Lilnking to outside sources from within a story

In a story I’m currently working on, I have described a couple of videos, images, and pieces of graphic art that the protagonist is viewing in school (like a video about the history of the cathedral at Notre Dame). Many of these actually exist rather than being my own fictional creation.

I’m curious about some things related to including a link to these outside sources, so the reader can see firsthand what I’ve only, in some cases, intentionally barely described. In some cases, but not all, I believe having the reader see what my protagonist is seeing will be helpful to the mood of the story.

Is this practice frowned upon as a story tool?

My only previous experience with this kind of linking to outside content was writing content for an online learning platform where we could link to memes or pop culture references or relevant videos which would typically spawn in a new window/tab if the student chose to click on them. Is there an etiquette to this practice for IF that I should follow? I plan to credit the owner/publisher of the link with each instance that I’ve done it as with my content writing links, but I’m not sure if that’s enough, or how acceptable this practice even is in IF.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts.


Perhaps you could make the links visibly different, so that they are clearly identified as external links.

Especially, if you also have internal links.

You can use footnotes for that. They always seem to break the fourth wall anyway, so it’s not as jarring to see a URL in there compared to seeing one in the main text body.

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As a player, links to external resources would very quickly give me the feeling that I were playing an alternate reality game (which is good, in my opinion).

This is just from a creative perspective: I love being able to have fun and experiment with creative projects and testing to see if an idea works or not. Immersion is very important and breaking immersion can completely ruin the experience for someone (clicking on an external link could possibly do that). Perhaps you could create a mini proof of concept (POC) and test it with people you know (without telling them what you’re testing). Whatever response you get, you will know if you have something good, if it needs tweaking or if you should rather leave it. POCs really help give you direction, great solutions and could potentially save you a lot of time. Good luck with your project!

Don’t forget long-term effects such as archivability. Will your story last for hundreds of years until culture and language have evolved to a point where your writing and ideas are incomprehensible, or will it break next week because some company decided to change their URL scheme?


Clickable in-game URL links to external content usually is a system feature, and usually tends to be on Choice platforms. I’m sure you can do this with Twine, I do it in AXMA - usually linking to contributor websites and the CC license for media in the credits.

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The nature of the story lends itself well to the links since it mentions the teacher pulling up youtube or the like, but you’re right that they should be clearly different from internal story choice links. Thanks

Sorry for the one reply followed by the comprehensive reply. Just learned this was a thing.

This is the feel I’m hoping I get from doing this.

Excellent suggestion. I’ve been hesitant to release before I have the week of events completed, but I have one friend who read day 1. I’ll give it a shot with the links and see what she says.

This is absolutely an issue and one I know I will have to compromise on. I think the external links will add an extra layer of depth, but the story without them will have to do the job if they end up broken for whatever reason.

I’m certain the actual linking is going to be a no-brainer, and I hope I’m not eating my words on that in a few days.

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Speaking of archivability: There is a gamme (“Mu Complex”, my memory says) that refers to many external resources. At least one of those resources was newspaper story that had been freely available at the newspaper’s website, but within a couple of years of the game’s release, that newspaper story fell behind the newspaper’s paywall.

I’m sure there are many similar stories about external resources. That’s one I know from personal experience.

But all in all, I’d be interested in playing IF that sends me to the outside world.


You could link to the Wayback Machine copy of the page, which is often how Wikipedia cites online sources.

At some point there will need to be a Fahrenheit 451-style solution, and individual people will be required to memorize a single work of IF, act as “the parser” and “the interpreter” for travelers who wish to “play”, and pass their precious payload to a young novice as their end approaches in later years.

External links, such as YouTube videos, will be acted out by a very secretive and specialized troupe of theatre players who first try to sell you a product for thirty to sixty seconds, although viewers may choose to make them skip to the main presentation after at least five seconds.

Okay, so who’s going to commit Counterfeit Monkey to memory? Hands? Don’t be shy…