Grr(aphic) Mondays: ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Narratives In Comic Books

This week I have been playing Until Dawn, an adventure game with a strong ‘choose your own adventure’ component. This basically means there’s loads of points in the game where you can choose between a few different options and each one sends you down it’s own narrative path. Whether the game is good or bad isn’t really for me to say, I’ve not really been playing it critically, but the mechanic works and creates an very engaging narrative. The characters feel like an extension of yourself because your the one playing as them, you begin to pick favourites and takes sides in a way that no other plot can make you do. This sort of narrative harkens back to the old Goosebumps books with their huge warnings ‘Reader beware! You choose your own scare.’  and even further. If your entirely unfamiliar with the genre, it normally reads something like this:

You hear a woman screaming and in the next room:

If you choose to run into the next room with a giant candy cane and a shield made from twigs and bubble wrap turn to page 693.

If you choose to kill yourself because you might be next turn to page 3.

If you find the screams soothing and you want to record them and turn them into a sample for your next dubstep smash hit turn to page 957283.

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Picture Source: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/88/13/28/881328bcb9aabd727717fc36e2c8ec40.jpg [Accessed: 13/09/2015]

There is a high risk with this style of writing. It’s both easy to create immersion and to break it. Readers begin to make connections with the characters and as they make such connection they start to imprint on the character, essentially slightly adjusting the character to bring the character’s motives in line with the reader. Once a reader has imprinted upon a character it’s only a matter of time before the reader decides that the character wouldn’t commit to any of the options presented. When the immersion breaks it then starts to make the reader lose all connection with the plot. But what if the  ‘choose your own adventure’ style was applied to a new medium? One where the reader can decided what the character is doing between very small set scenes. What if the style was applied to the world of comic books and graphic novels.

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Picture Source: http://multiversitystatic.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/2014/02/AdventureTime_10_014.jpg [Accessed: 13/09/2015]

A while back I found that brilliant stand alone issue of Adventure Time. It’s a brilliant issue that attempts to recreate the ‘choose your own adventure’ style while also using the strengths of the medium. As I have talked about in previous Grr(aphic) Mondays comic books are an interpretive medium in which the writer and reader work together to create a narrative. Every space between every panel is a space the writer relies upon the reader to fill with movement, behaviour and interaction. This makes comic books incredibly immerse, and makes them great for this genre. But instead of using the style with the medium in an experiment way as it was used here could you do a full story arc in this style?

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Picture Source: http://www.shopping-fan.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Shopping-for-Marvel-Story-Arcs-Online.jpg [Accessed: 13/09/2015]

A single comic book issue isn’t too long, so it’s possible to keep the choices limited meaning there is little or no loss of immersion. However, across a longer series I fear the same problems that occur in any other medium could still present. One solution could involve bringing all possible series of actions to the same scene at the end of each issue, but I feel like this could make the reader feel like they had no real control. Another way it could be done, would be through certain actions that could be locked unless the reader had read a particular page or panel of a previous issue, but this would begin to break immersion as direct writer/reader interaction tends to do.

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Picture Source: https://geekyantics.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/deadpool-bullseye-comic-panel-issue-sixteen-breaks-the-fourth-wall.jpg [Accessed: 14/09/2015]

So what was the point of this article then? If comic books could still be susceptible to the problems that every other medium has had with this style of writing then why even present it as an alternative? Well, because I believe in you. You, my fabulous and amazing reader could tinker and find a new way to overcome the problems in the graphic medium. There are a million different tools at your disposal that no one has ever thought to use in conjunction with the ‘choose your own adventure’ style, so here is my challenge to you, go out there and make it work (then tell me how you made it work so I can make thousands with a new style of graphic novel)!

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