Sunday, March 9, 2008


BoingBoing has a nice link to a page by a fellow named Sean Ragan who had graphed all the possibile choices in the classic 1979 Choose Your Own Adventure novel, The Mystery of Chimney Rock.

Recently I was thinking about writing a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) book, trying to achieve an effect for a more mature audience. That project is still bubbling on the back burner. In the planning process, however, I decided to analyze my favorite CYOA book from my childhood to see what its structure was like. This graph is the result.
Kendra and I went through a spell last year (call it a phase) when we were deeply immersed in a couple of Choose Your Own Adventure books. For the first time in my life, I actually read every page of one of these books and followed every possible route. And I have to say, there is an art to plotting the choices. Good books have clear, good outcomes--a scenario in which you "win." Good books also tend to give you more than the simple either/or choice; some allow you to choose between three options, and one book we read had an ending that also had a choice with it (?). But probably the best choice we were given in our entire reading experience (and I say "we" because Kendra and I were team-reading these bad boys) was in Your Code Name is Jonah; here we were given the option of continuing to be a CIA operative working for the White House OR to resign in protest and go to "marine biology school." Priceless. I can see how over-thinking the plotting of choices could mar the simple nature of the CYOA books, but I applaud Sean Ragan for getting down to business with it anyway.

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