September 2, 2003

Choose One of Four Deep Paths

by Andrew Stern · , 9:43 pm

Ever wondered what the underlying plot structure of a “choose your own adventure” book actually looks like? I recently bought Night of a Thousand Boyfriends, a kind of dating adventure book, by Miranda Clarke. It had been a long time since I’d read a “choose-your-own”-type book, and was now curious to better understand the exact nature of its plot branching — would branches multiply systematically, leading to dozens of distinct paths and endings, or would the branches tend to fold back on themselves? Would there be any of clever re-use of pages in different contexts?

The only way to find out was to spend several hours graphing the interconnections between each page. The resulting hand-drawn plot graph is below. Each node in the graph contains one or more page numbers in it, signifying a linear sequence of one or more pages. A doubly-circled node indicates a story ending. (The cover of the book proudly claims “24 different endings!”)

chooseplotgraph.jpg

The story structure seems to be primarily composed of four major paths (hi-lit in yellow), each with lots of little ending offshoots. Occasionally there is some interesting interconnectedness, particularly that cluster on the left middle of the page. In two places a path backtracks quite a distance to connect to a different path; one of them I drew as a dotted line, because it was so lame — you are abducted by aliens, your memory is erased, and you start the story again from almost the beginning.

Anyhow, I found it to be a fun exercise.