Adapting a straightforward story as IF

So, here’s something I’m thinking about. I have a full script that I wrote last year, reaching 8k words. It’s a Halloween story that I shared with my friends. All of them really enjoyed it, so I want to polish it a bit and share it with a wider audience (maybe in time for EctoComp?)

My idea is to make it a Twine game, since I think the formatting and accessibility would fit. I’m also beefing up my writing a bit, going from more of a straightforward script format to a narrative. The first 1k words of the script have been adapted into Twine so far, which results in a nearly 2k word project. I think it’s working as a story, but my question is how it goes as an interactive fiction game.

Since this is a completed story with one key plot progression in mind, and a single ending I want to reach, how does that work as interactive fiction? I think adding branching paths would be hard to bring everything together and disrupt the flow of what I’m going for. On the other hand, just clicking a single option every page might bore players and have them just lawnmower everything down to reach the end. I might add a bit of options that slightly affect scenes, which wouldn’t have that much of a difference overall, but would give you a small sense of agency and make you stop and think a few times.

How should I go about this? Is it better to be upfront with a story not being all that interactive, or give the player a few small choices along the way? Or would a different, non-Twine format be better altogether?


I think it’s definitely best to be clear up front about there not being much interactivity, because some people won’t be interested in that at all, and then you won’t waste their time. And some people will be interested, and then they’ll know.

But if you’re actually just clicking through to go to the next option, then how is that different from turning pages of a book? Why isn’t it just an ebook? What are you hoping to get out of the interactivity? I’m not trying to be insulting here: I think there are a lot of ways to adapt static stories and thinking about what you’re hoping to gain is a helpful thing to do.

One thing is to think about the different levels of your story and world, and if one level is fixed, which other ones could be flexible? You’re always making choices when you tell a story, it’s not just a chronological catalog of every little thing that happens. You may not be telling it in chronological order; even if you are, you’re deciding which elements are important to the story and which are irrelevant. Or which viewpoints to tell it from. What are the fancy literary terms: fabula and syuzhet or something?

So for instance a lot of parser IF has linear stories but you can wander around the world picking up objects and messing with them as much as you want before you do the thing that advances the story. If you want to spend a whole hour on it, I thought Andrew Plotkin’s talk at Northeastern was a good presentation of some of the big ideas of weaving a narrative and a game together.

Cat Manning’s blog post on successful reflective choices (those that don’t change the narrative) is short and might get you thinking too…

Disclaimer: I’m a reader, not much of a writer, so I’ve been around a while, I’ve seen some things, I have opinions, but are they useful? Dunno.


This is an interesting conundrum.

Twine is mostly a choice-based format. If you remove choice, you remove the one thing that makes the format fundamentally interesting. I think you can still make a linear story more interesting though. Images would do wonders, for example. Ambient sounds and such might make it more engaging, but all that comes at a great cost of time and energy.

I’ve seen some Twine games that let you explore a few options out of order, but only to return back to the major plot point. The illusion of choice can be powerful, but it can also be an unstable foundation if not done with extreme care.

When you mentioned linear story, I first thought… parser game. At the very least, the user is engaged to explore the world more, but ultimately on rails. You wouldn’t need divergent paths, just some objectives that must be met before proceeding to the next chapter, so to speak.

I realize this is vague, but specifics can go in a million directions that most likely wouldn’t help your situation.

Edit: I wrote this before Josh posted his reply. Maybe where we overlapped in opinion is worth noting.


Ooh, wait, I also want to recommend trying Victor Gjisbers’s Turandot – very linear, very clear about it: it’s literally a dungeon/gauntlet, for crying out loud! Not everyone’s taste, in either subject matter or game design. But I think it’s a neat demonstration of how being linear can actually feel freeing in a way: you can perform the character in any way you want (even completely at random) without worrying about derailing the story.


The term some people use for it is “dynamic fiction” which might just be clicking “next” and maybe inputting your name or clicking a couple links for extra descriptions along a mainly linear path, or perhaps it diverges in “one final choice based on what you’ve learned” toward the end.

For examples, see any works by PaperBlurt or Xalavier Nelson’s “Screw You, Bear Dad” for quite successful examples.

I’ve always thought “dynamic fiction” was a misnomer since there’s less agency than in normal IF, but I believe they’re calling it “dynamic” in relation to a print book.


It might be interesting to scroll through Autumn’s Twine Garden project for inspiration on the various ways people shape their Twines.


Twine makes an excellent e-book platform. TOC, next/prev chapter, next/prev page, Illustrations, index, etc.

So, I’m currently reading a chess puzzle book, and it’d be nice to have a solution/back button conveniently implemented.

Anybody ever thought of remaking Myst in Twine?


What a fantastic idea. I never got through Myst because I hated the controls. Moving was so hard and awkward and time consuming and I was always getting stuck behind a pillar. Keeping the graphics and making it choice-based would suit me so well.


Sounds like you were playing the 3D version. Totally unnecessary “improvement “ by Cyan. If you get your hands on a statically rendered version, it’s better.


