I have recently begun rereading some of the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that dominated my childhood. For the young people here, Choose Your Own Adventure (or CYOA) books were a young adult series from Bantam Books in the 70s and 80s that inserted the reader as a character in the story and allowed you to make choices that influenced how the novel turned out.
If it sounds fun, it absolutely was. I have fond memories of the CYOA books.
Reading them as an adult, I found that they are pretty hit-or-miss. CYOA books were written by one of two primary authors, Edward Packard (the creator) and R.A. Montgomery, the former publisher. Packard is a solid writer, and the late R.A. Montgomery was not.
Montgomery and his wife Shannon Gilligan obtained the rights to CYOA from Bantam and began publishing updated books in 2005 under a new publishing company called ChooseCo, LLC. I bought some of those reissues and checked others out from the library, and I was really let down. I had such fond memories of these books and they were terrible.
Recently, I found an 80s CYOA for sale on eBay and bought it. The Mystery of Chimney Rock was the first one I ever read as a kid. The reader-character is tasked with exploring a gargantuan haunted mansion called Chimney Rock, supposedly left as a haven for its deceased owner’s pet cat. Local legends say the owner, Mrs. Bigley, was actually a witch and that the house bears a curse.
I’m happy to report that rereading this book has restored my faith in CYOA. It is every bit as good as I remember it as a kid. My daughter even read a few stories in it and said that she was a little freaked out by the subject matter (not surprising; she scares easily).
I decided to try to write a CYOA story of my own. I found that to be seriously challenging and I will very likely write more thoughts on that in the future. I have found that there are very few good “How To” articles or videos on that subject. I had to wing it.
Thus far, I have completed two such stories. The first is a short CYOA novella of around 50 pages that I was using to test the concept and as a lead in to a possible series of RPG adventures. The second was a labor of love for my oldest daughter, since she liked CYOA books. I thought that, perhaps, I could make some money off of it and so I plan to self-publish it as soon as I finish editing it.
CYOA stories are challenging, since I have to figure out the reader-character’s choices and basically write the same story as if it happened a dozen or more different ways. But, this challenge is also the greatest reward. I don’t write just one story based on each concept, but I write dozens.
My first CYOA will be available next month, exact date to be determined soon. Unicorn Hunt is the search for a mythical unicorn in your very own local park.
I’m excited to offer my first self-published book, but I’m even more excited to make it a Choose Your Own Adventure book.