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How To Write a “Choose Your Own Adventure” Novel

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E.B. Black is a published author who writes fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels.

Read on for six easy-to-follow steps to help you write your “choose your own adventure” novel.

Read on for six easy-to-follow steps to help you write your “choose your own adventure” novel.

What Is a “Choose Your Own” Adventure Novel?

A ”Choose Your Own” Adventure novel is a book that makes the reader the main character. It’s usually written in second person with a lot of “you” statements.

It has sections of narration and then either page numbers or links with choices for the reader to decide on what happens next. The reader makes a selection out of the choices and either turns to the page listed or presses the link. The story continues on based on what choice they made.

This allows them to customize the story to their own liking.

These stories are a lot of fun to both read and write but also much more difficult to create than a regular novel. This is why I made a list of tips to help you if you want to write this type of novel.

6 Tips for Writing Your “Choose Your Own Adventure” Novel

  1. Experiment With Genre
  2. Don't Depend on Bad Endings
  3. Make an Outline
  4. Make It About the Journey, Not the End Result
  5. Vary the Choice Patterns
  6. Start Out Simple

1. Experiment With Genre

Because a lot of “Choose Your Own” Adventure novels are sci-fi and fantasy stories, people fall for the idea that no other type of genre works for these kinds of novels.

”Choose Your Own” is very versatile, though. You can write thrillers, horror, and even romance. Anything you like will work, but you have to make sure that the stories still fulfill all it needs to in order to fit in the genre. For example, a romance novel should have a “happily ever after” ending, and horror must have frightening elements.

How to Make an Interactive Adventure

2. Don't Depend on Bad Endings

With most genres, except romance, you might want to have some bad endings here or there. The possibility of death or a bad ending keeps readers on their toes, worried about the choices they make that might lead to a premature, terrible ending.

You want them to be rare, though. If you’re making a ton of different bad endings to get rid of some of the choices, then you are writing your “Choose Your Own“ adventure poorly.

You don’t want one main storyline and a bunch of bad endings if the reader doesn’t choose what you want them to. They’ll stop feeling like it’s a “Choose Your Own” adventure story and decide it’s a “figure out what the author wants me to do” story instead.

If half of your endings are bad, your reader may wind up choosing bad endings constantly. They’ll get frustrated and stop reading your book before they finish because everything they choose is wrong.

It doesn’t take many bad endings to frustrate your reader. Remember that they’re making many choices throughout the book and that with each new choice, there’s a higher chance that they’ll choose a bad ending.

No matter how long your book is and how many choices you give them, there should be less than seven bad endings total.

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In the case of a “Choose Your Own” romance novel, you’ll want zero bad endings. You don’t need bad endings to write a good story. I’ll explain that later.

tips-for-writing-a-good-choose-your-own-novel

3. Make An Outline

I recommend making an outline before you write or designing the outline as you’re writing, so you can keep track of all your choices and what leads to where.

This will help you keep everything organized as things get more complicated. It will help you decide which page of your book goes where and help you make sure you tie up all choices in a satisfactory way.

Here's a solid resource from Reedsy you can draw from to help you better outline your novel.

tips-for-writing-a-good-choose-your-own-novel

4. Make It About the Journey, Not the End Result

This is the biggest way people mess up when writing “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. They think they need to make the world open-ended; they want every possibility available to the reader.

This can’t happen, though. You’ll never be able to think up all the possible things someone might want to do, and you don’t need to. You’ll wind up with hundreds of different unnecessary storylines if you try.

That may sound cool, but your reader is only reading one storyline, probably. While some readers go back and reread, most don’t. So you’ll spend many months thinking up hundreds of possibilities for every scenario, and people will be done reading your book in five minutes after making only three choices.

That’s a lot of work with very little payoff.

Instead, you want the reader to see it as if you are holding their hand and guiding them through the story. You’re writing this book with them; they are not writing it alone.

So you want to make certain plot points that the reader will eventually go to no matter what.

You branch out with choices at first and then tie them all back together at each plot point. Then you repeat the process.

If you want an example of how this is done, watch “In Space With Markiplier” below, where he does a really good job of giving the viewers choices but leads them to the same plot points repeatedly, no matter what they choose.

You might think this destroys the reader’s ability to choose what will happen, but it doesn’t.

You’re giving them “what” they will handle next, and their choices are “how” they will handle it.

For example, let’s say the plot point you decided on is that they’re going to cross a giant gorge with no bridge connecting the two points.

They’re going to do that next in the story; this is the “what” that they’re facing.

The choices you give them are the “how.” For example, you could give them all these choices:

  • crossing using a magic spell of floatation
  • cutting down a tree and using the log to make a bridge
  • jumping across using a javelin
  • swinging across on a vine

You can create many more choices than these for them to choose from, but you see how no matter what they choose, they still make it across the gorge? It’s just all about how they make it across.

Real life is actually a lot similar to that in many ways. We don’t always get to decide what happens to us, but only how we choose to deal with it.

This is how you let them make choices across the whole story but also guide them through certain plot points, so your story doesn’t grow completely out of control, and it’s easier to keep your storyline straight.

5. Vary the Choice Patterns

Like I said in the previous tip, you should branch out with choices at first and go to random places and then simplify it as you get to the next plot point, where all choices should connect again.

You don't want every new section to be a plot point, or your reader will see through the illusion of choice and realize you are fully guiding them through the adventure.

On the way to the gorge, for example, before you get to that plot point, maybe you could give them three things they can do:

  • explore a cave
  • dig a hole
  • climb a tree

They can do different things in each area that aren't crucial to the plot, but no matter what, they will eventually get to the gorge and have a way to cross it.

This keeps readers guessing and feeling like the story is fully in their hands without letting it grow out of control.

6. Start Out Simple

With your first “Choose Your Own” Adventure, maybe start out simple with a short story, so you can practice doing these things on a smaller scale before writing an entire novel where you follow these tips.

Here's a helpful series of exercises from So You Want to Write? to help build your story-writing skills. The exercises start very small with flash fiction (under 1,000 words) and build up to the novella (about 10,000 to 40,000 words).

© 2022 EB Black

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