A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Wait. Just give me a few minutes – I’m aware it might not look promising. We’re not all equally as geekily obsessed with interactive fiction!
I bought Slay the Dragon because, I admit, I harbour a modest dream to one day write the world’s best immersive, interactive, narrative-driven computer game. Yeah, I know… (*cringes*) So as I began reading I was ready for the lengthy chapters on creative directors, level designers, concept artists and gameplay testers – steeling myself for some pretty turgid industry stuff.
And there’s a little of that. But what I got mostly was a funny, engaging, fascinating and thought-provoking introduction to narrative that I’m still revisiting and re-thinking now.
I thought I’d try and illustrate the range and focus of the book – as well as its freewheelin’, irreverent style – through three pictures, so here we go:
It’s really good on character. Simple, clear and effectively illustrated through silly discussions like this one. And as someone who’s got no time for Superman, this section – a detailed, devastating assessment of that particular character’s issues – was a joy to read. The book’s particularly good on the differences between what characters want to do, and what they need to do. (Luke Skywalker might want to get his ass off Tatooine and explore the universe, but he needs to grow up, stop whining and take some responsibility.)
This section is a pretty decent 101 on all things story-structure with condensed, illustrated examples of various approaches and models. I’ve read and enjoyed plenty of books on structure but they can be heavy going at times. Here, you get a blast of fresh and frothy goodness that feels clean and simple and, above all, possible.
Finally this. The picture above only captures the first of three pages of a detailed breakdown of perhaps my favourite game, The Last of Us. (Fellow Allsort Dan Smith, who posted earlier this week, is also a big fan.) On one level, to read this was to vividly relive the trials, traumas and dramas of The Last of Us – a thrill in itself. But there was also a great deal of learning and thinking to be had too, particularly in the game’s use of location, try-fail cycles, and character development through the strengthening relationships of its two protagonists.
So I’m aware Slay the Dragon won’t be on everyone’s tbr. It’s a little specific; a mite nerdy. But it was a revelation and a happy surprise. It ended up going everywhere with me the week of my holiday, and it’s been nice to get it out again and re-read sections in preparation for this post.
Seek it out. Or, failing that, play The Last of Us. Dan, I reckon, would agree.
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.