Sunday, November 27, 2016

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories with Google Docs

For a long time I have shared resources on how students can create “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories using Google Slides. However, these styles of stories can be created with a wide range of digital tools. Basically any tool that allows hyperlinks or some sort of branching can be used. This would include:

  • Google Slides - with hyperlinks to other slides in the presentation
  • Google Forms - with branching from multiple choice questions to different pages of the Form
  • Google Sites - with hyperlinks to different pages on the Site
  • YouTube videos - with Annotation links or End Screen link to other videos
  • Google Docs - with hyperlinks to headings on other pages

Each of these methods has its own benefits, challenges, and reasons why you would use one tool versus another. However, if you are looking for ease of use, in my opinion using Google Docs is one of the quickest and easiest ways to create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. Some of the benefits of using Docs for this purpose include:

  • Most students are more familiar with Google Docs that any of the other tools.
  • Docs makes it easy to add text, images, and formatting.
  • Linking is easy using headings.
  • It looks and feels like a traditional book.

See the rest of the blog post below for a sample “Choose Your Own Adventure” story in Google Docs, as well as directions on how your students can use Google Docs to create their own.

Sample Story

Many years ago when I was a middle school teacher, one project we did was have the students create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style story. One of those stories was “Dragon Quest”. A group of five middle school students wrote all the text in this story and drew the pictures. I have simply taken the content and put it into an interactive Google Docs format.

Fair warning… As with all classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, most of the endings results in death so this story may not be appropriate for the very young.

If you are brave though, and ready to face the dragon, it’s time for your adventure to begin. To access the example interactive Google Doc story click the link below:


Creating a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story with Google Docs is actually quite simple. Below are the directions your students can follow to make their own interactive stories.


Regardless of which tool you use to write a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, the more planning you can do at the beginning, the easier the process will be later. If your story gets long, it can get increasingly complicated to properly link everything together. You can map out your story and all the branches using non-technology post-it notes, or using technology tools such as online diagramming or graphic organizer programs (such as Lucidchart or RealtimeBoard).

Whatever tool you use, be sure to end up with each page labeled with a unique title. The easiest option would be to just name them by page number, such as” Page 5” and “Page 27”. These will come in very handy later when you go to link the pages in Google Docs.

Writing in Google Docs

Once you are ready to begin writing, you can use many Google Docs features to create an exciting story:

  • Choose an interesting, but readable, font for your text by clicking the font menu, then choosing “More fonts...”, and then browsing to find and select a new font.
  • Add images by clicking “Insert” then “Image...”, or by dragging and dropping pictures onto the Doc, or by copying and pasting images into the Doc.
  • Use comments to leave feedback and suggestions for your partners if writing the story as a team.
  • Click “Tools” and “Voice typing...” if you prefer to dictate your story and have Google Docs automatically type it for you.

Page Breaks and Headings

Beyond the basics of using Google Docs, there are some special steps you need to take specific to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. One of these is the use of Page Breaks and Headings.

As people read through your story they will get to the bottom of a page and be given two or options to choose from. Based on which option they click on, they will jump to a different corresponding page. For this to function properly you will want to use Page Breaks and Headings.

As you type up your story, when you get to the bottom of a page, where the branching choices are listed, you will want to insert a page break right after the choices. This will give you a clean break between that page and the next where the story will continue. To insert a page break:

  • Click “Insert” in the top menu bar.
  • Click “Page break” from the drop-down menu.

Next, at the top of each new page you will want to add a specially formatted heading. This is critical, because later we will need to add links between the choices and the destination pages. The only way to do this in Google Docs is by using “Headings”. Here’s how:
  • First, type in some text at the top of the page. Probably the easiest option is to simply type in the page number such as “Page 12”. The key is to make the heading unique and understandable, since this is what you are going to be linking to later. The best option would be to use the same naming technique as you used when mapping out your story in the planning phase.
  • Next, select the text and click the “Style” button in the top menu. The button will probably be labeled “Normal text”.
  • From the drop-down menu choose “Heading 1”.
  • This will now format the text with “Heading 1” formatting.

