And welcome once again to the Friday Writer Roundup. Today I bring you a piece of software very close to my heart, and possibly very close to the hearts of some of my readers. Did you ever read the Choose Your Own Adventure (or similar) books growing up? They were some of my favorites in elementary school.
That's what Twine is all about. It's a simple program for organizing interactive fiction books, and it then spits them out as HTML, which means that they can be put up just about anywhere on the Internet, from self-publishing sites to blogs to web pages. Or you can use it simply to help you track your interactive fiction and then put the full product together in the word processor of your choice. It's a little more work, doing it that way, but it gives you a lot more freedom when it comes time to hit publish. More on that a little later.
For those unfamiliar with interactive fiction, it's sort of a hybrid. Part game, part story. The writer creates many possible plot arcs for the reader to follow. Traditionally, this is where we actually see second person point-of-view in its natural habitat. You walk into the creepy old house. A puff of dust hits you in the face. If you turn around, go to page 3. If you hold your breath and continue forward, go to page 17.
And it continues from there.
Twine starts you off with three boxes: a title, an author, and a Start. You can mess with whatever you want except for the word Start. It has to remain that way. Otherwise, when you go to try and preview everything (which I recommend whether you intend to compile it in HTML or just use Twine to storyboard), it's going to be all screwy. And, if you go the HTML route, messing with the word Start will change around the HTML file it spits out, too. So don't touch it.
From there, you add your events and, via internal links, begin to open up your lines of interaction. Believe me, having a program to help you keep track of everything is much easier than trying to do it all on paper or, even worse, in your head. You want to leave your reader with as much freedom as you can manage, which means a lot of possible ways of interacting within the fiction.
Now, Twine is not the only one you can use for this, but it is one of the few, and it's the easiest to learn and deal with, even if it doesn't have a nice, flashy appearance. The other one I would recommend possibly looking at is Inform7, but only if you think interactive fiction is going to be a major part of your writing lifestyle. It's a little easier on the eyes, and it, like Twine, is free and cross-platform. Inform7 takes a little bit more dedication to learn than Twine, however, so it's a matter of personal choice. For me, Twine is the best option.
For those who intend to use it just as a storyboarding tool, you don't have too much more work to do. But, when and if you format it for print, you will have to edit it after the fact to put in appropriate page numbers. For eBook, depending on how you go about it, you may be able to just use your exported HTML and keep the links, or you may have to go through and manually add the links after the fact. But I trust you can figure it out.
If you believe me, turn to page 62. If not, turn to page 38. If you want more like this article, go to the top of the page and subscribe.