Johnsonian Box Experiment

Below are the notes that I made some years back for a self-assembly novel:

How to Make a Johnsonian or Loose Box Novel

Take 50 double-sided cards, with opposite choices, outcomes, etc on front & reverse to reflect the forking of paths


The labyrinth version

100 entrances and exits

Any exit can lead to any of the other entrances

On the front of the box:

‘He found himself in a strange building that he didn’t know.  It had many rooms and ante-chambers, a hundred cupboards and lofts and cellars.  He wasn’t really sure whether it was a dream or a revelation or what it was.  It was utterly disorientating, like a crooked house at a fairground.’

Sample Chapter

He found himself standing in an enclosed courtyard. It was about thirty feet by thirty and bounded on all sides by brick walls some ten feet high. The tops of the walls appeared to be defended with barbed wire. Clearly, somebody didn’t want people getting in.  Or out.

Next he studied the walls themselves. Behind him lay the door by which he’d entered. The only other door was in the wall opposite. Should he try it or turn back? The courtyard gave him a sense of foreboding. It reminded him of something. A prison exercise yard, that was it. Caution won out. He returned to the original door. But the handle wouldn’t turn on the courtyard side and must have contained a self-locking mechanism of some kind. He looked back at the other door.  And as he did so he saw that it was opening.

An army officer emerged from the doorway sporting a red peaked cap. He was followed by six more soldiers in red steel helmets, each of whom carried a rifle slung over his shoulder. They came to a halt in a line next to the officer and stood to attention.

“Any last requests before you die?” the officer asked him.

“Before I die?  But I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“You have chosen to die by firing squad.”

“How did I choose it?”

“By entering this courtyard.  No requests, then?  Very well.”

The soldiers cocked their rifles and pointed them at his chest. Unable to look his executioners in the face, he peered down instead at his boots. Just in front of them was a trapdoor, perhaps for the disposal of the corpses of the executed. He placed the tip of his boot under the lip of the door, kicked it up and leapt  toward the void.

“Shoot!” the officer shouted.

And that’s exactly what it was, a long wooden chute down which he was falling at breakneck speed until he landed with a bump at the bottom.

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