If you want your headings to have a different look than the default, you can do that as follows:
  • Make any changes you want to the text (font face, font size, font style, etc.).
  • Then select the text again
  • Click the “Style” button (which should now be titled “Heading 1”)
  • Go down to the “Heading 1” option in the drop-down menu, but click the right arrow to the right side of the option.
  • From the pop-up menu choose “Update Heading 1 to match”.
  • This formatting will now be automatically used on every other page in your Google Doc as you apply the “Heading 1” option to the text at the top of your pages.

Linking Pages

When you are all done typing your story, inserting the page breaks, and making headings at the top of each page, you can now go back through and link all the pages. This will make your story interactive, allowing the reader to click the choice they want at the bottom of a page, and be jumped over to the corresponding page to keep reading.

Here’s how you add the links:
  • Scroll to the bottom of your page text where you have the choices for the reader to choose.
  • Select all of the text for one of the choices so it is completely highlighted.
  • Now click “Insert” and “Link”, or click the link button in the top toolbar.
  • In the link pop-up menu, click on the “Headings” option.
  • This will now show you a list of all the headings in your Google Doc.
  • Scroll through the list of headings to find and select the correct page for that choice (again this is why it is helpful to have your Headings named in an easy to identify format such as page numbers).
  • The text for that choice is now linked to the page you chose.
  • Repeat for the rest of the choices on that page, and the rest of the pages throughout your story.

Sharing the final story

When all the choices are linked, your “Choose Your Own Adventure” story is complete. Now you will want to share it with others so they can try out your story. There are several options for sharing, but the easiest may be sharing as a link so that anyone will be able to access your story.
  • First, you need to open the “Share with others” window.
  • From within the Google Doc you can simply click the big blue Share button in the top right corner.
  • When the “Share with others” window opens, click “Get sharable link” in the top right corner.

This will generate a link that will allow others to view the document. However, if you are using Google Apps for Education, the link will most likely be restricted to just your school. If you want people outside of your school to view the file, you need to do a few more steps.

  • Click the down arrow next to “Anyone at [your school] with the link can view
  • Choose “More...” from the drop-down menu.
  • This will open the “Link sharing” window.
  • Choose “Public on the web” to allow anyone in the world to view the file if they have the link or if they run a Google search for the file.
  • Choose “Anyone with the link” to allow anyone in the world to view the file if they have the link, but do not let the file show up from a Google search.
  • Click “Save” when done.

You can now click the “Copy link” button to copy the hyperlink for the document. Anyone who has the link will now be able to view the file.

You can get the link to other people in many ways:
  • Link it in on the class website
  • Share it on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or Google+
  • Send it in an email to others
  • Make a QR code from it
  • Use a URL shortener such as or to make a shorter, easier to share version of the link (great for putting in printed materials like newsletters)


"Choose Your Own Adventure" stories can be a great project to inspire student writing. It encourages the development of creativity, planning, cause and effect relationships, elements of a story, collaboration, and more. Google Docs is an easy to use tool (among many options) to create such interactive stories, for students of all ages.

As always, I would love to see any stories created using this process. Please feel free to share ideas, suggestions, and examples in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts
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  1. I LOVED "Choose Your Own Adventure" books when I was young. This brings back great memories. Thanks for sharing this excellent writing/technology activity overview, Eric!

  2. Awesome. I created to point to your Dragon Quest doc to share it with teachers as a way to get them interested in the post and project possibilities. Backwards? Maybe. Choose your own path...

    1. There is no one right way for learning! Thanks Rushton!

  3. Eric--As always, the work you share is rich, creative and engaging!

  4. Great article. Loved CYOA books as a kid!

    Is there a way to include something like a fill-in- the blank option which interacts with the story.

    An example would be the option to type your name in at the beginning, then have characters refer to you by name later in in the story.

    Maybe not in Docs but perhaps Slides or Forms?

  5. This is such an amazing idea and fantastic tool!! I'm going to start doing this right away with my elementary students. It's also a fantastic approach for adult Project Management and I am going to use it myself - Thank you.