Choose Your Own Adventure

Charlene Teglia posted today over on Romancing the Blog about the many ways to write a book. She talks about missing the “innocent ignorance” of “how else could it happen?” The notion made me smile. I was there in the not too distant past. Back in April when Pot and I first started working together as critique partners, she challenged a lot of my plot elements in House of Cards and there were times I sat there dumbfounded–“But that’s how it happens!” Thankfully, I have gotten beyond this limitation and am willing to expand my horizons and look at other possibilities. I think HOC is a much stronger book for having my having gotten to that point. So thank you, Pot, for pushing me to explore territories unknown.

Anyway, the post this morning got me to thinking about those Choose Your Own Adventure novels I read as a kid. You know the ones. You’re at a pivotal point and if you want to open the door and go into the basement you go to page 85. If you want to go back the way you came, you go to page 47. I got the biggest kick out of those, and gradually I would read through and try every permutation of adventure possible. And I have to wonder how the authors who created those books manged to tie everything back on itself.

Starting a new book is kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Except you’re creating it from scratch. There are times when this is exciting–there are endless possibilities, and you as Goddess of your own world can do anything. That’s heady stuff. Particularly for those of us who are control freaks or who simply like making decisions. I mean, c’mon, how many of you started writing because a) you wanted to write another ending to a real life event, b) you got teed off about an episode of your favorite TV show or a movie, c) you wanted to imagine you were someone else. C’mon. Show of hands. Yeah, thought so. Most everybody did it at least ONCE.

But there are also times when the notion of endless possibilities is terrifying. How will I choose? Sometimes I feel like that at the very beginning because I’m one of those people who don’t start with much as foundation. For Flash Point all I knew initially is that I wanted to write a serial arson story. Then I had to figure out who the hero was. Would he be tortured or not? Dark or not? Who was the heroine? How did they hook up? What was her background? Was she in the witness protection program? Why did she change her name (I knew that she had, just not the why of it, initially)? Do I have any scenes from the POV of the arsonist? Do I keep it just within the hero and heroine’s heads? Do I want to try to frame someone? My hero? My heroine? How? Lots and lots of questions! And Pot always comes up with more that make me think, which is both fabulous and frustrating when I don’t have the answers yet.

How about the rest of you? Do you enjoy choosing your own adventure or does the idea of making all those decisions petrify you?

2 thoughts on “Choose Your Own Adventure

  1. This is a really nice post. And not just because you say nice things about me. But you’re welcome.

    While I’m sure there are plenty of talented people who write great things with the pure inspiration that comes out of their heads, I think they’re few. [lengthy analogies to other arts deleted] For me, that point at which a writer is willing to be the Master of her story, rather than dictation secretary to her Muse is a sign of maturity that helps separate the adult aspiring writers from the kids at Fictionpress. (Don’t purposely misunderstand me, guys. You know who I mean.)

    So good for you!

    Anyway, the point. Do I fear the decisions during beginning story development? Um…I’d have to say no. I think that’s one of the parts that I really enjoy and feel like there aren’t any wrong answers. Sometimes I guess it is overwhelming. Sometimes it seems like I really need somekind of a springboard, some kind of inspiration which helps me make a bunch of those decisions right off so that I have something to base the rest of it on, if that makes any sense. For me, this is usually inspired by something I came up with while listening to a particular piece of music. I take the idea I got from that and fill in some details to make that possible or explain it. Then other decisions become based on that. (It’s sort of like designing a dress, and because I put this element at the top, I need to balance that with a complimentary element at the bottom, I do this because it suits the rest, but I don’t do that because it’s getting to be too busy, etc.)

    I think I really enjoy that part of it, revel in the possibilities, enjoy watching the concept grow from nothing, and that’s why I’m always there with the “thinking questions”.


  2. I do this alot – no doubt. I usually start with the way I want a character to be at the END of the story an work backwards, thinking how does she get to that point? How do the other characters come to see her like that? Etc.

    I was never much into the choose-your-own-adventure books, because I always took the more daring approach and inevitably wound up splattered on the basement steps. 😀 But I do remember that I loved the idea of so much control being directly in my child-hands. Mwah. Evilness. Another nice follow up post after the linguistic one few days ago. 😀

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