Interactive fiction with Twine

Interactive fiction has been around in many forms for quite some time, back to the Choose Your Own Adventure books and early text based computer adventure games. Creating interactive fiction is a great way for students to consider story structure, pacing and the motivations of characters, and the free program Twine is an easy way for students to build these interactive stories.

Twine is a free download for Mac and PC. Story elements are laid out in a visual editor, which shows the story structure and progression of different storylines. Each passage can include a number of different options for the reader to take, and Twine will keep track of any broken links so the reader won’t run into any dead ends.

Each passage can include a range of options for the reader to select

Writing even a relatively simple story ends up becoming quite a time consuming process when you consider the number of different options available to a reader. But this also means that you are more motivated to write, and I found the process of producing interactive fiction much more engaging than simply writing a linear story. Some students may need some explicit scaffolding about how to build an interactive story, and many might also benefit from first reading some interactive fiction before they begin to write. In particular you might explore with students the importance of giving the reader a feeling of control. Engaging examples of interactive fiction tend to give the reader a number of branching storylines and endings, rather than simply funneling every reader back to the same ending, no matter the choices they make.

Even a relatively simple story can look complicated, but the visual editor keeps it all organised

In many ways Twine is similar to Inklewriter, a site we covered recently on Bright Ideas. The visual nature of Twine’s editor makes it slightly easier to navigate than Inklewriter. Twine stories are completely text based, in contrast to Inklewriter which lets you include pictures in the story. The advantage of this is that students will need to consider how best to describe settings and characters, rather than using a picture. Twine also has more sophisticated editing options for searching and replacing phrases in your story, and gives you statistics about the story including a word count.

Inklewriter does have several advantages over Twine. It produces much more visually appealing stories and also has the added advantage of letting you publish your story online through the Inklewriter site. In contrast, Twine outputs all stories as html files. This means if you want to publish your story online you’ll have to host the file on your own site. Both services are free, so have a play with both and see which one suits your needs better. You might also like to have a look at a sample story I wrote in both Twine and Inklewriter to see the finished result (you’ll need to download the Twine story and open in your web browser).

Twine is an intuitive way to create interactive fiction and see a visual representation of the story. Hopefully tools like Twine and Inklewriter lead to more examples of this interesting genre.

Create interactive stories with Inklewriter

Many of you would remember the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books which were incredibly popular in the 1980s and 1990s. These novels gave the reader the option of choosing a path through the story and the narrative unfolded in a different way depending on the option selected. This style of fiction was then replicated in some of the early text based adventure games on home computers, however these games tended to be frustrating to play and hard to make. But now writers can easily produce interactive narratives with Inklewriter.

Inklewriter is a non-linear story writing tool which lets you define options for your reader after each section of your story. These options then link to different story sections, so you could end up writing many different stories within the one piece. You can define options which could be as simple as making a character turn left or right, or a much more complicated situation like a conversation with many different options. Pictures can also be added to the story and your writing can be shared.

Inklewriter is quite easy to use and helps you build different story options. You are presented with a first paragraph, and then you can define choices for the reader. Each option links to a new paragraph or can also be linked to an existing paragraph you’ve written. Even a simple story can actually become quite complex once you add a few options, but Inklewriter shows you when you have any loose ends from each story that you need to tie up. In this way, your reader will (hopefully) never get stuck.

This tool would be perfect in creative writing classes or even in other subjects like History, where students might explore the different options available to historical figures. When creating an interactive story students will have to examine the motivations of their characters carefully. It could also lead to some really good discussions about narrative structures, pacing and conversation. Here’s a quick story that we wrote that explains what Inklewriter is all about. It’s not Shakespeare, but hopefully it gives you a bit of an idea of how it works.

The Inklewriter website has some quick tutorials to get you started, and you can begin writing without creating an account (though you will need to create an account to save your work). You can click on Start writing or Read a story to get started. While Inklewriter is still in beta at the moment, it does seem to be quite reliable and is a really interesting option for creating digital, interactive stories.