Writing a Story Based on a Game? Day One: Who are You Writing For?

This week is going to be pretty intense for me; I am rounding the corner on a novella based on the game called “Altheia.” Unfortunately, mapping out the story took a lot longer than I thought, so I’m a bit strapped for time. So for most of this week, I’m going to focus on my process for writing a story based on a game because it’s top-of-mind and something I hope you find interesting to read.

Really, this process could probably apply to any “shared world” setting like Battlestar Galactica or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but my methodology for writing game fiction tends to be more mechanical because it has to be by its very nature. For this particular story, I’m writing fiction for a game that doesn’t have a mass market setting. Because of that, my entire piece has to fit primly within the “rules” of the setting in order to give players a sense of whether or not they’re interested in picking up the game. In this way, gaming fiction has to be written for potential buyers of the game.

Publishers often offer stories written within a unique gaming world because they’re hoping to attract readers interested in a particular genre (games are almost ALWAYS genre-based), collectors who might follow a specific writer’s career, and gamers who love their game. Publishers aren’t stupid, though, because their concern is that the story has to fall within the constraints of their property, so they often hire writers who they can trust. So here, the game fiction has to be written for the publisher.

Whether you write for gamers or publishers, the true “end goal” of any story is to write a good story that readers will enjoy. In this way, the third audience for your gaming fiction is the person who is reading it. For gaming fiction, that person may or may not be a gamer, and writers have to keep that in mind in order to market to the slipstream audience.

Gamers, readers, and publishers are the audience of gaming fiction. If the original game was created by a big name in the industry, or is part of a mass market line like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Everquest, then you might have to add in two, additional audiences to the mix. As a writer of game fiction, you have to be a chameleon to satisfy your audience – all three, four or five of them.

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

Want an interview? If you’d like to interview me or request a guest blog post, please connect with me via the contact page, too. Due to time constraints and other communicative concerns, I typically don’t follow up on requests via social media.

Keen on sending fan mail? I am also happy to engage with readers and fans. Please note that I am unable to reply satisfactorily to certain types of queries related to the companies I work for due to the agreements I typically sign. If you have a question about a TV show or a line of books, the best way to get your answer is to contact the studio or publisher directly.

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