Musing on choose-your-own-adventure stories

“But perhaps the more existential problem is that it makes a book difficult to really end. The work exists to showcase there is no right choice… The experience is then about sampling them all. Of remaining within.” 

David Lerner Schwartz

I love this quote from the piece above, written by David Lerner Schwartz. I think it perfectly captures the appeal, and the eventual monotony, of choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) stories. I have always loved choosing my own adventures but never thought too much about why.

One of my favorite Sylvia Plath quotes explores a similar feeling:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” 💗

CYOA stories allow us to explore a freedom, a level of choice and undoable regret, that we’ll never experience in our own lives.

What do you think? Especially in a time of anxiety, do CYOA stories give us a sense of control and comfort?

One thought

  1. One of my fave Plath quotes too. I love the way you’ve applied it here! Fascinating thought… I can’t say I have any CYOA to turn to right now (sadface), but I certainly think “undoable regret” is a huge part of the general, & perhaps subconscious, appeal. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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