by Natalie Buske Thomas
Natalie Buske Thomas is the author of the Serena Wilcox mystery series. Details on how to win a copy of the latest book, Covert Coffee, at the end of this post.
When I was a kid I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I was able to choose what happens next in the story and turn to the page number that matched the choice I made. It was great fun to make new selections even after solving the puzzle; I wanted to see how many different paths the story could take, and how many different ways “I” could die. It’s been in my head for a long time that I could make a Choose Your Own Mystery game for my series. Like my childhood favorites, the stories would be reader-driven, except in game form the stories had much more potential.
I had so much fun creating the first installment of my Choose Your Own Mystery game that I lost all track of time. Thanks to free stock photography I had all the images I needed. Thanks to Dreamweaver, it was easy to make HTML pages that linked to the various storyline choices that readers could make. I decided that readers would play the game from the POV of my female detective protagonist Serena Wilcox, but they could also select an assistant, another character from the series. After I had the basic format in place I had an absolute ball writing the stories.
Because these stories were intended to be light reading I didn’t need to do heavy research or lay down complicated plot lines. I could spin simple suspense with plenty of humor to top it off. With technology so user-friendly, it took me only a few minutes to make click-able options that allow readers to interact with the story by clicking directly on the images. For example, when choosing which door to enter, readers click on either the right or the left door. Sure beats “turn to page 23” like we had to do when we walked to school uphill both ways.
The game-making didn’t feel much like work, except for the technical frustrations of uploading image and correcting failed links, checking the pages for errors, correcting typos, and all of the other pesky chores that can spoil a perfectly wonderful creative adventure. But when I got past all of that, and the pages were in working order, I was quite proud of myself and couldn’t wait to show it off! Imagine how thrilled I was when readers played the game and enjoyed trying to outdo each other. I can hardly wait to finish making the next installment of the game.
The Choose Your Own Mystery interactive game solves a few problems I had. I am on a one-novel-a-year writing schedule. I do other projects besides mysteries and one book annually works well for my schedule. Unfortunately, what takes an entire year to bring from word one to published novel takes my biggest fans only one day to devour, granted they are reading for hours without getting anything else done that day, but even so, it’s deflating to say the least to know how quickly the books are absorbed. The new game is a patch for my mystery addicts! I’m giving them fresh new stories now on a regular, ongoing basis. Stories they can interact with, involving familiar characters that readers have chosen as their favorites. Furthermore, these are completely different stories from the book – bonus material! And, I post the games on my website free to play online, so it might draw in new readers for the series too.
I can add another hat to the many that I wear: Gamer. I now understand why some grown men live in their parents’ basements messing around with games all day. I’m glad I have a valid excuse for spending my time playing around on the computer, making up stories and entertaining people who want to have a little fun. Why just read a mystery when you can be IN one?
Play the Serena Wilcox Choose Your Own Mystery Game free online: www.nataliebuskethomas.com
To enter to win a copy of Covert Coffee, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “Covert”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 5, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Use this link to purchase Covert Coffee & you help support an indie bookstores & KRL: