Hello my fellow bookworms and page turners,
Choose your own adventure (CYOA) books started out, in the 1980s, as “a series of children’s gamebooks where each story is written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character’s actions and the plot’s outcome. I remember playing these as a kid and I have found myself revisiting Ian Livingstones Fighting Fantasy series.
It wasnt until my most recent re-visits to these that I campe to appreciate just how complex the process is to write this style of book, talk about a logistical nightmare. I mean just Google CYOA structure to see what I’m talking about!
But where do you even begin to start one of these labyrinthian labours of literature?
I would write out a sketch of the story, from a top down level, and from there break this into blocks. These blocks will then link together to create the main narrative chain. The number of levels within the chain will depend on the amount of blocks used, but I would say that Livingsotnes books have around 10-20 main blocks with various additional branching paths. After all you need to make sure that you always have that powdered minator horn on you just incase you need to stop a metamorphosis spell.
Once you have created the full series of branching blocks there can be as many as 120 blocks of text. If each block is the length of an average page it would contain around 250 words, then you’ll have to write around 30,000 words for the entirety of the CYOA.
Throughout these blocks there should be a handful of brutal dark souls style endings somewhere in the middle that cut the story short. The protagonist might die or just fail to achieve his/her goal. What this means for the reader is that they will need to go back to the beginning of the quest and try again (or if you want to be a baby about it, return to the previous block/section and make a different decision the next time round.
Just for a bit of fun i have written a few ending suggestions below:
A) Spring loaded trap / pit that kills the Protagonist
B) Poisoning due to consuming an item or drinking from a water source
C) The Protagonist is captured
D) The Protagonist escapes, but flee’s the Adventure
E) The Protagonist Finds love
F) Protagonist achieves their goal/quest
At the end of the day, the aim of the game is to entertain the reader. So make sure that you mix up the stakes. Of course the stakes should vary. Readers don’t want every choice to be life or death and they don’t want every choice to be unimportant. It’s good to have a mix, but dont forget to add some comical choices.
So what do you think? Do you think you could write a CYOA? What would yours be about? let us know in the comments below.
Until next time, read more books!