How to Write a Gamebook -- Part 3

At last, we come to the end of this series of posts on how to write a gamebook. So far, we've covered:

  • What a gamebook is
  • Why writing a gamebook is a fun thing to do
  • What you need to decide before writing a gamebook
  • How to write the first page of a gamebook
  • How to write the middle pages of a gamebook
  • The art and panic of writing in five dimensions
  • How to save time by converging storylines effectively

As you can see, we've already been through a lot of stuff. So, if you haven't read the previous posts, I highly recommend you go and do that now. To go to the first post, Click here. For the second, Click here.

Done that? Good. Then let's wrap this thing up. Yes -- it's time to tie up those loose ends!

By now, you should have lots of loose threads of story lying around. Now we've got to tie off every last one. It sounds hard, but it's really quite a simple two-step process.

First of all, merge as many of the loose threads as you can (we talked about merging storylines in the second post in this series). That way, you'll have fewer conclusions to worry about later.

Secondly, now that you've reduced the number of loose ends, it's time to tie up the remaining ones with conclusions!

Way back in the first post, you decided whether your gamebook would be a winning or losing sort of thing, or just about having a conclusion. Now, we're going to implement those conclusions. The processes are pretty much the same for both types of conclusions, but I'm going to give a winning-or-losing example so you can see what I'm talking about.

You might remember that, in the second post, I included an excerpt from my gamebook, The Misadventure of Bolingbroke Manor, in order to show how to write a middle page of a gamebook. Here it is again:
You trot noisily up the staircase to the left, followed by your friends. At the top of the staircase is a corridor, with mustard–yellow wallpaper and a dirty wooden floor. Old, dusty portraits line the walls. You stop to look at the one closest to you. It is of a severe–looking woman with auburn hair and a hooked nose, clad in expensive furs.
As you stare at the picture, the woman’s eyes blink. Do you…
Poke the eyes
Step back
What do you think happens if you choose to poke the eyes? Let's find out....

You raise your index finger and poke the eyes of the lady in the portrait. Your single digit connects with the squishy membrane. 
You draw back your hand as sharp teeth emerge from the lady's mouth. An inhuman roar issues from the lips of the figure, and she steps out of the frame. Her eye sockets are now shadowy pits, and her fingers are claws; claws which are reaching out towards your throat. 
“You idiot!” screams Alex from behind. 
You are too terrified to answer. 
The horrible fingers close around your neck, and you know nothing more…

As you've probably guessed, if you choose to poke the eyes, you end up losing the game (if you make silly choices in a gamebook, your journey can end up being REALLY short).

So that's all it requires. For each of your remaining loose ends, write a page which ties it up. If you think it will make the ending too abrupt to cut off your story straight away, write a few more pages until it feels right. Don't worry about creating more loose ends -- you can always deal with those by merging or by writing another conclusion.

One final note about winning-or-losing gamebooks: it's often best to have a 'middle ground'. In other words, instead of just 'you win' or 'you lose', have another type of ending somewhere in between. In The Misadventure of Bolingbroke Manor, there are three possible outcomes:

1. You defeat the ghost and win
2. You die and you lose
3. You don't defeat the ghost, but you do get out of the manor alive.

All right! You've finished writing your gamebook! Congratulations!

Now here's the fun part. Try it out! Not just with yourself, though (after all, you know all the right choices to make!) -- try it on friends and family, and anyone who wants to have a go. Not only will you be able to make sure all the storylines make sense, but you will get some great feedback and encouragement, too!

Once you've done that, if you intend to publish your gamebook, you'll need to get it on the computer. So open up a word processor, number the pages, and type (yes, type) all the pages from your notebook in, making sure all the page numbers match up properly. It sounds like an arduous and unnecessary task, but it's actually an excellent opportunity to further revise and perfect your writing, especially with descriptions which you might not have had the patience to write out fully in your notebook.  Even though it's a gamebook, it can (and should) have literary value!

So that's how to write a gamebook. I hope you enjoyed the process just as much as I did when I wrote mine!

Thanks for reading!

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