Tag Archives: gamebook
In the ’70s and ’80s, a new genre in teen literature was born: the gamebook. The books, under the umbrella title of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” were the brainchild of a man named R.A. Montgomery. The interesting twist in these books was that the story was not singular: the reader would have a choice at the end of each section, with each choice directing to a new page number.
- not deciding too much about the reader (the protagonist)
- a completely gender-neutral protagonist (which is tough! Be really careful with those pronouns!)
- a office environment and a home environment
- set in New York
- it will be hard to survive
Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny is now available for purchase on Amazon for Kindle and in print! This zombie adventure is not for the faint of heart–or the humorless.
Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny is available RIGHT NOW on Amazon for Kindle and in print!
Don’t you want to know—would you survive the zombie apocalypse? Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny slams you into New York City just as it is struck by a zombie outbreak, leaving you to decide how to survive when your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers join the undead. With more than 45 different scenarios, it’s tough to survive, but even when you die, sometimes you become a zombie—opening up new, monstrous options, including eating celebrities, being used as a genetic experiment, and exploring the Mariana trench. Every time you read “Undead Rising” you have the chance to change your destiny—but every scenario will leave you flipping pages to try again.
Note: This isn’t a kids’ adventure. I recommend it for older teens and adults who need a dose of nostalgia, a little bit of creepiness, and some laughs.
Aw yeah, look at that awesome book cover! Zombies are coming for YOU!
Last year, completely without planning to, I spent NaNoWriMo writing a book about zombies. A gamebook about zombies, written for adults actually, called Undead Rising, where the reader has the option to choose her path along the way, changing the story for every reader. (You might have heard of a certain series of gamebooks for kids that carry a very catchy but copyrighted name…)
It was a ton of fun to write and I truly believe it stands a chance of getting published–and I even had two agents ask for full manuscripts six months ago (but I’m still waiting to hear back…)–and everyone I’ve allowed to read it has loved it. Even the two people who are friends-of-friends but are obsessed with zombies. Even they liked it, and that’s exactly who I’d want to like it, forget everyone else.
But now it is time for another National Novel Writing Month and… I’m not sure what to do. Help me pick?
If I’m going to try to keep to the same tongue-in-cheek style as Undead Rising, the monster/bad guys need to have a lot of pop culture that I can draw from (mock endlessly). I’m just not sure which one is best.
I guess I should have been careful what I wished for. Last week I was worrying that I hadn’t gotten any responses for various things I’ve sent out into the world. On Sunday, I got one.
Thank you so much for sending me your submission. I have carefully considered UNDEAD RISING for my list, but in the end it just wasn’t the right fit for me. And that’s not because I got eaten by the zombies lol 😦I’m going to pass, but am so grateful for the opportunity to review your work. I appreciate how difficult this process can be and wish you all the best and much success in your search for the right agent.
Last week was pretty exciting, for several reasons. One was that a fellow writer I had met at a conference contacted me to ask if she could submit my novel, Undead Rising, to a publisher for consideration. I was over the moon!
She had only heard me talk about it–I’d given my standard description: a zombie novel for adults where the reader could “Decide Your Destiny” by making choices along the way, a gamebook (a genre best known by the Choose Your Own Adventure novels). She thought that sounded awesome, but I had sent her my sample pages just to be sure she really wanted to submit it; I didn’t want her to submit something she couldn’t really vouch for.
She looked over the sample… and it was not what she had expected.
It wasn’t quite what I was expecting from an adult version of CYA. (sic) It was fun because it reminded me of the books I used to read when I was younger but I think that is my roadblock; it’s too much like the young books (except for the work references and swearing, it feels written for a pre-teen audience). … I liked the story and I still LOVE the concept – I just don’t think this would fit with [publisher].
But it was actually okay. I felt a little over my head with the whole situation, so while it was exciting and a good experience, I think she was right to turn it down if she didn’t feel like it wasn’t the right fit. Better to get out of it quickly, before I got my hopes too high.
The thing is, I don’t necessarily disagree with any of her comments. In fact, some of what she said is exactly why I think my story is great. It relies heavily on nostalgia from the original Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels (which were originally published in the 1970s). It would be appropriate for readers from about 15-up (but I still think it’s “adult”). It’s not horror; it’s humor.
It’s left me wondering if I need to tweak my pitch a little. How can I get across a sense of what this book really is? I still think most people would love it and that it would do well as a print book (I’m less certain about how a choice-based book would do on a ereader. More research to do).
