Wednesday, May 16, 2018

If I Rebooted Nancy Drew

Q: If you had to reboot the Nancy Drew franchise (books and/or computer games), how would you go about it? You have seen most of the franchise and all of the failed reboots/mistakes they have made, and I am curious to hear your answer. How would you make a good reboot that paid homage to the originals while still pressing onward?

A: Phew, that's a tough question!

For the game series, fans seem to prefer the older Nancy Drew games, the ones that make up the "classic" series. At least, they always dominate in "best game" polls. To recapture that magic, I'd bring in one of the bigwigs from that era. Say, Max Holechek, the director of Games 4-12. Alternately, I would try making a game based on a book. The older games did that; the newer games not so much. Make a game based on The Haunted Staircase to coincide with the movie release! That might be for the best.

Another safe bet might be a sequel game. Say, Return to Shadow Ranch or Terror at Blackmoor Manor. If done correctly, it could be fantastic. I personally want to see a follow-up to The Silent Spy because I was interested in the unresolved storylines of that game. The Shattered Medallion also had unresolved storylines, but I'm less interested in seeing Sonny Joon's Scavenger Hunt: Part Two.

For the book series, I think the main problem with the current series is that Nancy is a reluctant heroine who doesn't like to solve mysteries. She goes out of her way to avoid mysteries, and she's often passive in investigating. That defeats the entire purpose of the series! Who wants to read a mystery-free mystery series?

The last book was particularly bad, in that Nancy is constantly scared and complaining; she starts off by talking about how she almost wet her pants when someone talked to her unexpectedly. That's a horrible way to introduce your main character. So I would start there; I would completely change Nancy's personality.

Here are all my various ideas for a book reboot:
  • Make Nancy Drew a good role model, someone readers can look up to. When 1930 Nancy Drew is a better feminist / role model than your Nancy Drew, you're doing something wrong. If I wrote for Nancy Drew, I would model her off the videogame series version of the character, which is currently better than what we're getting in the books. (
  • Aim for an older target audience. The last three Nancy Drew reboots have all aimed for a younger target audience. Time to crank the reading level back up a bit!
  • Longer books. The original series had 210 page books; the rewrites had 180 pages. Since the 1980's, Nancy Drew books have normally hovered around 150 pages each. Nancy Drew Diaries has huge spacing, so it's hard to tell how long those books are, but they seem a tad shorter. I'd recommend either going back to longer books, or giving every book the same number of pages/chapters.
  • Better titles. Too many books in the Nancy Drew Diaries series have titles that have nothing at all to do with the book. There are no red slippers in The Red Slippers, there is no phantom in Phantom of Nantucket, there is no puzzle in The Professor and the Puzzle. Seriously, it is not asking too much to have the title match the book in some way. The worst title goof is in Book 13, where one chapter is titled "the bachelor did it". Way to spoil the culprit's identity before the book even started.
  • More variety in stories. Over 90% of the Nancy Drew Diaries books were sabotage mysteries. Please stop.
  • Hold off on pop culture references which quickly become dated. Some of them are dated, by the time the books go into print! Be cool like 1980's Nancy Drew and change the names of pop culture references. Just imagine how bad the Donald Trump or JFK Jr. books would be seen today, if they hadn't changed their names.
  • Go back to third person perspective. This is just a stylistic thing, but it's a good way to emphasize "we're going back to the series' roots".


Anonymous said...

Those are some really well-thought out ideas! I think you would make the series really good. I am curious, though—what time period would you make it? Would you make it timeless or classical, or would you make it modern day? And how would you handle potential Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew crossovers? Would you write them meeting for the first time, or just as old buddies?

Sheesh, the more I think about this, the more I think the series has gone would one even reboot the Hardy Boys series? Their dad is probably the most irresponsible parent on the planet.

Thanks for your thoughts! You always have a practical and interesting opinion.

Anonymous said...

This is a little off track, but doesn't Nancy end up with a Michael G at the end of the Nancy Drew on Campus series? 'Cause if she did, it's funny.

Anonymous said...

Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys books are not what I'd call deep-reading. As far as entertainment goes, all the series can do the job to some extent, or other. As for flaws, I think all of the different series contain elements* that might make readers cringe, launch their fists skywards or become bemused.

I suppose one reason certain people like some of the series better than others could come down to 'old things are the best'. With the exception of the Nancy Drew on Campus series, which was just crap. If I'm really honest, this is why I don't like the 'new' (anything post-'90s) books.

*Racism; Nancy cheating on Ned (over and over); Iola being instantly cremated; Nancy being a hypocritical girl scout; Ned dating Bess; The Inexplicable Return of Joe's curly hair from the '20s; Deirdre Shannon; Frank turning into a beetroot around girls; The scary cover art of Young Nancy Drew: Mark II; Nancy acting like Shaggy Rogers or Scooby-Doo.

At least Nancy was never called Stella Strong.

Anonymous said...

Michael, have you read The Three Investigators (previously Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators)? It is an old series, I don't know whether they tried to revive it or not, but the series does not read dated even though it was written last century. Basically it is a children mystery series. It is much like Nancy Drew, except that the main characters are boys/male teens, and it reads... I don't know, less snobby/bourgie? I'm not sure how to describe it, but Nancy Drew books (at least those I've read) put Nancy in the environment that is unrealistic for most teens, like hotels/resorts/detective missions abroad. In the Three Investigators everything is more natural.