Developed by two video game industry veterans, inklewriter allows anyone to write interactive fiction (IF) stories and share them with others online. In interactive fiction, players read text-based descriptions of environments and events and then make choices or input commands to find their way through a story. If you've never played interactive fiction, think of it as electronic choose-your-own-adventure books.
To start using inklewriter, click on the "inklewriter" heading on inkle's main page, and then click on the "Start Writing" button. Register with an email address and password, and you're ready to go. (If your students don't have email addresses, inkle suggests using a unique name followed by "@inklewriter"—for instance, "teachinghistory@inklewriter.")
Follow the tutorial for an introduction to inklewriter's two modes: Read and Write. In Read mode, you can view your story as it will be seen by visiting readers, choosing options as you read. In Write mode, you have access to tools for writing and designing your story. You can type paragraphs of text, add options at the bottom of sections of text, "rewind" text to write new branches of the story, join up branching storylines, and add images. Click "Content" in the top right for a full list of your story's paragraphs and connections; click on any paragraph in the list to jump to it, or search within your story using the search box. "Map" lets you see your story charted out visually, flowchart-style.
For more complicated stories, you can add logic conditions that track events and conditions in your story and present a reader with different choices and text depending on tracked values. If you're interested in crosscurricular projects, this can introduce basic computer programming concepts into projects that otherwise focus on language arts and social studies.
Once your story is ready, select "Share." Your story will be assigned a unique URL that you can post anywhere you'd like. Now that you know your way around inklewriter's basics, you can visit the forums to ask questions and share stories.
Not quite certain what a finished work of interactive fiction looks and feels like? Explore inkle's sample of Frankenstein, a version of Mary Shelley's novel adapted by author Dave Morris. Though brief, this snippet can help you start thinking about the intricacies of interactive fiction—will you ask your students to write stories like Morris's, where the reader questions and reacts to the narrative? Will you ask them to write stories where readers play a specific character in the narrative? Will readers be able to switch between different characters? Will you write stories for your students to explore, or will they write stories themselves?
Also consider specifically how interactive fiction lends itself to exploring history. Could you use it to explore the question of historical agency? Of multiperspectivity? Imagine a story about a fictional historical character navigating a famous event, making choices using only the information available to him or her. How would what one person sees and experiences during a famous event like the March on Washington or the Kent shootings differ from a textbook's description? What would different people in the same event see and experience? Crafting and reading interactive fiction can help students understand how past events may have looked "from the ground." It can also help students understand that people in the past all had the ability to make decisions that shaped events. History was not inevitable.
Other online services offer tools for creating interactive fiction. Varytale, StoryNexus, and PlayFic feature unique tools and formats that differ from inklewriter's. Explore different services and see which is the best fit for you.