When is someone going to come up with Fiction Markup Language — an XML spec solely for annotating fiction? For example:
Take perhaps the greatest novel ever written: Ian Fleming’s 1953 classic “Casino Royale.” Let’s break this down from a big chunk of text to make up something more usable.
Obviously, you could mark the chapters and section numbers, but let’s go further into the actual content of the narrative. Begin by surrounding all spoken text with tags. For example:
My name is Bond, James Bond
Perhaps you can have another attribute for “target” to identify to whom he’s speaking. Then I could do an XPath query to find everything James Bond said to Vesper Lynd in the entire book.
And how about locations? Surround passages with their physical location, like the casino floor, Bond’s hotel room, etc. (where appropriate — wouldn’t work in all situations). I could then use XPath to find all the unique locations in the book (this would be great for the globe-hopping James Bond novels).
Identify “action” passages and mark them. How about the death of a character? Mark them so I can immediately find out where Le Chiffre was killed and read how it happened.
Introductions of characters are another thing. Mark the first appearance of each character so if I can’t remember who someone is, I can go back and find where they first appeared and who they are.
I’m reading Tom Clancy’s “Politika” right now, and I can hardly keep track of everyone. It’d be handy to be able to print a “report” showing who everyone is. (A good ebook client implementation of this would know what page the reader was on and not report anything past that page as to not spoil anything.)
Maybe mark the beginning and ending of pages as they appeared in the original publication. And have some way for an expert to insert commentary about the text.
There’s unexplored potential here. I can’t be the first person to think of this. (And another question: is this just an attempt to completely suck the soul right out of fiction? Should we just leave it the hell alone?)