Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday Thoughts: Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was a kid, the Choose Your Own Adventure books were all the rage. In case you are a poor, neglected soul and are unfamiliar with these books, I'll explain how they work - you start out on page one, and every time your character needs to make a decision, you choose which way to go and then you flip to the page indicated for that choice.

For instance, if you find a rattlesnake, you might turn to page ten if you choose to run away, and to page thirteen if you choose to stay where you are. Each book is a long series of choices, and there are a couple of alternate endings. The choices you make along the way will dictate how your story will go.

Of course, you can go back and make other choices and see what the other alternatives are. That's part of the fun of it.

I was thinking about these books this morning, and I had some deep thoughts.

You didn't always get the best endings by making the best choices. Sometimes the story was much more exciting if you chose the most dangerous path, and sometimes, if you chose the most logical path, you'd end up getting killed on the next page anyway. In retrospect, it's like the book creators weren't so much interested in getting you through the adventure safely, but they wanted to tell the most amazing story ever that was rife with danger. The reader wasn't being taught how they should really react to tricky situations, but how to ride on the edge all the way through.

One huge case in point. I picked up a type of Choose Your Own Adventure that was written for young teen girls. The character was out on a date, and the guy decided to get a little handsy. You were given two choices - one, to get away from him and call for a ride home, or two, to go along with it. Well, I chose to get away from him, and when I turned to that page, it said that he'd told the whole school about it, I was now a social outcast, and I was never asked out again. End of the story for me.

Um, what? So the "right" choice would have been to go along with it? What kind of life advice is that?

Authors of these kinds of books may not realize that what they write does impact their young reader. They might think, "Oh, these are just fun stories," but readers look to books to teach them about the world around them. The message here is, if you don't let your date go exploring under your sweater, you'll be miserable the rest of your life.

So then I got to thinking about the choices we make throughout our lives. Each choice we make today will open up new choices for us to make tomorrow. Every day is exactly like navigating through a Choose Your Own Adventure. If I talk to this person, I might hear about that job opportunity, which might lead to moving to California, which might lead to ... Not all our choices are that dramatic, but choices we make to be honest and moral will always put us on different paths from choices we make to tell a little white lie or make an exception just this once.

The most important conclusion I drew was this - choosing the path of safety may not take us on the wildest adventure, but it will bring us peace, joy, and happiness, and we'll experience all the adventures we could ever possibly handle anyway.

Every choice has a consequence. Every road has a crossroads. Every decision will bring us to a different conclusion. Nothing is guaranteed, as we all must go through trials and have learning experiences. But as we make these decisions in the best way we can, using our moral compass as a guide, our story will be the very best one for us, with a much greater chance of a happily ever after.


LINDA L. ZERN said...

Absolutely loved this post. Our writing/literature teachers drum into us that conflict is the lifeblood of story and something about that always made me itchy. Is peace so completely boring that it has no place in our stories? Our literature? How sad is that? And don't get me started on the phrase "the cutting edge." Excellent discussion. Really. Really.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Every story needs a conflict to drive it forward - otherwise, there's no goal. But the conflicts don't need to come from the character being forced to give up their morals.

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