Twine | Text Tool Review

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Last week I explained that for my Digital Textuality class I had to prepare two text tool reviews to help expose my classmates to available tools that could be used to create our first digital text assignment. I decided to share these (revised) reviews here, because I’m proud of my work and think a lot of my readers might also be writers and find the tools as exciting as I do.

If you’d like to see the first tool review about the community-based writing platform Wattpad, I encourage you to check it out. This week’s tool is Twine, which I talked about a lot on my old blog so if you followed me from there it might ring a bell! I hope this review helps you get a better picture of this tool and what it makes possible. I’ll definitely be mentioning it more in the future!

Description  

Twine is a free and open-source software you may download for Windows, OS, or Linux and/or use in an open browser. It is great for non-linear storytelling and interactive narratives such as Choose Your Own Adventure games. As result, Twine can result in products that give readers/players much more agency in the story being told. With Twine you can use HTML/CSS and JavaScript, and you can insert images, variables, and conditional logic with very little technical expertise required. When you are finished, Twine publishes directly to HTML format.

Access

Twine is free to use and may be downloaded at Twinery.org. You may also use it online where everything you create is automatically saved within your browser. You do not need to sign up for an account.

Sample Usage

The screenshots below reference a short Twine project that I created for my Digital Textuality class. These screenshots show you what Twine looks like from the back-end, and I’ve included some pink annotations which will help you get make sense of Twine 2.0’s interface.

The first screenshot directly below shows the blue grid view of Twine 2.0. The space is presumable infinite, you can scroll and scroll and scroll and not run out of space (in theory). Each square of text represents a passage which you can create with the green button at the bottom right of the screen or from within a preexisting passage (instructions in the second screenshot). In this grid view, you can click and drag each unit as you please, which helps make room and keep this view tidy as you add more passages.

The screenshot directly below shows what the interface looks like when you create/edit a passage. The default title is “Untitled Passage” and the default text in the body field is “Double-click this passage to edit it.” In the screenshot below, I have deleted that default body text to show this view of tips on how to achieve specific style effects, including bolding and italicizing. Note that it is not like HTML.

When you have finished your Twine project and want to publish it for sharing, click the ‘Publish to File’ selection shown at the bottom of the first screenshot. An HTML file should automatically download to your computer and you can send it to someone or upload it to a webpage.

What the Tool Does Well

Twine helps to see the skeleton, or outline, of a story. Because the passages can be arranged to lead to and from multiple locations, it allows the user to create and organize a story as if each piece is notecard on a cork board. Nothing is set in stone. The menu choices are not extensive, which makes the creation of the story uncomplicated. It’s a fun and easy tool to create an unconventional story with twists and turns. Stories created with Twine provide more interaction opportunities for readers/players to shape the story they experience.

Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials

Twine is not easy to the first-time user who may stumble upon the software with no prior instruction, but it is simple once you get the hang of it. Twine has changed a lot since it was first launched, but developers have made it easy to learn how to use Twine and make the most of it. For the official resources see: the Wiki and Forum. Below I have listed some tips things I think you might find helpful if you choose to work with Twine.

Sharing your project

To share your Twine project with others, you are either going to have to have a place (like a domain) where you can publish the file so you can link it to readers with an internet connection. OR you will need to explain to people how to download your file, direct them into Twine (which they will need to open the file), and explain how to upload the file so they can see it.

I have recently discovered that if you use WordPress, you can upload a Twine HTML file through the ‘Add Media’ button! It will link to text that will allow readers to directly start the interactive narrative experience! (This is how I will be linking to my Twine project on Persephone & Hades.)

Linking passages

Linking passages depends on you knowing the names of the passages to which you want another passage to lead. There’s no quick an easy way to indicate a link without identifying the passage directly in the text fields. So if you want to link a new passage to an existing one you also need to remember to spell it correctly or you will create a completely new, different passage. Twine does have a drop-down menu that will help you find the title, so that helps a little.

What it Does Poorly
  • Twine will struggle to cooperate quickly when a story gets very big.
  • Twine can handle multiple links to the outside world of the internet, but it is hard to link to from other places. You’ll have trouble sharing a Twine project via social media platforms like Twitter, for instance, unless you’ve uploaded the Twine project somewhere that will make the HTML file launch as it is meant to.
  • Also, you can’t really link to specific passages in a project. Readers generally have to start at the beginning and make their way properly through a project to get to the specific destination.

End Note

I hope you found this text tool review useful! I really like Twine and would like to use it more in the future. I see interactive narratives becoming more and more prevalent in the future of digital media so it’s great that such a user-friendly tool like Twine already exists to help writers experiment with new modes of storytelling.

In case you missed it, yesterday I published Persephone & Hades | Multimedia Portfolio about my latest creative writing project that I will be creating with Twine. And tomorrow expect the next Novel Progress #3 installment in which I share about all my writing progress over the past week!

Thank you for reading!
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