NOTE: This is part of a series that explains how to create your own simple gamebooks. More articles here.
An introduction, please.
My name is Rana Tahir, I'm a poet, educator, and writer. A little bit about me: I'm originally from Pakistan but grew up in Kuwait. I'm a Kundiman Poetry Fellow and author of two books. My most recent book is a gamebook titled Choose Your Own Adventure Spies: Noor Inayat Khan.
Tell us about your gamebook Choose Your Own Adventure Spies: Noor Inayat Khan.
Choose Your Own Adventure Spies: Noor Inayat Khan puts readers in the shoes of Noor Inayat Khan an SOE (Special Operations Executive) operative during World War II who went undercover to spy on the Nazis. Noor was a real person and readers get a chance to explore all the ways her life could have gone while also learning about World War II and the movement for Indian Independence.
What were the main challenges you faced in writing this gamebook?
In writing this book the biggest challenge was just knowing when to stop. I think, if I didn't have a deadline, I could have continued writing more and more choices and endings for Noor's story. There was also the sense of responsibility I had with presenting an honest interpretation of Noor as a historical figure, and person, and to represent World War II and the movement for Indian Independence with depth. I think anyone who writes about World War II and doesn't mention or, in my case, at least allude to the Holocaust is doing a disservice; similarly, the story of European imperialism is a complex topic and while I couldn't do everything I wanted to with Noor's India storyline, I did try to at least mention some of the figures of the time and give a sense to the duplicity of the British role during that time as liberators of Europe and tyrants in India. Ultimately, because of the page limit for the book, I had to opt for a more subtle approach than what I initially drafted.
Summarise your gamebook writing process in under 30 words.
I start with an idea and then I brainstorm and outline all the choices. Next, I map them out. Afterward, I go section by section and write out the story.
How did you first get interested in gamebooks?
There are a lot of things that led to my interest in gamebooks. For one, I loved point-and-click adventure games as a kid. While the games (like the Monkey Island series from LucasArts) did not have multiple alternate endings, I did enjoy piecing together clues. Secondly, I've always enjoyed fanfiction and fandoms in general: they are a communal debate and sharing of alternate choices and endings for characters we love. In relation to that, I loved comic books. Comic book characters are always brought back and reinterpreted in a multitude of ways over the decades, in addition to the multiple timelines that exist in and outside of the canon. It was always fun to debate different ideas for how stories could go. I also frequently watch behind-the-scenes footage and documentaries about movies, especially deleted scenes and alternate endings. I think I just always wondered about other possibilities in all the things I read and watched. I had never really thought of writing a gamebook until the opportunity came, as I mentioned earlier, but I always enjoyed them.
How will gamebook authoring skills be useful for kids in the future?
Of course, writing often is important to develop strong work, and I think writing gamebooks is a fun way to practice. I think the biggest benefit of reading and writing gamebooks is the ability to think creatively and see situations from multiple viewpoints. Thinking creatively is a life skill and a great professional skill too. It allows you to think of all the possibilities that others might overlook.
Links for fans:
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Don Bosco's Gamebook Academy