Originally written for Indie Book Blog
Certainly writing is challenging: you need things like plots, character development, thorough research into anything from which flowers blossom at which time of year, to the sort of weapons related matters that might result in some very serious men knocking at your door. But is it really enough? Have you ever wished, not just to paint a picture for your readers, but to plonk them in the midst of the action and let them wander into however many dangers and traps you choose to throw at them? If, like me, you’re a power-hungry sadist who spent large chunks of childhood drawing maps for Legend of Zelda and the like, then writing a Choose Your Own Adventure game might just be the answer.
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, these game books are written in small sections which end by giving the reader a choice of actions which move them on to different parts of the book. In a regular paper book, they’d do this by flicking through the pages, but with an e-book, they just have to click the links. My own game, Witches and Bandits and Swords Oh My (out now on Amazon at a very reasonable price for 20,000 words, hint hint) has a traditionalish fantasy setting, but you can use this format for any genre. To pick a film at random, a Home Alone adventure book might read:
You are in your large family home by yourself, your extended family having accidentally left you behind while going on holiday. Several preceding incidents have led you to conclude that two burglars are about to rob your house. Do you…
Attempt to contact your family? Go to section 154
Find a local friend’s house, or trusted adult to visit? Go to section 23
Contact the police with a detailed description of the felons? Go to section 70
Set about on a murderous campaign of violence against said felons? Pick up a blowtorch and go to section 13″
Assuming you’ll want to write something more complex than this, first of all, you’ll need a map. Depending on how you structure your game, this could resemble an original Zelda view (i.e. squares arranged in a grid pattern), interconnected spider diagrams, or even an MC Escher-style mind fuck if you really dislike your readers. Keeping these linked in with your prose sections is absolutely essential. It really can’t be stressed enough that a single broken link has the potential to ruin your game.
The format has other challenges to keep you constantly
frustrated entertained. How and when to introduce information, for example, is difficult enough with regular prose, but when the reader can reach the same point through different paths, this becomes more of a challenge. If you decide to introduce the feared purple-tentacled monster of Xhighazyx as an opponent, then you’ll need a system for fighting. Requiring the readers to use dice, and to keep track of their health is one idea, but I favoured keeping it simple and giving options based on items you may have picked up beforehand, some of which result in instant purple-tentacled death. In all cases, fairness is key and dropping some preceding hints can help. Having a high difficulty level is one thing but, like a murder-mystery novel that wheels out a long-lost twin brother in the last three chapters, nobody wants to feel cheated.
Of course, you’ll face other obstacles too. One significant problem I found (that my test readers didn’t always appreciate) is the difficulty of introducing the same section after an event- let’s say that the reader’s meeting the High Priestess Doris, but may have stolen her chocolate biscuits in another scene. Clearly, if she knows about the biccie theft then the scene would have to be written differently, but allowing for both events is tricky. The most naturalistic way of doing this (for the reader) would be to duplicate the whole book with the new sections following a path from stealing the biscuits, to Doris being annoyed with you. It doesn’t take a High Priestess, however, to realise that this isn’t a sensible idea, and the book would exponentially increase in size every time you had to do this. Other options include leading into the section by asking the reader whether or not they stole the biscuits (not ideal as this gives too much warning) or writing your book in short, standalone chapters (the downside being that this reduces the reader’s freedom to explore). One device I used was to lead into a similar section with an apparently unrelated question; let’s say, “Have you acquired the blue ring”? If you’ve made it so that the blue ring could only have been obtained from the biscuit theft- don’t ask me how, maybe it was a free gift in the pack or something- then that solves the problem without giving too much away.
There will be plenty of other hurdles too, not least when you attempt to format the thing (here speaks the voice of bitter experience), but I find that one of the great joys of writing is solving problems your own way; there’s something special about that moment when you feel the whole project’s hopeless and then an idea strikes you that sorts it all out.
Hopefully this hasn’t put you off too much, just let you know what you’re getting into. Choose You Own Adventure games are tough to make, but rewarding. No other style of writing allows you to have quite the same relationship with your reader, nor them to experience the story in quite the same way.
FIVE STARS! Big Al’s Books and Pals Read Review
The plan had seemed so simple back home; a sea voyage to trade spices with a distant land promised great fortunes for you and your friends. However, a vessel flying a pirate standard had other ideas. Now that you find yourself waking up alone in a strange forest, it’s time to quickly take control of the situation and make the decisions necessary to get back what’s yours before it’s too late.
Outsmart vicious bandits!
Trade potions with witches!
Try not to be too offended by the sarcastic rabbit!
Can you save your friends and bring peace to a land on the brink of devastation? Or will your choices lead you to a grisly fate?
I started this project off back in 2009 and then gave up on it for a few years. It then occurred to me that this would work well as an ebook. As the book relies on skipping to entirely different sections, clicking on bookmarks to link you to different sections is far more sensible than constantly trying to find specific sections in a paper copy.
Had a lot of fun writing this- but none at all formatting it for Kindle! In some ways, it was uncharted territory as I couldn’t find any guidelines about how you’d go about this. Fortunately, my usual approach of trial/ error/ considering throwing my laptop out of the window prevailed and here it is!
I wanted to charge as little as possible for this and work on a full price horror game for later in 2013 so this is available on Amazon at £0.77/ $0.99 for a complete 20,000 word game. You really can’t say fairer than that! I’ll work on a Smashwords version when I’ve recovered some of my sanity.
