Review: Twine lets you easily create interactive "choose your own adventure" stories

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Twine

    PCWorld Rating

    Twine won't write your choose-your-own adventure story for you, but if you have an idea, it can help you quickly realize it.

Stories have been with us since the dawn of time. First told in caves and around campfires, then inscribed in tablets and later in books, today we increasingly find ourselves reading stories off of screens. But no matter the format, the best stories are the ones you get lost in–and a great way to get lost in a story is to take an active part in steering it. Twine is a free and simple application for creating such stories, non-linear "choose your own adventure" narratives your readers can guide themselves through.

Twine lays out your interactive story graphically, letting you see how its pieces come together.

Twine is free and compact, but presented a stumbling block when I set it up on Windows 7: When I tried running it, it wouldn't start, instead popping up an error complaining that a DLL file, MSVCP71.DLL, was missing. As it turns out, this is a known issue, and isn't hard to fix. I had to manually track down this file online, download it, and put it in Twine's directory–at which point it started working.

The bulk of Twine's screen space is dedicated to the story overview display. Interactive stories are composed of many small snippets of text interlinked in interesting ways. In Twine, every such segment is shown as a little square, similar to the card view in professional writing tool Scrivener. Arrows connect each section to one or more other sections, so you can see exactly how the story comes together. You can freely drag and drop sections on the canvas, and the arrows will stay connected.

Each section of the story is written in simple wiki syntax, although you can add JavaScript code if you want to.

Interlinked sections making up a whole: Sounds like a wiki. And indeed, once you're done composing a story, Twine compiles it into a TiddlyWiki, a single-page interactive wiki that runs in any modern Web browser, no server needed. That's why you compose the story using simple wiki syntax. Links are just words surrounded by double brackets, bold text is surrounded by asterisks, and so on.

When compiling your story, you can pick one of two TiddlyWiki templates created for Twine, both of which make for a compelling reading experience (two other templates, included for compatibility, are not as good). Since the story is all contained in just a single file, readers don't have to wait for pages to load, and navigation is quick and effortless.

Twine renders stories into dynamic HTML documents using one of two bundled templates.

The best interactive stories are rich and complex, with subplots that encourage repeated reading and lots of possible choices for the reader leading to significantly different outcomes. Twine's beauty is that it makes creating such complex stories much simpler than I would've previously thought possible. You can just get this free tool, figure it out in ten minutes, and let your imagination run wild.

Note: The Download button on the Product Information page will download the software to your system.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Twine won't write your choose-your-own adventure story for you, but if you have an idea, it can help you quickly realize it.

    Pros

    • Simple interface
    • Shows story layout graphically
    • Free

    Cons

    • Customization requires programming skill
    • Doesn't include MSVCP71.DLL, resulting in an error on startup
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