Twine Storyboards

Twine logoOur main collective project in this class is to create detailed narratives of a day in the life of people associated with the Gressenhall House of Industry.  To do this, we are going to use Twine, a platform for making interactive narratives using hypertext links resulting in a “playable” story presented as an HTML webpage.

Why Twine?  Why not just write a standard biography or linear work of historical fiction?  The idea is that writing history as ergodic literature — text that requires the reader to do work and make choices in order to “read” — can increase historical empathy for the lived experience of the past.

Text-based twine games like Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest have shown how powerful this platform can be for increasing empathy, and there is an increasing amount of literature on the potential of playable games to build historical understanding through experience.

Our hope for this project is that it will allow us to write a more humane history of the workhouse, by increasing readers empathy for the experience of the individuals that lived in this environment and had to make hard choices on a daily basis, however constrained their options may have been.

Thankfully, Twine is also easy to use, even for the non-coder!

What follows is a brief tutorial on how to use Twine for our class project.  The official Twine 2 Guide has a lot more information.


Getting Started

Twine 2 is free and entirely browser based, so you can work from any computer or even a mobile device like a tablet or phone.

Twine start

On the home screen, you are presented with a couple of options in the right sidebar.  You could start a new story to play around with basic Twine functionality, but we are all going to work from the same template, so you will be using the Import From File option.

2 stories

Download the two HTML files below to your computer (they are in a shared Google Drive folder, so you will have to log in to access them.

  1. LucyBucks.html
  2. GressenhallTemplate.html

Import LucyBucks.html first by finding the file you just downloaded on your machine.  You should see it appear in your list of Stories as in the image above.

  • To interact with the story as a player, click the gear icon > Play Story.  
    • Spend a few minutes experiencing Lucy Bucks’ story to get a sense for what we want to do with these scenarios.
  • Close the tab or window and click anywhere on the story to enter edit mode.
    • Spend a few minutes exploring the story map and making sense of how the branching narrative works.
    • Note in particular the section of the day between breakfast and lunch, in which two divergent paths are explored in detail between the keyframes marked by two bells in the daily schedule.

Lucy Bucks branching


Modifying and Importing the Template

To create your own scenario, you will make your own copy of the template file, import and modify it.

One very important thing to note is that Twine saves all your work in the browser’s memory, so you must Publish to File after each session or it can be erased when your browser’s history is cleared.

Before you import the template rename it so that we know which file is which.

  • Rename the GressenhallTemplate.html file to the name of your workhouse resident.
    • For example, if I was writing about John Williams, I would rename “GressenhallTemplate.html” to “JohnWilliams.html”

Import your modified template file into Twine.  You should see it appear in your list of Stories as in the image above.

Writing your own Scenario

Click anywhere on the story to enter edit mode and explore the template’s story map.

This template is pretty bare bones.  It contains 9 passages tagged as “keyframe” that are the major moments in the daily scheduled marked by the ringing of the workhouse bell.  They are:

  • 6:00am Awake
  • 6:15am Work
  • 8:00am Breakfast
  • 8:30am Work
  • 12:00pm Dinner
  • 1:30pm Work
  • 7:00pm Supper
  • 8:00pm Free Time
  • 9:00pm Lights Out

You must include each of these timeline passages, as these will be the common events and points of reference for all of our scenarios. You may add as many intermediate or branching paths as you like, and as reason allows, between the given times of day.

Add links between passages by wrapping the text you want to link in double square brackets. For example to link directly to the first passage you would put its title inside brackets, like this

[[6:00am Awake]]

It will usually make more sense to have your passage title and the link text be different, so you will want to separate the text to display in the link and the title of the passage itself with an arrow made up of a dash and greater than sign, like this “->”.

An example of a link in context might look something like this:

It feels like I just lay down to close my eyes when the bell rings and I have to get out of bed to start another day.  I pull on my clothes, make my bed and [[stumble downstairs to the work room->6:15am Work]].

If the passage you link to doesn’t already exist, Twine will create it automatically.  If a link is broken, the passage will turn red on the map.

Saving your Work

Finally, remember to save your work after each session by Publishing to a file.  This is especially important since you will be working collaboratively and your partners will not be able to see your edits if you only save them in your local browser.

To save your work, click the Title menu at the bottom of the editor window and choose “Publish to File”.

  • Place the most current versions of your work in the “HIST235_Shared” Google Drive folder.

Publish to file


If you need help, find out more on the Twine 2 Guide and don’t hesitate to email any of us or come to our office hours.  Good luck and have fun!