Back when I tried to make my first gamebook, The Secret of the Chatter Blocks, I didn’t even know how to get started. There were lots of helpful tips online, but they seemed to be written for more experienced gamebook creators. At that point, I didn’t want to know how to make a perfect and elaborate gamebook, I just wanted to make a really simple gamebook, with my two sons, just for the fun and learning experience. And so I had to figure this out myself.
This post is about sharing what I learnt, so that you can get started faster and start making your own gamebooks too. It’s a lot of fun!
What is a gamebook?
It's an interactive story that follows a main character through an adventure, and the text is divided into sections, and at the end of each section you choose what happens next. These choices affect how your story progresses. Based on your choices, the character will either succeed or fail. And so it’s like playing a game and making choices that lead your character to a happy ending.
These choices are often based on simple decisions you can make (eg, turn left or turn right). There are other ways to make your choices, and some of these involve rolling dice. We’ll cover those much later. But for now, in making your first simple gamebook, we’ll only use simple decisions.
STEP 1: Come up with an idea
Your idea will involve these five elements:
1. Main character:
What is your main character’s name? Who is this person? Make this as fun and cool as possible. Your readers will be role-playing as this character when they read your gamebook.
Where will the action take place? An old castle? A gigantic spaceship? Deep inside a pirate’s cave?
What is the one important challenge that your main character will have to tackle? Eg, deliver a message, find a lost object, catch a thief, etc.
What will your main character need to do in order to succeed?
What will cause your main character to fail?
STEP 2: Write your gamebook sections
Each section should contain the following information:
Tell your readers where the action is taking place.
2. What your main character is up to
Is she or he making good progress, and likely to Win? Or on the contrary, is she or he messing up and likely to Lose?
3. The options for what happens next
These options will take your reader to a new section. But of course, if this is the end of a story path, you won’t need options here, you can just declare whether or not your reader has managed to complete the Task, and then say, “THE END”.
For your first really simple gamebook, you’ll only need to come up with these three sections:
Section 1: introduce the Character, Setting and Task. At the end of this, give your readers two options, A and B. A will lead to a Succeed outcome, and B will lead to a Fail outcome.
Section 2: what happens if the reader chooses A and succeeds. The End.
Section 3: what happens if the reader chooses B and fails. The End.
In future lessons we'll look at expanding your gamebook with many more sections.
STEP 3: Design your gamebook
Give your gamebook an exciting title, and create a front cover. Write or print each section on a new page, so that your reader can’t cheat by reading the later sections before they make their choice. Also, add illustrations, to make your gamebook look fabulous. You could collaborate with a friend or family member for this.
Congratulations, now you have a really simple gamebook that will thrill your friends! Share your gamebook with some readers, and ask for their suggestions on how to improve it.
Here’s a short example I came up with, using the main character from Sherlock Hong Adventures, a book series I wrote. This could help you understand the whole process better. To enlarge, click on the image and zoom in. You could also print it out.
NEXT LESSON: Ideas for options at the end of each section
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DON BOSCO’S GAMEBOOK ACADEMY