Do you remember those ‘Choose your own adventure’ books from the 80’s with the elaborate cover art, written by Edward Packard? I remember first finding one in middle school, around 20 years ago now, and thinking how innovative I thought it was. My school’s library had dozens of them, and I think I read every single one of them.
The idea was revolutionary to me. If you’ve never read one before, let me explain how it works. You start at the first page, just as you would any other book, but as you read on, the story would stop at some point, and give you a choice of options to choose from. For example, your character might be running away from some kind of threat and reaches two possible choices to proceed with: a door that leads to some unknown room or a side hallway where you could continue running. If you want your character to open the door and hide in the room, you would turn to page 14, but if you chose to continue running down the hallway, you would turn to page 32. As you turn over to the corresponding page, the story progresses based on which decision you made, but making a wrong choice could lead to your demise or an ending you don’t find satisfactory.
Each book has a central story plot, but dozens of branching story paths with a decision to make at the juncture of each one. You would find yourself flipping several pages ahead, then a dozen pages back as you discover the possible paths available. As a teen, I probably checked every single story path in every single book my library had. On average, one book had around 40 endings. 20 ending with your death, 10 endings were unsatisfactory, 6 endings had you achieve nothing, and around 3 or 4 were good endings. On rare occasions, you may even find one path that time-travels you back to the beginning of the book, only to start all over again.
Now that I’ve finished gushing over how awesome they were for me, I’ll get back to the point. One day, I thought to myself, ‘Could I do this with erotica?’ and began an online search to see if this had been done before. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t the first person to get this idea, but I wasn’t far from it either. The idea itself had never even been attempted until around five years ago, and by only a handful of erotica writers at that. So I decided I would give it an attempt in both print and ebook formats.
As for a central story plot, I’m still working out the details, but I feel pretty confident about the idea I have now. After reading up on how best to write one, I found a couple of things one should keep in mind. First, most CYOA stories are written in the second-person, to help the reader place themselves in the story. Second, it’s a good idea to outline every possible path in a kind of diagram, whether it’s with flashcards, or a decision diagram app (which I’m using).
The final thing I had to learn on my own earlier today. I was concerned about using specific character archetypes that readers wouldn’t find relatable. I wanted my story to be more inclusive of the people who would read it, but how do you create a character that’s relatable to everyone? That’s when I remembered the most important part: the reader is the character. When writing your CYOA, you write the character with no assumptions about their appearance, or who that person is. The point is to give power to the reader, so stick to what’s happening, rather than creating the character’s experience.
I can’t say for certain if my story with have 40 possible endings, but I’m playing this by ear for now. I’m kinda excited to see where this goes. There’s a way you can help, though. I want to write a CYOEA with a similar plot to my earlier book release, “Ritual Offerings”, which included sexy scenes with witches, succubi, a goddess, and other sex demons. If there was a mythological creature/person you could have sex with, who/what would that be, and what kind of sexual acts would you do/have done to you? And please be serious, I already had someone suggest Unicorn, and I kinda want to avoid possible beastiality.
(No offense to the reader who suggested Unicorns)