By Robin Murphy
Twine reminds me of the Choose Your Adventure books of the early 90s. Those stories would ask you to make a choice about what to do next in the plot of the story and send you to the corresponding page for that path of the adventure. The choice gave you do-overs in controlling the story’s outcome. Amanda Fannin introduces her article with the same connection to video game narratives and also rightly attributes Twine’s narrative structure as the controlling horror in Micheal Lutz’s my father’s long, long legs. Technical innovation, like 3-D, in the history of making horror films, provided the ability to produce a more horrific experience for audience (Heffeman 24). Likewise, Fannin suggests here, the use of Twine’s technology and structure options allows Lutz to control the narrative under the guise of choice, unlike both the Choose Your Adventure books and most video games.
Horror stories are horrific because of their sequencing, and Lutz is aware of it, as is Fannin. The sequence of the narrative controls the audience’s experience of the horror. Susan Stewart claims that, “in the horror story the expectations and tensions of receiving information sequentially are heightened and exaggerated in such a way that each addition of narrative information will not only affect the status of information given previously, it will affect the status of the listener himself” (Stewart 33). In the case of my father’s long, long legs, using Twine allows another layer of to the sequence – interaction – an impact which results in what Fannin calls “an effective piece of interactive horror.”
The interactive element of my father’s long, long legs is more linear than other Twine stories, says Fannin, alluding to choice, but shifting the experience of the horror narrative through the narrative structure of Twine. Readers become trapped in the story, she says, because Lutz controls the narrative through the technological options in Twine. In other words, the interactive nature of the story is its own horror experience because it unsettles us.
Fannin’s own choice of using Adobe Spark to build her article and argument adds to her ethos as a writer. She’s able to embed screenshots and match color schemes that foster her response to the story in tangible ways. It allows us to see the sections she’s discussing as she saw them, specifically dialogue and the path of the story, as well as Lutz’s ability to fool the reader into believing that we have a choice in the outcome of the story. The format of her text also feels like or resembles a puzzle, which supports her argument that the horror of the story relies on “a puzzle that will always end the same way”. By making these formatting choices, Fannin craftily calls attention to her argument that the format of Twine and how Lutz’s use of it allows readers to interact and experience horror in a video game-esque environment.
Heffeman, Kevin. Ghouls, Gimmicks, and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie Business, 1953–1968. Duke UP, 2004.
Stewart, Susan. The Epistemology of the Horror Story The Journal of American Folklore. Vol. 95, No. 375 (Jan. – Mar., 1982), pp. 33-50.