlikely to ever see a return.

Many 'new' ideas never take off - hundreds of thousands in fact. Most successful household startups were not the first to market, but you can probably never mention who was. Be prepared to lose everything but be happy that you have achieved something truly different and that, at any point, someone might discover it. 

7. Make sure it has longevity. 

The likelihood is that you will be creating a project on a shoestring budget and desperately trying to defeat the odds. You will therefore need to rely on the chance that someone discovers it in the future. You never know what might happen. You therefore need to consider your story. If you are capturing the mood of 'now', it might be great for a year or two, but if the world moves on, it is likely to be lost. How many book for the 1940s do you read? You've definitely heard of 1984 though. That will be read for years to come. 




Will multimediA novels ever take off?

When I began to create The Frequency Effect, I was presented with a mountain to climb. Irrespective of how difficult it would be to create a multimedia experience - or go beyond it with VR, a soundtrack, music videos and an immersive premiere - I was doing something different. 

Different doesn't always mean people are going to jump on board, something I was very aware of. In fact, I knew that partly the reason multimedia novels had never taken off is because there isn't the expertise or marketing machine available to deliver them. The literary agents, and publishers aren't movie houses or record labels and vice versa. 

Of course, this meant it was very difficult to get any of them to buy into the concept. It's hard enough for an agent to launch a book by an established author or a record label to launch a follow up by a world renowned artist. As for movies, many blockbusters are shelved from the promo circuit if their early screenings go badly. What hope had I got?

There was no precedent, no examples of success. I was taking a massive risk - and I knew it. Many journalists thought it sounded interesting but didn't get it - as it was so different. Luckily though, I took excitement in those who got it straight away. The ones that did wanted it to go further, but unfortunately I didn't have the budget and awareness to make that happen.

But there was always one question that made me think and it was a very important point raised by the agents who has dealt with multimedia novels previously and many of the early reviewers. They loved novels with a passion. For them, the concept shouldn't be tampered or tainted. I understand their view. Reading for them is their safe haven. It is their escapism. It is their route away from digital. 

Of course, I listened and ensured that I catered for them with a follow up. But, I don't believe that they speak for everyone. In fact, there are millions of people who never read. Literacy rates are still at very low levels, but these individuals are definitely not socially unaware - quite the opposite.

Their world is not the same as a critics. Their imaginations are created by the things they see on social media - which presents a different question. Maybe they could be drawn to reading from a different perspective by speaking to them through multimedia methods - especially as the book's themes covered their love of technology.


What's the difference between a graphic and multimedia novel?

Good question. So many people don't know about either. I'll try my best to describe the difference. Graphic novels are loosely termed (by all accounts) and include comic related elements or illustrations that are central to the narrative of the story. The way in which they are used and created varies widely but the images help aid the imagination and guide the story. 

Multimedia novels come in all shapes and sizes and are a much broader category as, effectively, they just need to be told using a number of media types. Because images are just one media type, any multimedia novels with just images would - I guess - be categorised as graphic novels. Usually multimedia novels just bring to life one element of the story through sound, imagery or both.

In the case of The Frequency Effect, it is the first story in the world to combine the experience at the cinema with a soundtrack, images, narration and so on. That is why is fits into a new 'Immersive Cinematic' category. At the same time, to provide an added twist, the story happens in real-life. It is an immersive story that can grow and give fans the opportunity to participate. 



What is an immersive cinematic novel?

This is the killer question surely? What is an immersive cinematic novel? Multimedia novels have been around for years, right? Isn't it just the same? 

Well, at first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking that. Since the dawn of digital, many people have been playing around with various multimedia novels - and many are very good - but they are not quite like The Frequency Effect. Why? 

Here's why. The Frequency Effect is the first novel ever to bring together everything that a cinema experience has to offer - movie soundtrack, characters, scenes and blend it seamlessly with a literary experience. Going even further, it is the first novel ever to give people the opportunity to become part of the story - before launch - at an immersive premiere

But it wasn't all about creating the elements for the sake of it. The storyline was essential to making the immersive cinematic experience work. It was crucial. The whole story charts a journey to digital convergence and portrays a society where multimedia experiences are simply par for the course. There should be nothing groundbreaking about the story's themes. Instead, they are simply a logical path that we, as a society are following. 

To that point, the immersive cinematic experience aims to be the forerunner in a whole catalogue of similar novels in the future. There is clearly debate about which way these novels will go. Whatever form they take, storytellers love the opportunity to be creative. Immersive cinematic novels allow for limitless creativity. 

The other point about this story which goes beyond simply the format, is that it provides the opportunity to bring the audience into the story and create a subculture with which the story can then grow. If enough people love it, the sequel will be a reflection of their behaviours and actions. Immersive experiences would then create a completely new way for the story to be discovered. 

So, you have a choice to make. Join The Resistance and became part of it, or simply become a passenger to its progress.