The Choice Mistress

When I was halfway through my first interactive romance, Becca, I realized I was having wayyyy too much fun. First of all, I ended up PLOTTING (this deserves capital letters in my mind). What this sea change meant is that I entered a far different journey than the organic technique I use to write my novels. This wasn't really about discovering a hero/ine's happy ending. This was about creating a character and watching how the universe toyed with them through their slightest decisions. This was about the adventure of life.

If anyone has ever been involved in Dungeons and Dragons (another choice-happy past time) you know the term "DM" short for "Dungeon Master" which is synonymous in the geek world with "Boss." As a plotter, I found writing became effortless and I became much more analytical. I was a DM!

I began to analyze the types of choices I wanted to offer. I have categories:
*The minor choice: Turn left or turn right? I call this the butterfly effect. You might think it's an incidental action, but it will have Consequences.
*The major choice: duh. Out the airlock or into the escape pod? It's gonna be important.
*The horrible choice: The sword or the poison?
*The fake fake-out: This was one of my pet peeves of the CYOAs. When the author sets up a "you better not do that" choice and then punishes you for it, it became a fake choice. Stepping on the alligator led to being eaten. DUH. No fake choices is my mantra. There are some choices that are dicey that punish my heroine, but there are some that reward her. Thus, some readers might be taken aback by a seemingly naughty choice that turns out nice. I don't consider this bait-and-switch. I consider it realistic!
*The dead end: Once I got my first two branching stories under my belt, I left behind the need to create a symmetrical story. Some choices in Charlotte's book lead to an end where other choices lead to more choices.
*The sex choice: Initial inquiries to readers resulted in them saying they'd be weirded out at directing sex. But I just had to go there. I'm an erotic author! It was fun making neck or tummy? lead to something meaningful, so this was a subset of The Minor Choice.
*The triple threat: Eventually I'll get to a quad choice. It's just a matter of time. By designing an initial choice as a triple threat, I really opened the story up.
*The cheaterpants loop: If you really believe in Fate, I guess this type of path could have merit. As in, several choices in several story stems all lead you to point A. But I call it the "lazy author" setup. I have not used it and do not intend to.

The choices also had a role in story length. For all my books, I added up each chapter for every ending and compared the lengths. Even in the symmetrical stories, there were some that ended up 5k shorter than others. If I got emo with some storylines, they went longer. Some endings I let go abruptly, some I wrote more of a coda. In a book of about 50k, my goal was to have no single path be too short because if that ended up as someone's Pure Read, I wanted them to feel satisfied.


  1. I would *love* to read one of these CYOA romances. These types of books were a die-hard favorite of mine as a kid. (I've kept one or two in my library for the children I might one day have.) Good luck with your stories--and keep trying. You'll get one accepted, I'm sure!

  2. Thanks, Dee! The books gave the reader so much power, you know? It was really motivating.

  3. Mima, you're touching onto something here that's near and dear to my heart. I'm a big time RPG, D&D, CYOA fan (big-time gamer girl here) and so I am watching with extreme curiosity and admiration as you pursue this endeavor.

    I'm rooting for ya!

  4. thank you so much tatiana! i'm curious too...