enjoy creating CYOAs – to explain what this is, it means “Choose your own adventure”. Originally they were books you’d buy that let you decide the direction of the adventure in the fashion of “If you want to drink from the magic well, go to page 5, otherwise go to page 6”. You would make your choice, flip to that page, and live (or die) from it.

Since then, it’s been computerized. While most of them (like the books that proceeded them) are one-time throughs (of course, you could play through additional times and see how other paths run). But computerization allows additional features, such as randomization. I did this in my game based about spelunking modern day London, StoreyMinus. You can play it for free HERE, and play it over and over with different settings and outcomes every time.

But this got me to thinking of the next step in this, that being a CYON program (“Choose your own novel”). With computer readers such as Kindles and Nooks, you should be able to do this quite easily.

Think about it: audiences love their characters. In Star Wars, we didn’t have a massive galaxy of interesting characters – we had a half-dozen or so well-defined characters, the heroes and villains. Once they are defined and the novel storyboarded, the coding would be pretty easy.

Each paragraph would be rewritten so that it reads slightly differently in each path (a trick I did in StoreyMinus). So in two reads, you might find the following…

Luke found himself on the desolate desert of Tatooine, a place where farm families failed and left, and never returned


Luke found himself on the arid desert of Tatooine, a place where hopes died a parched, hopeless death…

So every read of every paragraph would change the feel (but not the content) of the story. And while the paragraphs would randomize their descriptions, the story paths would remain the same, i.e. Click HERE for Luke to leave Tatooine for the academy or HERE to help Uncle Owen on the farm. Going to the academy might lead to a career (to be regretted) in Imperial service, a thrilling space battle, or possibly a secret mission. All of these sub-adventures could be used and reused in different parts of the story. So even if you choose the same paths, the outcomes might still be different.

In the end, you would have a book with comfortable characters that you could read (and re-read) over and over again. Even better, outcomes from one CYON could provide codes (or even directly share data) that would seed the next book (or even deny a book’s access all together). You might sit with your kindle, working through book after book to see where Luke ends up each time – maybe the dark yet successful son of Vader, or a valiant member of the resistance, or a charred corpse floating in the wreckage of his snub fighter. There would be no right or wrong storyline. Each read-through, the tale would change.

Really, movies are already experimenting with this – the movie Clue had multiple endings. To think that you’d put all that work into a novel that has only one path, no interaction with the reader, no determinism, no flexibility, it seems a pity. We’ve all wished that we could forget a favorite novel with beloved characters and read it all anew – this would allow for this.

There is no reason Anna Karenina has to throw herself under the train. Maybe she should return to her lover, or improve her life, or even move to America. So many paths for our literary favorites. Why not walk their paths with them, rather than simply watching?