Many thanks to Raeyenirael for the cover photo.
Happy New Year!
And, hopefully, a new start. Since my job ran out in December I’ve pretty much just been relaxing and visiting my family in Stoke for Christmas. Now it’s January, I should really get on with stuff,
Hasn’t been a bad 2012 really. As well as having a short story published in paperback for the first time ever (‘Yappy the Happy Squirrel‘ as part of the Bizarro Press compilation ‘Tall Tales With Short Cocks‘), I got a Daily Deviation for dA Monopoly and released my first novel, ‘Shadowed’ (available on Amazon or as a free chapter extract) which has sold steadily, if not spectacularly. Still, it’s all part of the learning process.
For 2013, I’m hoping to release a free Kindle book of a fantasy game project which I started a while back, and am now getting through at an unusually fast pace. Apart from that, I’m trying to concentrate on giving myself a set routine to write stuff, be more active on Deviant Art, sort my blog out, advertise etc. I’ll probably also need another one of those ‘job’ things before I run out of money- even though they just get in the way of more important stuff like writing! Hope you’re well.
Peace and Love
Karin is a lucky woman. She’s found the chance to start her life afresh in a perfect home with a perfect job, and all by pure coincidence. Or so she thinks.
Away from the stifling drama of her old city life, she can relax in the eighteenth century mansion’s office, which overlooks both loch and mountain, through the luxuriant forest that surrounds her small village in the Scottish Highlands, while the friendly locals do all they can to make her feel at home.
But as the nights get longer, she soon discovers that the forest contains more than she’d ever wanted to imagine, and why the villagers keeps their doors locked and curtains drawn against the strange creatures that come out at night; prowling, hunting, killing.
As events become ever more sinister, Karin finds herself caught up in a web of secrets, betrayal and dark temptation. In order to save her very body and soul, she must choose her loyalties with caution, and solve a mystery spanning the centuries before it’s too late.
And hope that her luck doesn’t run out.
Cover Image Photographer: Marion Skydancer
Cover Model: Renee King
Exciting news as Yappy The Happy Squirrel scurries its way into the newly released Bizarro Press anthology, Tall Tales With Short Cocks- available for a limited time only for 77p or $1.22- whichever you prefer. It promises “Zombies, clockworks, and rabies-infected assholes!” What’s not to like? ☭
Story Listing (as described by Arthur Graham)
HELP! MY ASS HAS RABIES! by Adam Millard
Dead Alive meets The X-Files at McDonald’s. Would you like rabies with that?
THE ZOMBIES OF KILIMANJARO by Jon Konrath
In this clever retelling of the Hemingway classic, Harry is an even bigger jerk in death than he was in life.
ZEITGEIST by Arthur Graham
A satirical romp through the catacombs of cable television.
IN THE FLESH by John McNee
Steampunk noir with a twist of horror.
I AM A WHALE by Robin Wyatt Dunn
A prose poem from the perspective of an omniscient, omnipotent, thoroughly misunderstood sea creature.
YAPPY THE HAPPY SQUIRREL by Dominic O’Reilly
What adventures (and misadventures) await within the Happy Squirrel Sanctuary Mansion?
MOUSETRAP by Wol-vriey
Betty Blake must save her family from a curious pest, but at what cost?
THE NIGHT OF THE WALRUS by Gabino Iglesias
Odd pals Woogie and Odobie have a singing cat, a baby gangster, and a telepathic toaster to contend with in this dark, coke-fueled caper.
REGRESSIVE by Nathan J.D.L. Rowark
If you thought Viagra was bad, wait until your grandpa gets a dose of bear DNA…
Edited by Etienne DeForest
…for one day at least. Having spent two weeks designing a Monopoly board for Deviant Art, I was delighted to find that it had been featured as a Daily Deviation (one of about a dozen pieces DA selects to put on their front page), meaning I came back from work to find out that it received 12,000 hits and several hundred comments! Check it out in its native environment here.
More good news is that I have two stories coming up for publication; Yappy the Happy Squirrel is featuring in the Bizarro horror anthology Tall Tales With Short Cocks (oh, yes…), while Triangles is due to appear later in the month in erotic e-zine Oysters and Chocolate.
Aside from creative stuff, I have a new job! I’m now a report writer for a railway maintenance company (which is a lot better than it sounds- really…) and, I’ve recently had my first drink since February having given up booze and Facebook for Lent. I should really do this more often- it’s been quite an eventful forty days!
…you’ve stumbled upon my fun and exciting new WordPress page. At least it might be in the future. You know, if I actually get round to adding fun and exciting things. In the meantime, I may as well introduce myself. I’m Dom and I write stuff. Lots of different stuff, from horror to humour to erotica, as well as doing the odd bit of photography and messing about on GIMP (not as dodgy as it sounds, I promise you).
Only problem is, I haven’t written much for a while now- my two published stories were both back in 2008; one published by the now defunct Curious Volumes horror label, while Secret Meadow went to women’s erotic e-zine Oysters and Chocolate giving me a total career earning $13, which is enough for a decent take-away, although I’m convinced Paypal were screwing me over the dollar/pound exchange rate.
Ranting aside, I’m now trying to get back into the swing of things. So please come join me on the journey through the depths of the human soul, the highs of great elation and some complete bizareness along the way. It promises to be a long one… as I’m still trying to figure out WordPress…
Peace and Love,
E Mail: email@example.com
Many thanks to Brenda Clarke for the background.