Eureka! We’ve cracked the code as to how weave a story into the fabric of a place!

If you’re an author wishing to write for us, a museum professional wishing to consult with us, an educator or parent wishing to time travel with us, or if you’re just plain interested, please read on…

First, the definition: "Story App Tour" is the name we’ve given to a story woven into a place with games and related information added and delivered on a mobile device, resulting in an interactive story-driven treasure hunt to a historic location, such as a city, museum, or nature trail.

Now, the backdrop: This year, my team and I are joined by award-winning children’s author, Mary Hoffman, to help us officially launch Time Traveler Tours & Tales into the world with a new Story App Tour, In the Footsteps of Giants, Michelangelo's David Revealed.

But right away we hit a snag. You see, the concept of the Story App Tour unfolded organically with my voyage to the French Revolution, Beware Madame la Guillotine (BMLG), narrated by the murderess, Charlotte Corday. So to me, weaving a story together with a place seemed like the most natural way to write. It turns out it isn’t.

As a result, it’s been a struggle for me to explain what I did to achieve that first Story App Tour. So Mary agreed to let us observed the process of creating In the Footsteps of Giants from start to finish, for the benefit of future TTT&T authors. And here’s the upshot: her process has almost exactly followed mine!

Ready to find out how we #TurnHistoryOn?

How to Create a Story App Tour:
Your Five Steps to Success

Step #1
Write the Daft Draft: Focus on History, Place & Time

It starts, as with most creative endeavors, by writing what Anne Lamont would term, “the shitty first draft” or, as in my case, the “incredibly boring history.” I still feel embarrassed when I think about those deadly early drafts of BMLG, (and so very grateful that my earliest readers and beta-testers are still talking to me!). But I had to know the history like the back of my hand, and get it down on paper before Step #2 could happen.

Step #2
Let Your Narrator Find You: Focus on Character

Through the process of coughing up the bones for our respective histories, both Mary and I allowed the appropriate narrators for our stories to reveal themselves to us, as well as the device that makes their ability to speak from the past authentic.

Mary began with the intention of using the same character—Gabriele—that narrated her adult fiction book, David. As she got deeper into this new tale, however, she found that Gabriele was not the right man for the job.

Now Mary’s narrator is the master Michelangelo himself. He speaks to us from hiding. He’s fallen on the wrong side of the fractious Florentine political divide and he fears for his life. As he hides, he draws. As he draws, he remembers, and spins a fascinating yarn made of memories that provides dramatic tension and makes his predicament feel real.

Step #3
Follow the Tale to the Trail: Focus on Plot

The stories of both artist and assassin led Mary and me quite naturally to our story tour locations. As Michelangelo reflects on his life, he leads you to where lived with his patron, Lorenzo the Magnificent; he directs you to view his earliest works at the Casa Buonarroti; he shows you where he sculpted his David; and he asks you to join his fellow Florentines for its unveiling. Similarly, Charlotte encourages you to find the place where she bought her weapon. Then she asks you to follow along as she tracks, stalks, and kills the man she thought was to blame for the Reign of Terror.

Step #4
Allow the Tour Locations to Define the Story Arc:
Focus on Dramatic Tension

This is when the narrator takes over, if you let her or him. Michelangelo’s 1st person recounting of his life and time has transformed Mary’s original draft, just as Charlotte's did with mine, into a compelling tour back through time with a cantankerous genius living in a period of paradigmatic change and wondering if he’ll come out of it alive.

Step #5
Let Your Narrator Speak:
Focus on Voice

Now it’s time to put both tale and trail together to write the compelling, exciting, interesting, interactive story-driven treasure hunt and tour that you and your narrator/tour guide were destined to create, weaving his or her story into the place in which it happened, following the route defined by history itself.

In sum: When writing a Story App Tour, let the historical research lead you to the character, whose story provides the locations, which define the story arc. Because while the Story App Tour must work as a narrative, it must also make logistical sense. Then, what do you do then to create the book editions? Nothing. The story is done. It works for both app and book.

Eureka! That is how to #TurnHistoryOn!

Want to learn more from the front lines?
Contact me here about becoming a TTT&T beta-reader.
We'd love to have you join the team!

Special thanks to  Julie Hedlund  for creating this groovy graphic, and then letting us use it.

Special thanks to Julie Hedlund for creating this groovy graphic, and then letting us use it.