Yes, I was. I was unaware there was another, earlier version! It’s always bummed me out that everyone loves Myst so much and I never played it, but honestly I just CAN’T STAND the 3D games where you have to move like that. This is why I’m such a fan of P&C adventure games on touchscreen-- just touch what you want to look at or where you want to go, no keyboard manipulation or joystick control. I’m gonna see if I can find this other version.


Looks like Myst: Masterpiece Edition (not RealMyst) on Steam works, complete with the friendly old Mac pointy hand:


Original Myst was Hypercard, which is pretty amazing. Definitely no getting stuck behind stuff there.

People used it to make choice games years before Twine and such. It was discontinued in late 90s I think.


Although knowing MYST with it’s penchant for complicated machines, it’d likely be more entertaining in Inform/parser.

So, is that like making a game in Power Point?


That reminds me of Decker, which says that it’s strongly influenced by Hypercard. Apparently there was also a gamejam for games actually made with Hypercard?


In a way. I think the scripting support for Hypercard was surprisingly robust. though I never wrote anything for it. I don’t know what VBA support is like for PowerPoint these days.

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No. HyperCard was amazing.

HyperCard was an application construction kit, in that you dragged-and-dropped UI controls where you wanted to place them. Its scripting language (HyperTalk) was a naturalistic procedural language that was quite forgiving and easy to pick up. (Its Wikipedia entry has some good examples of its syntax.)

Visual Basic is an analogue, but it didn’t quite have Apple’s…finesse.

Each HyperCard application was called a “deck” consisting of cards. The app could move between cards in any order. Each card was programmable, in the sense that you could produce interesting results without switching cards. My understanding is that each location or view in Myst was an individual card, and each Age a deck. (I’m sure it’s more convoluted than that.)

HyperCard’s creator, Bill Atkinson, realized far too late that if he’d incorporated network support into HyperCard, it would have had most of the features that web browsers would develop years later.

I think that’s why I had a rush of nostalgia when I played The Kuolema in this year’s Spring Thing. Its use of Google Forms as an authoring tool reminded me of the early HyperCard apps. They were crude by today’s standards, but wildly good back then.

(Sorry for blathering. Long week, good to talk about something I enjoy.)


In response to Lance Circone’s question — I personally have “read” many Twine projects where the interactivity wasn’t an all-out, in-your-face kind of element — it was kind of hush-hush, if you know what I’m talking about. And yet going through those works if they were on paper / just straight text would’ve been a vastly different experience than as they were, on Twine, whether with the actual mechanics of choice or just an illusion of, etc (and a much less appealing one, in my opinion).

I’m thinking maybe you could check out some of the games from the Tiny Utopias or even the ongoing Neo-Twiny jam for inspiration. Though sometimes their interactive elements are guaranteed to be subtle / works well because of how short the text is.

I think the game Sisters of Claro Longo by David T. Marchand is a good example of this. Read the reviews before you play, though, to get some “instruction” as to how you’re actually supposed to interact with this text.

Trying to write IF, and as a first-timer, I’ve realized how important it is to plan the interactivity.


How much of the script is conversation, or conversational?

I ask only because I’ve personally found converting static prose (that’s ultimately heading one way in the bigger narrative) into something interactive to be most doable for me if there’s a lot of conversation or dialogue. Any time there’s a question or comment from a character, that’s a chance for the PC to react or speak back to it in different ways.

Whether the results are reflective choices, and/or they create temporary branches, and whether the branches are unique or variants, I feel I’ve found good mileage in this vein. That post by Cat Manning Josh already linked to suggests some ways to come up with useful sets of choices. The choices offered don’t always have to be profound, but I think they do have to be engaging.

The first time I tried this kind of conversion, I honestly had no idea how or if it would work. Now I’ve done it a bunch of times, I have confidence that it can work.

I think it you can divvy a game up with engaging choices, there’s no need to search for any other format. If I was going to generalise, I’d say the most common problem with Twine games is too many have choices that are too similar to each other or aren’t engaging. In other words, the authors didn’t have enough of a handle on how to get effect out of the options they’re presenting. A choice should always pull the player in, somehow. If the player loses faith in the value of the choices and just starts clicking, the game’s probably failed.



Ooh, that’s a great point. A bunch of people recommend Jon Ingold’s talk Sparkling Dialogue: A Masterclass here. It’s been a few years but I think the tldr (tldl? tldw?) is roughly:

  • if you let the subtext do the work, then the surface text can vary
  • so different options that go the same place but have different meaning to the player?
  • he thinks of it as three options: accept/reject/deflect, so sort of agree/disagree, bring up a different subject?
  • the character you’re talking to may be able to override your disagreement for in-world reasons.
  • but also accept/reject can be “tell me more” vs. “yeah yeah, I get it already, let’s move on.” so an escape hatch or opt-in to “how much detail do you want here?”

Well worth watching imo, but again, it’s about an hour.

And going back to the “just click to continue” format, “kinetic novel” is another search term that might turn up examples…


You might consider using Twine to control how the story is presented to the user rather than to make choices as to how the story progresses. Changing the font, making long expositions optional, changing the point of view, and similar options are possible.