I have a special guest post for you today, from David Walters who is an author of both novels and gamebooks, and something of an “oriental expert” if I may call him such… He’s also written the prequel for an iconic gamebook series from the eighties, The Way of the Tiger, that was written by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson who were prolific gamebook authors “back in the day” and between them wrote many of the greatest gamebooks of all time (IMHO), including Duel Master series, the Falcon series, Talisman of Death and Sword of the Samurai for the Fighting Fantasy series, plus contributions to the Fabled Lands and Virtual Reality series among others… That’s seriously a lot of kudos!
Anyway David has enlisted my help to help promote the Kickstarter program currently underway to not only bring the The Way of the Tiger gamebooks back in full hardcover glory with all new colour art, but with the never-before-released seventh book to complete the series (and to address the cliffhanger that’s at the end of the sixth book), and with an all new prequel written by David Walters himself, who is quite a prolific and talented author in his own right (speaking from personal experience of having read some of his works!) –Not to forget, he’s also helping to write the seventh book too!
The hardcopy copies of these new The Way of the Tiger gamebooks are being produced by Megara Entertainment who also produced the Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories Deluxe Gamebook last year (which also happened to be one of the best-produced gamebooks I’ve ever seen: the presentation and artwork was exquisite and the writing and design by Paul Gresty was nothing short of superb!)
So without further preamble, I give you David Walters:
The challenges in writing a prequel to an already established series:
I’m David Walters, and I was tasked with writing the prequel story to the Way of the Tiger books, a series of six ninja gamebooks set on the world of Orb. I came across a few challenges as I undertook the task, the main ones of which I’ve explored below.
Avoiding future payoffs
When writing a prequel I had to take care to avoid ‘stealing the thunder’ of significant scenes coming up in later books. For example as book 2 Assassin! ends with a dramatic one-on-one fight with a ninja, the prequel had to avoid single combat against such a foe otherwise it would devalue the later fight. This rule applied whether the reader has read the original series already or not – the series should work as a continuous whole and thus unnecessary repetition and similarity should be avoided.
Original Author preferences
Fortunately I was dealt a pretty free hand when it came to plotting the prequel, but even so I had to be absolutely true to the direction of the original series creators. I gained some freedom setting the story on the Island of Plenty which had only been partially explored in the other books. It was an area I had worked extensively on for the Way of the Tiger Role-Playing game (with Mark Smith’s oversight) so I felt confident I could write a lot of detail in that was in alignment with his view of Orb.
An issue of scale
It was important to me that the prequel should be appropriate to the scale of the other books in the series i.e. it should not introduce the overly powerful adversaries or grandiose story arcs too early in the series. If there were problems with scale it may lead to a feeling of disinterest in later books. In the prequel the reader can learn about Avenger’s earlier missions, and how Avenger’s ninja skills were honed through experience.
Although some readers may prefer a prequel to be fully cross-referenced by the existing series, it was clear to me that series should not require any rewrites to make the prequel ‘fit’. This also meant I should limit any rules changes affecting later books (such as not granting an improved punch modifier) so as not to change the pre-existing gameplay balance of the other books. It was also important to limit interactions with characters from later books so that they still worked as originally intended.
EDIT: David Walters continues Part 2 of this discussion on Stuart's "Lloyd of Gamebooks" blog and Part 3 on Scott Malthouse's Trollish Delver blog.
The Way of the Tiger Kickstarter is running until 1st November. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1615043334/the-way-of-the-tiger-gamebooks-new-collectors-edit?ref=live