Map of choose your own adventure book

Sean Ragan says: "I was thinking about writing an adult Choose Your Own Adventure book so I made a visual map of my favorite CYOA book from when I was a kid. It's a directed graph with a node for each page and arrows indicating choices/page jumps." Link


  1. I used to have a bunch of awesome CYOA adventure books when I was a kid, called Intergalatic or Interstellar Spy? I don’t remember exactly what they were called, only that I usually died in terribly gruesome ways.

    Good Times.

  2. I’m pretty sure I read this title in the 4th grade. It must have had an impression because I read most books with the jump method first as an audit. There is an author of cursory history books who writes in the manner of effect based on it’s compelling cause, i.e. the invention of this thing enabled to politics that enabled something else. I cannot remember the chaps name although.

  3. …There are a number of these out there; I tried posting links but I think it got my message caught in the spam filter. Alas.

    But there are some others, although only a few as nice as this one. You can find a whole bunch at Demian’s Gamebook Web Page, although those are hand-drawn and can be hard to read. I’ve seen quite good ones of The Cave of Time and Third Planet from Altair; anyone who wants a link can email me (sef23 – plus that little symbol for at, you know the one – and I’ll email you the links.

  4. Also, anyone interested in writing an adult CYOA book should check out Kim Newman’s Life’s Lottery, which is an interesting attempt to do just that. (Not that there’s not room for more, mind…) I think it was only published in the UK, so it’s a bit hard to find in the US, although you can find used copies.

    (oh, and that not-quite-double post above? oops…)

  5. I always thought this would be handy as a kid, if only to check off the paths I’d already taken, to make sure I read all the versions of the story. But then I realized I was lazy.

    @6: Obviously not, I’m reminiscing about Choose Your Own Adventure on Boing Boing at 1:30 in the morning.

  6. Not referring to the posters here – It’s just that I’m still amazed by the esoteric time consuming activities of some people – making a flowchart of A Choose Your Own Adventure book you read 20 years ago for example. …not knocking it, just amazed … carry on.

  7. I’d just like to say that “The Mystery of Chimney Rock” scared the holy hell out of me as a child. Hearing the title of the book still gives me a bit of a chill.

  8. Its not simply for the heck of it. By looking at the graph, you get an idea how a good narrative structure works, how many decisions change the plot, how many don’t, etc.

    I like Cortazar’s Hopscotch where the narrative would be designed so sometimes you would read the exact same chapter in two different routes, but the meaning to the reader would be completely different depending on what route of chapters you took before you read that specific chapter.

    There’s also a cool Borges short story where he writes of a story with nine different beginnings, that slowly combine three different middles, and the same ending.

    My brother wrote me a cruel choose your own adventure when I was a kid for a birthday present, every single ending was a horrible, painful death.

  9. There’s a book Finis that’s just the horrible endings, 40 of them, starting with “You decide to read the book”. Profits go to Katrina-related charities, so its subtitle is “A Book of Endings to Give People New Beginnings.”

  10. A few people have mentioned the CYOA Cave of Time map. That’s mine. I created it as an example of a narrative map (along the lines of what Marie Laure-Ryan describes as “structures of interactive narrative” in Narrative as Virtual Reality). The map was part of a project I assigned to my students at George Mason University; you can see the full Choose Your Own Adventure Analysis assignment on my course website.

    I must add that my assignment, and the whole idea of mapping a CYOA book was adopted from a very similar idea by Professor Matthew Kirschenbaum at the University of Maryland, College Park. I imagine that most of the CYOA maps you’ll find online were inspired by Matt’s original assignment.

  11. Re: #6

    I have a job. It’s middle school information literacy teacher, and this kind of thing is IMMENSELY useful in helping kids understand the new hyper/web rhetorical forms which their society makes possible.

    Thanks, all, for this and for the others. I’ve been mapping CYA books by hand on the whiteboard for years; nice to know I can hand these out instead!

  12. I tried to do this when I was pretty young. Things were going very well until I hit an infinite loop. I didn’t think to hook the last page of the loop back to the first, so things got very big.

    Then I decided the whole thing was pointless and went back to drawing mazes. I liked mazes.

  13. Chimney Rock was always my favorite because you had to reread it, taking different paths, to figure out what was going on: an unexplained reference in one plotline was more fully developed in another.

    [spoiler? I guess? Below?]
    Packard did another one called “Inside UFO 54-40”, and all through the book people are talking about a perfect planet called “Utopia” which you can’t get to by making a choice or following a direction (the only way to navigate the books); it turns out there’s a four or five page spread in the middle of the book where you make it to Utopia and end up with the best possible ending, but there is no way to get to those pages. It just sits there in the middle of the book, unreachable if you follow the rules.

    That exploded my head when I was eight

  14. I’m with you, Clumpy/#12: Chimney Rock was the scariest CYOA ever. There was one page I could never look at full on.. gah!!

