Writing Alternative “Facts”

Audio Edition Coming Soon!


My first and pretty much only experience with the “Choose Your Own Adventure” genre of books was, unfortunately, with Goosebumps. “Reader Beware, YOU Choose the Scare!” As someone who perceives stories in a very linear way and prefers to know “what really happened,” this type of book was an exercise in frustration. This was before I was exposed to role-playing games of any kind, although I am more acclimated to this style of story-telling in video games thanks to RPGs from Bioware and otome from Steamberry Studio.

But there still is part of me that gets very frustrated with multiple storylines or multiple routes, especially with books. I don’t do well with stories that tackle multiverses, alternate timelines, or transporter accidents. I want to know the proper order of events, the single “right way” to experience the story… and that just isn’t present in that style of writing. All of the “facts” are equally plausible. (Well, at least, they are if the game or book is good.)

So imagine my surprise when I found myself writing just this kind of story for my day job.

Some context: I work in a public library. Every summer, libraries across the United States participate in a Collaborative Summer Library Program to encourage reading through the summer slump. There are activities, library events, reading logs, book challenges, and prizes for readers at the end of the summer, depending on the number of minutes or books they have read. However, due to COVID-19, most libraries are only open in a limited capacity, if they are open at all, and this makes it really difficult to host any kind of library event and potentially dangerous to encourage the types of large gatherings such events require.

As a result of these restrictions and health concerns, we’ve moved online, mostly through Facebook, to engage with readers. As part of my library’s Teen Task Force, I uncharacteristically volunteered, and offered to write a weekly chapter of a fantasy “selection adventure” (because the name “Choose Your Own Adventure” is actually the name of the series owned by Chooseco, and they are jealous about their copyright and the last thing the library needs is to get sued). At the end of the chapter are two choices and the choice with the most votes by the end of the week is the one that becomes the next chapter in the story.

Now, this is NOT how I write AT ALL. I write chronologically. I write linearly. I don’t like coming up with multiple scenarios unless I have to because it feels like unnecessary effort. Some writers enjoy traveling down rabbit holes, chasing subplot bunnies and exploring alternate scenarios. I am not one of those writers. Heck, I don’t even like reading books where the story jumps back and forth between generations only to tie everything together at the end! It’s not that I can’t follow those stories. I just don’t enjoy it.

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

Having to come up with multiple scenarios down increasingly branching paths while keeping both options utterly plausible as choices is completely outside my bailiwick. And yet… I’m actually kind of enjoying it. It’s forcing me to exercise a different set of creative muscles, and to do so on a deadline. I freely admit that I haven’t always fleshed out every alternative scenario, but I’m certainly trying to get those done ahead of time so I know where the story might go. Writing in second person present tense is also strange for me, but I’m slowly getting used to it.

It’s weird how these creative challenges that you don’t see coming or never would taken on otherwise come up… and you find something interesting or useful or just plain fun about them. I’m actually planning to go ahead and flesh out all of the routes once I get a chance to breathe and compile them into an actual book. I won’t be able to properly publish it, as putting it online is technically a publication (and why would anyone pay for something they could read at least part of for free?) but I’d like to have some physical copies of it anyway. Who knows? Maybe if people do express an interest… Well, that’s an alternative path to ponder another day.

All in all, this has been an interesting experience, and although I’m only about halfway through, I’m curious to see what my brain will come up with an hour before the chapter is due. ^_^;; (And the July Edition of Camp NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow… oi. Things are about to get every busier!)

One thought on “Writing Alternative “Facts”

  1. Hahahaha…I did this with my students when we switched to online learning for COVID-19. Our school platform had a polling update/announcement section that I could use as a place to drop the chapters/updates into. My students loved it. They had conversations about why they choose different choices and everything. It was a creative exercise for me in writing because I didn’t know where I was going with the writing. I let them pick the choices and wrote based on that choice. It was fun and different and the students looked forward to it.

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