Many parents of my generation are familiar with Choose Your Own Adventure novels and they probably have fond memories of them. While the stories themselves are not terribly engaging or carry much emotive force, the format is extremely intriguing.
Fiction attempts to grab a reader and cause them to leave the world they are in and enter into a story world of make believe, usually through the eyes of one or more protagonists. Most Choose Your Own Adventure’s, also known as interactive fiction, immediately catapult the reader into the story by speaking directly to them. They say things like:
You look into the cavern. It is almost completely black, except for two glowing eyes. Do you draw your sword and attack or do you run away?
The reader is immediately invested in the main character, because they are in fact that character, and therefore they are, perhaps, more absorbed into the narrative. Not necessarily for the quality of the prose, but because of the format. ie. you climb, you jump, you fight, you run … you, the reader, are transported directly into the story, because the format has placed you there.
Another way, but less common, is to write the prose in the standard 1st or 3rd person and then have the reader make decisions for the protagonist:
Ebenezer’s muscles cramped. But if he moved, the creature might hear him. The cramp worsened. Should he change his position or keep still despite the pain?
I tend to think using the 1st or 3rd person, especially with longer segments, helps pull the reader into the prose better and therefore into the story, but that is only my opinion. Perhaps it is because I’m more comfortable reading traditional prose, and maybe children are more flexible with how they approach stories and more easily won over to the novelty of literally being the protagonist.
Anyway … I’ve been thinking on this interactive fiction stuff quite a bit, reading some of the old books I was familiar with, reading some of the new material available, and perusing the research and literature on the subject. There is a noticeable and disturbing trend towards darkness. I couldn’t find any Christian interactive fiction at all.
I decided to try one of the more simplistic and fairly innocuous titles on my twelve year old. She ate it up. I then tried a very simplistic picture book Choose Your Own Adventure on my eight and ten year olds. They ate it up. They all wanted more.
Armed with interactive fiction ideaphoria bursting from the seems of my brain, I shared my ideas with a friend at church. His response: “The only problem I see is that kids will want more, there won’t be anymore unless you write a whole bunch of it, so they’ll start reading the dark stuff.”
In reality we almost have the same problem in Christian teen fiction. The answer? Why not encourage more saints to write God honoring prose, whether straight up fiction or Choose Your Own Adventures?
I hope I’ve piqued your interest.
Next time, God willing, I’ll show you some first attempts and tell you about some cool software to get you started. Oh, and I’ll explore a couple twists to the whole concept that could take the interactivity of the genre to a whole new level.
Grace, peace and blessings.