Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to Write a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story

     I have written exactly two CYOA magazine stories for ages 8-12, so far. Both of them  have sold. I thought you might be interested in how to write one.
     Starting the story is fun! Let's make up something...say, an avalanche. OK. Start at a peak of action. I usually like to yell. So our beginning might go something like this:

     "Look out!" You yell and duck into a cave on the side of Avalanche Mountain, as snow plummets from an overhead cliff.

     Remember, this is just an example. Were it my real story, I'd come back later and play with the wording. I suggest reading it aloud while trying to think from a kid's viewpoint. If you have kids near this age, you might ask them to read it back to you. Make sure you use as few words as possible to give your readers all the information they need to imagine and understand what's happening. And, make sure it is easy to read aloud.
     Now, you have to split the story into two or three directions (yes, this soon), and give your readers a choice:
     You are trapped in the cave. "Sam! Sam!" You call when you can't find your brother. You wonder if Sam is safe or if he is burried in snow. To your way out, go to #7. To look for another tunnel leading out of the cave, go to #12.
     I don't actually assign numbers until after I finish the story, but when I do go back and add numbers, I try to vary them, so the reader feels like it's a bit more active, like a scavenger hunt. Next, you continue the story, but now you are writing two entirely different stories with the same beginning. Let's say the reader turned to the paragraph numbered 7. It might read like this:
     You start digging through the snow covering the cave entrance. You yell for Sam and think you may hear a weak voice, but after five minutes you are sure you must have imagined the voice. Your hands are so cold they start to burn. Just then, you remember the battery operated lamp stored in your backpack. To keep digging, go to #5. To search for another way out with your lamp, go to #2.
     Do you see how this works? I like to print my story and tape it on a poster board or wall to see how it flows. You can draw connection lines on poster board.
     Both of my stories were from 1700-1800 words with about 20 choice numbers. Each story had four endings: one super end, one pretty good end, one OK but not great end, and one tragic end.
     For a super-steller story that an editor REALLY wants, write the story around factual, historical events or objects so the reader learns something. The publisher will likely include the historical info somewhere after the story.
     Any questions?
 

13 comments:

  1. DS adored the choose-your-own adventure format back when. As a writer, I was intrigued by the second person POV. The ones we owned were all history lessons disguised as fun adventures. Congratulations on selling yours!

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  2. Yes, the POV is a lot different than the typical read. Fun to write!

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  3. Hi Amber,

    Congrats on the sale. E-mail me when you get a chance. I left several messages for you about the critique group. Looks like your recent modem problems might be preventing you from getting them.

    Thanks,

    Ken

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    1. Thanks, Ken. I'm still getting msgs on my phone, so I should get them. Hmmm... Nothing goes to spam, so it shouldn't get lost. Try checking the address?? ryallmom at gmail dot com

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    2. Hi Amber,

      Did you get my e-mail invitation from the Yahoo group, Writers for Kids? I understand from several members that the computer generated invitation is a little generic and could be mistaken as spam. We started some critiquing last week so I want to get you officially into the group soon.

      Ken

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    3. No, I don't think I saw it, Ken. Please try again. I'm sorry this seems to be so much trouble. My new modem should arrive today. Hopefully we can get it sorted soon. Thank you for your efforts!

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    4. Amber,

      Yahoo has indicated to me that you need to get a Yahoo account before I can send invitation. That's the problem I believe. I did resend the e-mail invitation, but I again had to covert it to yallmom@gmail.com because it wouldn't accept it the way you wrote it above. Go figure.

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    5. Thanks. Looks like you got the email right. I try not to post it to keep spam bots from picking it up. Did you get my request to join the writersforkids yahoo group? I just sent a bit ago. A family member is having health issues, and I've decided to limit my writing groups to pb only for now. Looking forward to connecting! What is your email Addy?

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    6. I set up a new acct this morning under ryall... so should be working, fingers crossed. Just now, in the comment above, my email is missing the r.

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  4. Interesting process, thanks for sharing and congratulations on your sales!

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    1. Thanks. The sales are old ones. I've been busy with work and raising babies, but I'm starting to submit again. :)

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  5. I'm not a wrter as you know,but it's always great to learn something:) Great post:)

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement. :) I'm trying to make the blog more helpful for writers, in general. I don't know much about illustrating.

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