Saturday, 27 March 2010

How to write an adventure gamebook - Part 2

So, here it is, at long last, the second in an ongoing series of articles regarding the writing of adventure gamebooks...

The Proposal

Having spent a long time brainstorming a gamebook, once I'm happy with the overall plot and structure, I set about writing the proposal itself.

Basically, a proposal is a sales pitch. It has to explain clearly and concisely everything about your book and is often the thing that will lead to the book being (or not being) commissioned. As a result, you don't want to miss anything out - especially not the dramatic denouement you've spent ages working out. Leaving that out is sure to see your proposal being rejected outright. But I digress...
When I write a proposal for an adventure gamebook I start with a paragraph giving an overview of the book - what it's about, what makes it different to others, the cool conceit that is going to make people want to pick up and play it, etc.
I then describe the structure of the book. My gamebooks have often had three, four, or even five act structures. For example [WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD!] Stormslayer is a classic three-act adventure. Act 1 involves actually finding out what your quest is. Act 2 has you tracking down the various artefacts you need to beat the bad guy, and Act 3 is the climatic battle aboard the villain's base of operations.
If relevant (and with Fighting Fantasy adventures, it usually is) I then go on to explain any new rules that the adventure has (such as the POISON score in Curse of the Mummy, or the CHANGE score in Howl of the Werewolf) with a brief description of how they will work within the context of the adventure itself.

Next up is new monsters. These a vital in FF adventures. This paragraph usually takes the form of a simple list. With FF adventures I will also point out monsters that I'm using from Out of the Pit that haven't seen print in any of the official books yet.

Now I finally get to the plot synopsis itself. Because of the very nature of gamebooks, as well as describing what happens if you follow the correct path through the book, I also outline what happens on side quests and wild goose chases. I break the synopsis into clearly defined areas. For example in Night of the Necromancer [WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD!] the first part of the adventure takes place out in the wilds, it then transfers to a castle and various places within the castle. Each of these major areas (or even set-piece scenes) was a new paragraph in the original plot synopsis. And of course, at the end I reveal the climactic twist or dramatic encounter that ends the adventure.

It is whilst writing the proposal that I often finalise certain areas of the adventure within my own mind but that's not to say that everything is set in stone at this point - far from it.

However, for the time being, what has to happen next is for me to forward the proposal to my editor and wait for them to give me the go ahead to write the book. And that's the topic I'll be dealing with next time...
Coming soon: Part 3 - Writing the Adventure


Thomas Nielsen said...

Thanks a lot Jonathan, this is a real treat :-)
I'm still hoping i can write a gamebook myself (yes, a vain hope, but i will regret it deeply if i don't try).
Do you know if the people at Wizard books even give new gamebook writers a chance?

Jonathan Green said...

Hi Thomas

I'm glad you're finding these posts helpful - I'm only sorry it's been so long since I wrote the last one. Can it really be five months!

Re: the situation with Wizard and new gamebooks - to put it simply, I don't know. As I understand it (and of course I don't know the ins and outs of what goes on at the publishing house) I believe there is going to be a hold on new titles for a while. But if that situation changes, I guess you've got nothing to lose by contacting Wizard yourself.