30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 5 Twine

Day 5: Twine

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately.  Blame it on my binge watching of Stranger Things 2 and The Goldbergs. Or maybe it is the fact that my kids are growing up becoming young adults. That leaves me longing for the simple times of being a kid in the 80s. Whatever it is, I’m missing my hot pink parachute pants, zig-zagged-permed big hair, and spending hours losing myself in worlds inhabited with invaders from space or dragons and heroes. Good times. Good times.

Like many 80s kids, I was a huge fan of Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books. The idea that I was in control of the fate of a character was thrilling. I would read and reread these books over and over again to see what new adventures I could discover. I also played a lot of video games. Not only the eye-candy classics like Yars’ Revenge and Adventure, I was also into the text-based games like Zork. Through the gameplay, I was writing the story. It had the excitement of a video game with the control of a CYOA novel. It was awesome.

So, image my delight when my buddy and fantastic educator, Mike Jones (@StemNinja) introduced me to Twine, a branching story creation tool. Rejoice!

Twine is an open-source tool for creating interactive fiction. It makes developing your own CYOA story surprisingly simple. Let me rephrase that. Writing a piece of interactive fiction is HARD. Writing a linear story is hard. Writing one that branches through multiple forks and endings is really hard. It takes a lot of planning and mapping. Twine gives you the technology tools you need to organize and produce your story.

Before you get started, read the support material available online. I repeat. Read the support material!! The Twine Wiki is amazing! There seems to be a very supportive Twine community out there. The user guide on the Wiki walks you through creating your first story in simple steps. It also provides essential information on where your stories are saved and how to make sure you don’t lose them when you clear your browsing history.  This is definitely not a time to skip the directions. Take the time to read the how-to. It will save you time and frustration.

To use Twine, you can either download it or use the web-based version. I used the web-based version to create my first story. When you open Twine and create your story, you are presented with a blank grid that looks similar to any graphic organizer tool. The first time I wrote a CYOA story I used PostIt notes on a wall. This is like a digital PostIt wall.

Twine Start Screen
Twine Start Screen

You build your story by adding passages. At the end of each passage, you enter your choices. This builds your story map. The mapping process should work for both the plotters and pantsers out there. It makes it super simple to visualize your story and see all the branches.

The map of my first story. Easy to follow and see the flow.

Check the flow of your story along the way with the Play button at the bottom. This makes the magic happen and launches your adventure.

Passage 1
Passage 1. Do you open the door or walk away?
Advanced options for story creation.

For more advanced creators, you can even edit your story using JavaScript. If you publish it to a file you get a copy you can launch from your computer and play in your browser.  There are some other features you can access using the arrow on the lower left corner of your story map.

This is a fun tool. Not only for us adults who long for our 80s innocence but also for our students who are just now discovering the joys of interactive fiction. It is an excellent way to build not only their writing skills but also their critical thinking skills and creativity.

Twine looks intimidating at first. Not so much the usability of the tool but rather the fact that you are staring at a blank page with no guidance on where to go next. You have this world of infinite choices staring back at you. All you have to do is double-click and start your adventure.

So, which do you choose? Will you open the door, or walk away?

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