What would you do if you were Pete?
“I thought of the idea while making up bedtime stories for my kids,” says Edward Packard, the key creative force behind the Choose Your Own Adventure books, when you decide to email him for an interview one bright, cloudless day in May. “One story was about a boy named Pete, who was cast up on an uncharted island. So I had Pete on the beach, but I couldn’t think what should come next in the story.
“I asked the kids, “What would you do if you were Pete? Walk along the beach or climb the rocky hill?” We had fun talking about what would be best. I plotted out multiple plot lines from there, wrote them up, and expanded on them, and the result was Sugarcane Island, which became the exact prototype for Bantam’s classic Choose Your Own Adventure series.”
Packard tells you that there are three crucial elements to any Choose Your Own Adventure title. Firstly, the protagonist is always you, the reader. Secondly, you always make choices leading to multiple plot lines. Thirdly, those multiple plot lines always lead to multiple endings. Often the books would advertise exactly how many endings they had at the top of the front cover, the same way games these days might shout about multiplayer features, DLC, or the dozens of different dresses you can win for your pony.
Finally, Packard mentions that he had a hard time getting the first book into stores. “When I was first trying to find a publisher for Sugarcane Island –– this was years before the Choose Your Own Adventure series was launched –– one of the publishers who rejected it said that it was more of a game than a book. Of course that was a dumb reason to reject it, but that’s what they felt. You might say it’s a book with game-like characteristics.”
Quite right. Also, all of a sudden, you are attacked by a huge cloud of bees. Do you want to fight off the bees and learn about STRUCTURE, or give into the glorious death of a thousand stings, and read about THE FIRST BOOK, AND OTHER FAVOURITES?