Monday, January 21, 2008

My books #4: Theme Park Panic

A rollercoaster ride to mayhem.

An amazing new theme park has opened on Mobius. But for Sonic and his pals it turns out to have more than the usual thrills and spills, thanks to the devious mind of Robotnik. The crazed inventor plans to wipe out all the Zones on Mobius, and this time he's determined to succeed.

Only you and Sonic stand in his way. Are you ready to accept the challenge? If you are, get ready for the ride of a lifetime.

After graduating from university in the summer of 1994, I decided that I wanted to make it as a full-time freelance writer. The fact that I only had one commission to work on didn’t stop me for a second, and just to make things really hard for myself, I moved out of the family home and upped sticks to Nottingham. I was going to prove to everyone (including myself) that I could really do this, and succeed on my own merits.

But why Nottingham? Having written three Fighting Fantasy gamebooks I had made contact with the consultant FF editor, Marc Gascoigne. He was based in Nottingham as was the tabletop miniatures gaming company Games Workshop. I hoped to work with both Marc and GW in the future, so Nottingham it was.

Puffin had been producing a series of adventure gamebooks based on the popular computer game character Sonic the Hedgehog. Two more were wanted for the series and Marc and I ended up getting the gig. This was the first time I had ever co-written anything. I realise that the process is likely vary for other co-writers, but the system which Marc and I came up with seemed to suit us both very well.

We started by bashing out plot ideas and, having decided on two, started to work them up into fully formed adventures. Whilst planning ‘Theme Park Panic’ we managed to work in all sorts of film references from Jurassic Park to Westworld.

Having thoroughly plotted each one to its conclusion together, I then went away and wrote a largely unpolished manuscript but which had the gamebook structure in place. Marc then polished the MS making sure that it was Sonic-y enough (he had worked with the franchise before) and added lots of terrible jokes. He then also had to re-structure the gamebook so that the paragraphs were all muddled up and wrote the illo brief for the artist.

However, the project almost never happened. I was about a week into writing ‘Theme Park Panic’ when the call came from Marc to say that the W H Smith chain weren’t going to stock the book and as a result Puffin weren’t going to publish. Well, that’s retailer power for you!

Fortunately, not long after, that decision was reversed but I still had the same deadline to meet, so much writing into the small wee hours followed. But we made the deadline and the book saw print and I had the added satisfaction of saying that I had worked on the Sonic IP, in my own small way.


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