  15. There was a recent attempt to revive the franchise… as animated DVD games. Sort of misses the point.

    I was crazy about CYOAs as a kid. I must have had at least 30 of them, not including all the copycats and spinoffs like the Time Machine books. In a fit of selflessness I gave them all away to a kid I used to babysit for when I left for college.

    Strange sort of Twilight Zone moment: my favorite one was The Mystery of the Secret Room, of which you actually see the cover barely altered as the Harry Potter on in the Something Awful gallery. I used that book as a template for lucid dreaming exercises when I was 11. (I was prodigious and had a subscription to OMNI, OK?) I had this odd crush on the future girl in the book, whose name I still recall but which I won’t embarass myself by reciting here. On my MySpace profile under “Who I’d Like To Meet” I wrote, “The girl with the half green half purple hair from [this book], but real, and adult.” About a year ago I was in my old comic shop in NYC when I see a twenty-something girl who is a dead ringer for her (at least her funky hair) and appropos wardrobe. I run into her a couple more times in the next few days. A friend knows her and points her out on MySpace, so I make contact. Never got a reply. Perhaps that’s for the best.

  16. There’s also a cool Borges short story where he writes of a story with nine different beginnings, that slowly combine three different middles, and the same ending.

    I don’t know that one… anyone have a title? I’d love to read it.

  17. Thanks to everyone for your interest and your comments and your e-mails. Lots of people have been asking how I made the graph. In point of fact, it did not take very long using AT&T’s freely distributed Graphviz package,

    which compiles and lays out graphs from simple text files which define the node and edge relationships. The text and titles were added in Photoshop.


  18. I never, ever got a good ending in a CYOA book. I always died, no matter what I tried to do. I’d get frustrated and read another book, or try to write my own story. Once, just once, I’d like to be able to read a CYOA and “win.” Hmm… I think I just figured out what to do with my afternoon…

  19. @20/Patrick M: Inside UFO 54-40 was my all-time favorite for just that reason. (Minor nitpick: the utopia was actually named “Ultima.”)

  20. This is pretty sweet – I may have to integrate GraphViz into Protagonize … if you’re into CYOA, Protagonize is a collaborative fiction writing community that supports both Addventure (CYOA-style) and linear story writing:

  21. I remember, as a child, reading one that dealt with a black hole. I think it may have the same sort of thing as the UFO one because there was a couple of pages that the characters went “through” the black hole to a completely different universe.

    I wanted to find out what I needed to do to not get sucked into spaghetti, so I worked backwards. I would see what page sent me to the page that the good ending was on. Eventually, I found a page that no other page referenced to.

    Now that makes sense. And my brain’s been thinking about that since 3rd grade. I can still remember the color of the pages (I had taken it to the beach and the pages turned yellow/brown), and the picture that was on the opposite page.

  22. @scuba sm:

    “I never, ever got a good ending in a CYOA book. I always died, no matter what I tried to do.”

    little did you realize the valuable lesson in life you were getting there…

  23. There’s a great webisode series called Mimi and Flo that is basically a choose-your-own-adventure video

  24. Ooh, I loved “Inside UFO 54-40” for that reason too! I was in 4th grade and my best friend had to point “Ultima” out to me… d’oh…

  25. I’ve been making CYOA maps of stories ever since I was 10 and got frustrated at not being able to read all the endings. It took me a little while to formulate, but I started making maps that look just like the one posted.

    I started collecting CYOA books again a few years ago, and have a majority of all the ones published. My favorite is #49 ‘Danger at Anchor Mine’ (Louise Munro Foley is my favorite CYOA writer). It has a consistent story line, which for me is what makes a good CYOA. I also like those with a clear objective, like take a picture of a yeti in ‘The Abominable Snowman’ #13.

    I hand write these maps and save them in the front of all the books. I’ve even mapped one using GraphViz before, but I think I’ll have to take a look at my maps and see if I can’t whip up a few digital versions of my favorites.

  26. After a certain age, I actually mapped most CYOA books, so I could efficiently “mine” them of content as quickly as possible. I also remember the hidden “good” ending in “Inside UFO 54-40,” though I can’t remember how I found it seeing as I was methodically mapping the stories. I particularly liked the fact that that ending was logically consistant with the plot of the story. I barely remember the plot, but at least once, people refered to Ultima as being findable only when you weren’t looking for it. And sure enough, when you find that ending it begins with something like: “you’re not sure what you did to end up here but….”

  27. I found this page by typing “choose your own adventure utopia” into Google. I loved UFO 54-40, I’d forgotten the book title but distinctly remember the hidden ending. Thanks for listing the title!

  28. does anyone rember one,where one ending was like finding heaven.but there was no way to get there but by cheating and just paging to it heh.i think it was a space adventure one

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