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Playing In Someone Else’s Sandbox (Part 3)(game tie-ins) March 2, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, sci-fi, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, writing.
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Worlds don’t need to be created when writing stories in well-developed properties like Magic: The Gathering, MechWarrior and other RPGs since the history for such is already extensive. The trick becomes fitting a new story into an established world.

With Magic, the cards call the stories. I did a short story, “Festival of Sorrow,” for the anthology Distant Planes. The idea was to develop a story with characters that fit into the universe that, excuse the pun, played on the card. At the time I played Magic and loved the look of the Festival card. The story built around not a celebration but a warrior’s need for revenge–only to have the revenge stolen away by his foe’s untimely death. All this made for a story I still like a lot.

I also did a Magic novel, Dark Legacy,and this was more open-ended. Fantasy, exploration and the main character wondering why she lacked the charisma of a lesser rover. It turned out to be as much a story of fame and what this means as it did derring-do.

One of the more curious things that somehow happens and is beyond my explaining came to the fore with a MechWarrior book, Ruins of Power. Nothing went right with it, I put in 20 hour days to meet the deadline because of constant changes, and one day out the editor wanted a different ending. On schedule, I delivered a book well over the 90,000 words contacted–and got it edited down for length through such things as losing my dedication and buildup material. Still, the book wasn’t bad and fit into the BattleTech universe. However, it is my worst reviewed book on Amazon and, strangely, one of my best selling. This comes down to fame or fortune. I suppose fortune wins out since that pays the bills.

Finding the right characters that fit into an established universe makes these books sing and dance. I’ve done stories for Warhammer, Pathfinder, Vor: The Maelstrom and Crimson Skies and the trick is, as in any story, putting the character into a dangerous position. The difference is doing it in context with a wide and detailed background established by not only the game developers but the fans. It can be tricky. It is also a lot of fun.

Here is the most recent of such travels into an RPG/gaming universe.

Fate of the Kinunir, a Traveller tie-in novel

Fate of the Kinunir, a Traveller tie-in novel

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Tied-in, Not Tied Down April 28, 2013

Posted by bobv451 in awards, business, Star Trek, writing.
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I’ve done a lot of books in a lot of genres and all have their special claim to my writing pleasure. Doing tie-in books is a skill that requires more honing than is immediately obvious. Mostly, tie-in writers “can’t get no respect” as Rodney Dangerfield might have said. This is the reason the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers was formed several years ago.

Tie-ins are more of a committee effort than you might think. The property is owned by some megacorp (usually) wanting to protect not only the written word but the entire franchise, whether it be gaming or TV or movies. As such, everything has to pass through the hands and red pencils of someone charged with maintaining continuity. Even when you are a big fan, writing such novels can be an exercise in banging your head against the wall over (to you) trivial details. When I wrote the Star Trek books I used the word ”chair” and was told in no uncertain terms that there are no chairs aboard the Enterprise, only seats. How I wanted to have a meeting with the “seatperson” presiding!

Those books were tie-ins, but not the kind demanding even more research and head banging. Original novels set in someone else’s universe are one thing (think: Star Trek, Star Wars) but tie-ins also include adaptations. Pleasing everyone (or anyone!) is difficult when something like a video game becomes so popular that every nuance is etched in the players’ minds. Deviate from this in a book and trouble boils up. You have violated a tenet, but the truth is that 100% adherence to what happens in a game would give 100% boring book. They are different and need different treatments. God of War is a thrilling game to play but it is entirely about fighting, solving puzzles and moving on. This isn’t the stuff of a novel. Putting in material not in the game but *implied* to form a background is necessary to build the world, shape the characters and give new dimensions to the story. I think I have done that in both God of War 1 and the recently published God of War 2.

New characters otherwise in the shadows, political intrigue, motivations brought into the spotlight, these are the things a novel can do that a game doesn’t–and shouldn’t. They’re different beasts. Each has its strengths and both are enjoyable.

If you think tie-in writing is somehow inferior, I recommend to you any of the IAMTW Scribe nominees. This is a first rate slate of books for about every genre taste.

The 2013 field will be just as strong.