Choose-Your-Own-Stories, Paths, and Writing

by Ogre11

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How are CYOA Stories Different?

Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories are very different from short stories or novels. Instead of having just a single plot, these stories often have to have a number of different plots. They usually have paths through the story that will change the plot and change the outcome of the story. The idea here is that each time a reader reads through the story, they will see a different story based on the choices they make. This is very significant because it requires the writer to work in a different manner.

There are an infinite number of ways that a CYOA story can be developed. Be sure to check out the Writing Workshop Forum, as often ideas for how to create and develop those stories are discussed. However you decide to create and develop your story, you do need to ensure that each branch of the story is a complete story!

    Considerations for CYOA stories and branching:
  1. Each branch exponentially expands the amount of writing you will need to do. For example, when you have one page and include two choices, you now have to write two additional pages. That's no big deal, but if you add just two choices on those two pages, you now need four additional pages. Adding just two choices on those pages will require eight more pages. You now have 15 pages to write -- but the reader will only see FOUR of those pages.
  2. Get used to the idea that the reader will not see every page you write. In the example above, not only does the reader only read four pages, that means they will NOT see 11 pages! If you want to write stories where every reader reads every word you write, please consider short stories instead of CYOA stories.
  3. Consider effective branching and hints. People who read CYOA stories want to have choices. But they also like to know when they're making a "poor" choice. Random choices (choose the left door or the right door) where one choice leads to death are really pointless, and most readers here will not like those options. If the random choices don't have an effect on the story, leave them out. If one is just as good as the other, but lead to different outcomes, even that is fine. But in general if one is better than the other, there might be clues in the text to let the reader know.
  4. Read this page about patterns. That page describes many of the common approaches to design of CYOA stories. While these are not requirements, it is highly likely that your story will fit into some variation of these patterns. Be sure to read the effects of each style to get an idea of what kind of story you're developing. Also note how quickly the nodes expand (which means more writing for you).
  5. Writing a CYOA takes a great deal of effort. Because of all the items listed above, this work you are trying to create is quite a bit more difficult than simply writing a short story. If you've never written a complete short story before, I'd suggest you start with one of those first. Feel free to use the Creative Corner forum here to post your short story and to get feedback on that story. Be prepared with thick skin, as if you ask for feedback here, you will often get brutal, but honest feedback.