Teach me how to write a choose your own adventure story
July 7, 2021 10:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in writing a choose-your-own adventure style book, probably more picture-book than chapter-book, but I don't think that part should matter much. I would love some thoughts/experience or resources (online or actual books) on how to do this. Meaning both process and content/structure. I think it's possible there might be some materials about old school text-based computer-games might be useful, too.

I'm interested in

A) How to structure a story -- how many endings? multiple paths to each ending or one path only?
B) different kinds of branching opportunities and possibly how to combine them (e.g.
C) I think I might make this an e-book type thing, so it's possible that I might have something where Picking Option A on Page 23 leads two different ways depending on what you choose on page 15, or whatever. If that makes any sense. Examples/thoughts on this welcome.
D) Anything else I want to know.

I will surely post a question later asking about what kind of software I would use to make an e-book that would let you choose your own adventure.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A few years ago I stumbled upon Twine, a software for making choose your own adventure stories. It is free and online and has a robust discussion board (or did in jan 2020) where people discuss the things you asked about, and offer additional help and tools.
posted by holyrood at 10:51 AM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: https://twinery.org/ Is the website
posted by holyrood at 10:51 AM on July 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Emily Short is probably one of your best resources here on Interactive Fiction (which is the term you'd also want to use searching around).
Also, the Interactive Fiction Wiki

There's a few tools out there, but Twine is probably one of the most-popular ones these days which might help fit the bill. (even if you want it to be physical in the end, it'll help with writing it)
posted by CrystalDave at 10:52 AM on July 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There are various sources out there for CYOA page graphs -- here's one.

I have no direct knowledge of the authors' process but I bet that those kinds of diagrams will be of use to you in seeing how the CYOA books were structured, and will be useful in structuring your own.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:52 AM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

D) As implied by the genre, CYOA stories are generally written from the second person perspective (You open the door and step into the room where you smell the remains of a fire, etc.) so that your reader can easily step into the shoes of your gender-neutral protagonist.
posted by carsonb at 3:31 PM on July 7, 2021

You might enjoy this episode of Aaron Reed's Substack series "50 Years of Text Games," where he goes in-depth on the the first CYOA book, The Cave Of Time. He also links to an article by Sam Kabo Ashwell that analyzes the structure of The Cave Of Time.
posted by lhauser at 8:48 PM on July 7, 2021

Back in the day we used to use graph paper to draw the flowcharts. These days, if anyone was still paying me to write this sort of thing, I'd use Twine.

The standard structure for solo gamebooks is a mostly linear story with regular bottlenecks or choke-points. Divide the story into chapters. At the transition between chapters, have one (or possibly two) sections that all readers will encounter. Think of it as a series of rooms: they can explore each room in different ways, but everyone will pass through each doorway to get to the next room. The choke-points are what keep your plot together and keep the author sane.

Once you've got the basic structure, then you can start getting clever.

Within each chapter/room, I used to figure on having around 25 sections. This was for a series of books aimed at kids, each with 300 sections and a total of around 35,000 words.
posted by Hogshead at 4:43 AM on July 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

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