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Mapping Interactive Fiction by M.A. Griffin

I’m making a map with my 6-year old daughter at the moment. I should say re-making; it’s the same map I made back when I was twelve or thirteen and I laid hands on The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebook (in which, as the subheading has it, “YOU are the hero!”)

Back in the eighties those choose-your-own adventure books obsessed me and I made maps of most of the early ones: City of Thieves and Forest of Doom are two in particular I recall slaving over. The potential of interactive fiction felt huge at the time. I can control the direction of the story! I remember thinking. This is rad! (We all said rad back then, though in times of high excitement we might break-out our super-cool compound adjective “bostin’ Steve Austin”.)

Anyway. My feverish obsession lasted a couple of years or so before burning itself out. As it happened, the maps became part of the problem. I’d beaver away, diligently recording everything that happened at each location and my finished map would suddenly expose the book for what it was; a stilted, illogical rag-tag assembly of random episodes.

Take the woodcutter in the candle-lit room sharpening his axe, for example. Every time I’d open the door to that room he’d be there, sharpening his damn weapon and, at the sight of me, leaping from his seat to do battle. I began wondering why he chose a windowless room deep in a dungeon to do his sharpening, and why he was so strung-out and edgy he felt he needed to slay me rather than just chat. What did he hope to do once the sharpening job was finished? Did he harbour hopes and dreams of a better future? Where were his crew? His family? How did he make a living as a woodcutter miles from any sensible source of wood? And why – this after I needlessly kill the poor dude – did he have no food or water, but instead carried a cursed mirror and a single gold piece in his backpack?

Upon mapping, nothing seemed to add up. Of course I’m discussing the kind of map that completely anatomises a book, not the type that provides a representation of the world in which the story is set. Nevertheless, part of the argument holds true, namely – and I write this as someone lucky enough to have had a beautifully illustrated map in one of my books – to map is to demystify. And when we map in detail, we risk rendering a story lifeless.

The flipside; the trade-off? Well, at least you get through the fiendish Maze of Zagor, reach the centre of Firetop Mountain and (spoiler alert…) slay the bad guy.

 

 

 

CQPjzu3WsAAFI35Martin Griffin
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Martin Griffin writes sci-fi and fantasy adventures for young readers. His debut novel, THE POISON BOY, won The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition in 2012 and somehow managed to get shortlisted for Staffordshire Young Teen Fiction Award, the North East Book Award, the Leeds Book Award, the Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year, the Kent Themed Book Award and the Branford Boase Award, without winning any of them. A teacher at the time, he wrote using the name Fletcher Moss to keep it secret from his students. He returns to his real name for his second novel, LIFERS, a super-dark contemporary prison-break adventure, his first novel for teen readers. Martin lives in Manchester with his wife and child.

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2017 by and tagged , , .

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