Interactive books! Remember reading them as a kid? Choose Your Own Adventure and Pick-a-Path are the two series I remember best. But there were lots of others, including Fighting Fantasy and Twistaplot. Although they’ve never completely gone out of vogue, they seem to be having a bit of a resurgence at the moment with series such as Lost in…, Choose Your Own Ever After and my own series, You Choose.
Interactive books (or game books, or branching path books) are often referred to as Choose Your Own Adventure books (or CYOA books). But Choose Your Own Adventure is actually the trade-marked name of the series which popularised this style of storytelling. Contrary to popular belief, these books did not invent the concept. It was predated by a series called The Adventures of You, and there are other earlier examples of individual stories playing around with this format.
The basic concept is that the story branches at various key points, where the reader gets to decide which path to follow. The other defining feature of this style of storytelling, is that they are written as second person narrative, placing the reader into the story.
I read the Choose Your Own Adventure series rather obsessively back in the 1980s. I loved the fact that decisions I made influenced the outcome of the story. As a kid, it gave me a sense of control and power that ordinary books did not provide. It was exciting! And I got to re-read the books… but with a different outcome each time. I got very good at marking pages with my fingers as I read — often reaching the end of a path with every available finger wedged between the pages — so that I could backtrack and rethink my decisions. A little awkward, but oh so much fun!
Over the years, nothing has rivalled the popularly of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. But new books have continued to pop up every now and then, from interactive versions of RL Stine’s Goosebumps (Give Yourself Goosebumps), to those set in the Doctor Who universe (Doctor Who: Decide Your Destiny), from a history education series, to a couple of books written by John Marsden in the 1990s (Cool School and Creep Street).
Now, all of a sudden, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in the format. In the UK, Bloomsbury have released the first two books in a new series with a survival twist — Lost in… the Desert of Dread and Lost in… the Jungle of Doom. Meanwhile here in Australia, Hardie Grant have released a romance themed series called Choose Your Own Ever After.
And then there’s my new series — You Choose. 🙂
My writing of this series has pretty much been an excuse for me to relive my childhood. And I cannot express just how much fun it has been plotting out all the different story paths for each of the books. I write each plot point onto a card, then stick it up onto a white board — lots of arrows and shifting around ensues, until things finally make sense. Here’s what the final plan of The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove looks like…
The You Choose series is being marketed for middle to upper primary… but I reckon they’re fun for ‘kids’ of all ages. 😉 I’ve spoken to many parents who grew up reading the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and who are now excited about having a new interactive series to read to their kids. And that’s pretty cool!
Catch ya later, George
Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.
Latest Post: DVD Giveaway — The Escape Artist