Friday, July 29, 2011

How to write a gamebook part 1 - thinking of a plot (and then a few more plots)

It's come early people!  I have friends coming round at the weekend and I will be doing some DIY, so instead of risk delay, I'm getting out this post today.  I hope it lives up to expectations. I've not had so much anticipation over a blog post.

There's a contents page for this post.  I've spread it over five blog pages to make it more manageable for you to read.  Make sure you read this page first.  There are links to the other pages when you need them, but just in case you don't want to search through the post for them, here they are.  They will be at the bottom of every other page in this five post reading.

For the map method of planning, go here.

For the flow diagram method of planning, go here.

For the just write it!  method, go here.

For a list of ideas for your gamebook, go here.

Not that kind of plot.
Here we start our journey in writing gamebooks.  The overview of the blog posts in the series is here.  By the end of part 2, we will be able to write 3 very short and simple (around 3-10 paragraphs) each one using a different method.  By part 4, we will be able to write a gamebook that is a bit longer (25-50 paragraphs) that does not require a game system.  By the end of part 8, we should be able to write a more complex gamebook with a game system and a few other add-ons.

I would love it if along the way, you give feedback with comments and or/email.  Have I missed something out?  Was there something I didn't explain too well?  Do you want to hear more about something?  Tell me.

Also, I would like to see the fruits of your labours and I will comment on them if you send them and post them if you like so that others can see and comment on them.  The learning process will become a lot more productive if there are a lot of us that can bounce ideas around.  All rights will stay with the authors.

This guy's idea was that
he needed smaller lamps.
So where do we start with a gamebook?  We start with an idea.  I have a post with some links to get ideas from, but we are going to start off super simple.  We will follow the old saying write what you know.  Lets start with a typical day.

So, think about a day you have lived in the past week and write down the following things about it.
  • Where did you go?  What route did you take to get there?  How was the journey?
  • Who did you speak to?  What did you say to them?  How did they respond?
  • Where did you get your lunch from?  What did you eat?  How was your meal?
I've picked three situations that people do most days - travel somewhere, talk to someone and eat lunch.

For each of those situations, I've also asked you how you dealt with that situation and finally, I've asked you what the consequences of your decision was.

So now we have three stories.  We now have three very short books on aspects of our life.  

Here are my answers:

Where did you go?  I cycled to a little nearby village.
What route did you take to get there?  I cycled via a farm.
How was your journey?  It was very pleasant as it was a lovely summer's day. 

Who did you speak to?  I spoke to my wife.
What did you say to them?  I said that I was feeling lazy and that I wanted a pizza for dinner as it was easy to cook.
How did they respond?  She said that she was thinking the same thing.

Where did you get your lunch from? I got my lunch from the food in my kitchen.
What did you eat?  I had a cheese sandwich with some leftover green salad.
How was your meal?  It was OK although I would have liked it better with mayonnaise but I couldn't find any.

However, we don't have the game bit yet.  What we need to do next is use out imaginations.  For each of the three sets of questions, think of a different decision that you could have made for the second question (What route did you take to get there?, What did you say to them?, Why did you decide to eat that?) and then imagine what the answer to the third question might be based on your imagined action.  

For example, with me:

 Where did you go?  I cycled to a little nearby village.
What route did you take to get there?  I cycled via a main road.
How was your journey?  It was a nice day, but the journey was noisy.

Who did you speak to?  I spoke to my wife.
What did you say to them? I said that I wanted roast lamb with roast potatoes and other vegetables.
How did they respond?  She said that there was not enough time to cook the lamb as she will be home in an hour.  She will buy something from the supermarket on teh way home.  

Where did you get your lunch from? I got my lunch from the food in my kitchen.
What did you eat? I had sausages and chips (aka french fries)
How was your meal?  It was yummy but I am very full.

Got your answers done?  Excellent.  If you fancy making things a bit more complicated for yourself, why don't you come up with a third scenario to the questions along with the consequences or maybe, even a fourth or fifth.  

Now we are going to start to turn them into plans for gamebooks. For each set of questions, we are going to use a different method.   To read about each method, you need to click the link below.  You can do them in any order you want*.

For your journey, we will use the map method.  

For your conversation, we will use the flow diagram method.

For your lunch, we will use the just write it! method.   

Or you could just get lots of cool things 
and make them fight.
You can buy a print of this picture here.
Right.  Now that we've made the plans for a short gamebook but we don't want to write gamebooks about everyday stuff.  We need ideas, so I'll give a list of places to find them as well as how to keep them.  However, the list is getting quite long, so I've started a new blog page for ideas.  You will find it here.

*So hang on.  I need to make a decision and then turn to a new blog page based on that decision.  Isn't that a bit like a..?  Yes, it's a gamebook!


  1. I loved this post and the 3 methods for writing (specially the first). I'm eagerly waiting the second part! - Ikaros

  2. Thanks Ikaros. Did you write a short gamebook? How did it go?

  3. This process works well for writing a novel or other type of story as well. Good tips.

    Tossing It Out

  4. Thanks very much Lee. I'm glad it's helpful :).

  5. I don't know if you already have, but I think you should try to get these published or at least try self publishing them via Amazon kdp. You're implementation of the game mechanics is among the best I've ever seen. Keep up the good work! :)

  6. Thanks very much, Anonymous. That's a good idea. I think a future project will be to put these posts into a book.

  7. Can anyone help me(to comment sections of just write it method to see what help i want..)?

  8. Its Eric Stewart...can anyone tell me a site of onling reading of gamebooks(best if all sections are shown in a single page, also please don't mention ffonline project and project aon)..thanks to all..

    1. - an online gamebook with similarities to Fabled Lands - interactive gamebooks for Android. - Fighting Fantasy books coded to be online.

  9. (no mention of gbs)Its Eric again...can anyone tell me how to make wrestling board game..please...tta..

    1. I've noticed this guide on making board games is available

      If you want to make a wrestling based boardgame, you need to think about the aim of the players. I guess that you want it to simulate a wrestling match? In that case, include some famous wrestlers and moves into your rules. Have a look at this article by Mark Rosewater -

  10. It's good that you have a wife who cooks what you tell her to like she's supposed to.

    1. Except we had a conversation about what to cook. It was a joint thing. I expect you don't have a wife at all with a comment and a name like that.