One of my favorite types of books as a kid was Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. They were the only books where it was okay for the main character to die; you could go back and try again. I would always make an effort to reach the best possible ending without cheating. Not an easy feat!
I had two Transformers-themed find-your-fate books and somehow, I could never get the Autobots to save the day. It’s pretty funny to me in hindsight, but at the time I remember thinking maybe there wasn’t a good ending.
Over the years, I have tried my hand at a couple of CYOA (or FYF) books. One of them I wrote for my students as a preview to the phases of matter. I called it the Realm of the Phaser. To make it available to them without costly printing, I hosted it on the school network drive as clickable webpages. And yes there was a worksheet that went with it to help guide them along.
I tried another one after that involving a person who received a call to be at a certain house at a specific time. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn megadollars if only you could navigate through the house with some rather dour advice from the unhelpful butler. The funny part of this attempt was that I ended up with a whole spiraling series of events that took place before ever really getting into the house and when life became busy and I stepped away from it, all you could ultimately do was die trying to get inside the house, die getting out of the house, or ending up in a hospital and trying to survive there. Certainly not the direction I had aimed for!
Then I wanted to tell an actual story. That was the beginning of Garinor’s Adventure. At first, I wasn’t sure which way to take the story, which wasn’t only ironic for what I was writing, it was necessary. I needed to leave options open and to let Garinor have some say in what he was going to do. The first choice you make is irrelevant–and I should probably alter that some day–but it was included to help the reader get used to the idea of options before getting too far in. After a couple of forced choices, the story branches majorly. During his journey, he learns of a prophecy and he has to then follow it to its conclusion. I’m not always a fan of prophecies; where’s the free will? Yet even in this CYOA, I think I found a way to make the destiny/choice conflict work out.
To keep this story on track, I needed a time map. Certain events had to happen on certain days, even if Garinor was nowhere near the event. One day it rains, for instance, so wherever he was on that day, there had to be rain. It added a definite layer of complexity to an already complicated scenario.
I really don’t know how I did it, but I managed to complete the vast majority of the tale in a single month of writing. Sure, I spent every night after work and much time on the weekends, but some kind of fire was in me and I just kept cranking it out. Despite that, I did find myself disappointed that I hadn’t fully completed the whole thing by then. It was the goal, once I realized it was reachable. Things came up, as they do, and the last major story arc that had to be woven through the rest took a final two weeks. Still, it was an insane pace.
I tried to edit the whole thing by tracking down every viable path. I think there is one crossover storyline where Garinor actually doesn’t hear a key part of the prophecy but then goes to a scene where he is expected to know it. Unfortunately, tracking that error down again will be another major undertaking. I know roughly where it takes place, so hopefully that makes it easier.
In one of the story lines, Garinor even ends up in a magical maze. For this, I created a map using Excel, of all things. I made sure all the connecting points fit the choices in the story, so that whole section should be good, though as a reader it might seem just as confusiong as it was for Garinor. I wonder if I would ever include that maze if I set Garinor to print.
For now, however, if you’re looking for something a little lighter with a sense of danger and an overarching prophecy guiding things to the end, then check out a few pages of Garinor’s Adventure. You can access it through the Excerpts section at the top of the blog. You can’t get too far into the adventure right now. It stops when you have the choice of “past, present, or future.” If you do read what’s up there and want more, let me know. I may release more sections then.