Sometimes, looking at the list of genres, it’s very challenging to pick exactly where your book fits (particularly for one like this, that has some crossover elements). How did you find your category?
I’ve seen two kinds of scuttlebutt online about “what to write.”
A: Write what you love and what you want to read!
B: Research the genres that are selling and fit your writing to that mold.
One of my personal rules is to maintain my own integrity, so I’ve been following advice A (which is how I ended up writing a 63,000 zombie apocalypse gamebook/CYOA). And yet I have fits of anxiety when I see things like this:
This is an edited version of a list of agents who will be at DFW Writer’s Con and what genres they have a particular interest in. (I added the highlighting and cropped out the agents’ names. You can find the full list here.)
The yellow areas are Middle Grade and Young Adult respectively. Look at all those delightful excited happy faces!
The blue area is science fiction. Only 3 happy faces and one big ugly poison Do Not Talk To Me About This.
Hm.. Zombie apocalypse. Gee, where does that fit? Blue column of sadness. Maybe horror (it’s not really that scary, though) or humor (because being a zombie is funny!). Well crap. Those columns are pretty depressing, too, 2 and 4 happy faces respectively.
The agent pitch sessions are one of the most exciting parts of DFW Con, but dangit, I don’t think I’m going to have a lot of success this year. I’m in all the wrong categories. (Though I feel a certainty in my bones that just about every adult would get a real kick out of determining their own path in a zombie uprising book. I was talking about it with a friend in a restaurant and a passerby interrupted to say “excuse me, did you just say zombie apocalypse CYOA? Cool!”)
And my prior novel that I’m not actively pitching? Squarely sci-fi dystopia. *sigh*
I have no real interest in writing YA or MG (aside from a dalliance with The Boxcar Kids, as a kid I never even read books that would fit those categories!), but seeing this kind of heavy-loaded listing is depressing and has made me wonder if I should be trying something different. It’s hard to do while continuing that whole “to thine own self be true” stuff, though.
Gender is a pretty fundamental part of a character description. Even the name you pick generally gives you a hint of who this person you’re reading about is going to be. Failing that, you can fall back on the physical description; dresses tend to indicate women (sorry Scotland!), while a manly man might wear weathered boots and heft an axe. And if even that is pretty vague, at least you’ve got pronouns to rely on when the author gets tired of calling the character by name.
But in interactive fiction and gamebooks, you, as the author can’t utilize those standbys. After all, your reader could be male, female, old, young, or, heck, even an alien. And since they are taking on your story from the driver’s seat, so to speak, the author can’t be telling them too much about who they are. After all, you can’t address the reader using “he” or “him” without thereby cutting out or annoying half of your prospective audience.
My novel, Undead Rising, is a gamebook for adults. The challenge of gender was one of the most interesting parts of writing it, because it stripped me of so many descriptive options. It was a helluva fun book to write, and I think all writers should give writing without gender a shot. It’s illuminating.
Of course, Undead Rising isn’t completely without gender; all the characters besides the reader’s perspective have gendered names, physical descriptions, and pronouns. But writing dialogue gets extra tricky when your No. 2 character can’t ever say “She did it!” in reference to your MC. And figuring out how to deal with pockets was surprisingly hard; luckily, it’s fairly common for women to also wear trousers, or my MC would never have carried anything around.
I resolved many of the direct references between characters and my MC with filler phrases like “dude”: “Dude, what have you been up to in here?” or “Wow, dude, you are such a great friend.” (I realize “dude” is technically gendered, but, at least among my friends, it’s used for either gender, not just men). The name problem wasn’t too hard, as the novel was written in second-person perspective. Anytime another character is introduced to the MC, I plugged in something like “You say your name.”
I even managed to write in a romantic interlude without any reference to the gender of the main character. That was a sticky wicket!
Gender is typically important to a character, but my experiment in writing a genderless character was very powerful. It really showed me how many things are universal. While writing, I imagined the character as male or female, sometimes one, sometimes the other. I hope that no matter who reads Undead Rising, they feel they are fairly represented.
How important are gender roles and gendered descriptions in your writing? Could you write a whole character without a gender?
(To see a real pro try it, read The Left Hand of Darkness, which is partially about an alien species whose gender shifts based on several factors, but most of the time is genderless.)