Creating Interactive Texts with Twine

While assigning digital alternatives to the traditional essay can be very rewarding, many tools are too complicated to introduce to students for just one assignment. If you’re looking for something simple that offers ways to break out of the linear text form, you might want to check out Twine, a free open platform (created by Chris Klimas) for building simple linked nonlinear texts. Twine has been around for several years, but it’s recently experienced a resurgence in use for experimental works and in classrooms. Ambitious projects like the just-released Depression Quest (by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, and Isaac Schankler) show how powerful Twine can be for storytelling and persuasive games. I’m using it as a first tool in an upcoming course on interactive narrative alongside examination of the hypertextual electronic literature it resembles at a structural level.

In this series so far, I’ve looked at tools for creating interactive fiction and digital choose-your-own-adventure texts. Twine is a much simpler program, but it also offers a lot of flexibility. Amy talked about choosing a digital project to integrate into the classroom, which can be difficult without overwhelming the rest of the content. Twine doesn’t require much explanation or any coding knowledge, and thus has potential for a one-class use.

Building stories in Twine resembles stringing index cards on a bulletin board and drawing lines between the nodes. There are two major components to Twine: the passages, or story fragments, and the links that connect sections of text to one another. Twine’s visual editor, shown below for Windows, makes it easy to track links and see where the connections get lost.

Screenshot of the Twine interface.

Click to embiggen

Anna Anthropy’s great Twine tutorial walks through the entire process. Once complete, a Twine story can be exported as cross-platform friendly HTML using one of a few set templates. Those with web production experience can further customize the self-contained files outputted with CSS and JavaScript, but the final result is easy to upload and read.

As a platform, Twine is a clear fit for storytelling, but it could also be used for anything where linked and exploratory text is appropriate. It could easily be adapted to critical or collaborative writing, and the resulting works are self-contained and web-ready.

Have you played with Twine? Share your experiences in the comments!

[CC BY 2.0 Photo by Flickr User dj0ser]

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