Monday, January 25, 2010

Writing a Custom Game

Those of you who know me on Facebook or Twitter might know from my recent updates that I've just accepted a new commission to write a mystery game for a former customer. This is always fun and always exciting, but I thought it might be interesting to demonstrate the different thought process for writing a custom game as opposed to a writing project that completely your own.

Setting: When it's your project you get to pick. For a custom game, a great many times this is given to you. I've been given mine; the 1920s. I've already written a 1920s game, so this one has to be different. It is. I've placed this one on a train; and no, it's not the Orient Express. The picture accompanying this post is the 'cover' for the game.

Characters: Here's where those of you who believe 'less is more' will have a slight heart attack. I get told how many people are playing and whether they're male or female. It's usually a fairly large number. This time it's 16 (although 3 of them are very, very small parts). That's 13 characters, all of whom have to contribute equally, all of whom have to be suspects.

Plot: Even with a custom game, the actual plot is up to me. I write the body being 'discovered' at the beginning. I give a thorough description of the 'crime scene' and give instructions for any actual 'pieces of evidence'. Right now I know who the victim was and why they died. I haven't figured out who's done it, but I've got a pretty good idea.

With any mystery, you have to decide how tricky it will be to solve. I've written some games that are just fun and some that are quite difficult. All of them are solvable (of course) but some solutions are easier to find than others. This one (by request) is tricky. Trust me, this type is fun to write.

Deadline: Just like a book, I've got a deadline. Difference? These deadlines come quick. I accepted this commission last week, it's due the beginning of March.

This commission will be filling my next few weeks. Will I meet the deadline? With room to spare.

I can hear the train whistle now. All aboard!!


  1. Fascinating! Train mysteries are great.

  2. Carol; I hope it will be fun; it is so far.

    Alan; They ARE fun.

    Stacy; Thanks!

  3. Sounds like a lot of fun, Elspeth! And different from your novel, too....that's a lot of suspects! I always thought those parties would be fun (probably the only kind of party I'd really enjoy....)

    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

  4. Elizabeth; It IS a lot of suspects, but it's a game and everyone wants to be part of the mystery. Part and parcel of writing these things. I've written one custom game with 19 players. That one was work!

  5. Elspeth - Thanks for the glimpse into what it's like to write a game (and of course, congrats on the commission). I know so little about it that it was interesting to learn. Like Elizabeth, I was thinking about how many suspects there are, but as you say, if people want to play, there needs to be a role for them. Very cool!!

    I think the big challege for me doing games would be the quick deadline. I can do my nonfic writing commissions quickly (and often do) but fiction?? Not so much.

  6. Margot; There are a lot of suspects, but it comes with the territory. This means, of course, a lot of different motives!

    Elizabeth; I rock? Really???

  7. Elspeth,

    Oh my goodness, what a fun blog is this. I'm so glad I found it, as I am a huge mystery fan. I'm adding myself as a follower so I can keep up with all your posts. What a perfect follow up to all the Agatha Christie novels I've been reading lately.



  8. Karen; I'm so glad you've found me! I hope you enjoy it. Welcome.

  9. Thank you for explaining the process to us, Beth. I think I would like having someone set all those parameters for me and then have at it. (Although the deadline would scare me a little.)

    Sounds like you're going to have fun w/ this one. I hope it sells like crazy!


  10. All aboard indeed! The number of suspects made me laugh out loud. That's a lot of subplots to be woven together - should be a LOT of fun :)

  11. Elspeth - Me again : ) There is an award for you on my blog.

  12. Elisa; I hope to have fun. This is a commission, so I have to decide whether or not to open it up to the public after the event. I might. Usually you have to make some changes to the game.

    Jemi; It IS a lot of subplots; but I'm used to it!

    Margot: Yipee! I'm lousy at passing these things along, though.

  13. Oh Elspeth, how fun. Is that fun for you? Or do you consider it more like work?

  14. JW: The plotting is fun. Figuring out who everyone is and what their motives are is fun. Actually writing the game? That's work.

  15. Sounds like a lot of fun! I love the 20's- I just finished teaching that era in my U.S. History classes. The kids taught each other to dance the Charleston which was pretty hilarious.

  16. This definitely sounds like a lot of fun - and the end result sounds like it will be such fun, too!

  17. This is too cool! Thanks for sharing the process with us...I love to hear about these other areas of writing!

    Best of luck with your new sounds fun and challenging!

    Have you ever written a Nancy Drew game? The hubby and I used to LOVE playing those on our computer...we became quite addicted!


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