For his Spring 2020 Rhetoric II class, Dr. Chris Burlingame wanted to try something a little different. Instead of a “normal” creative writing assignment, he had his class attempt what is called Twine. Twine is an online writing medium used to create branching stories, typically written in the second person, with multiple plots, paths, and endings. This alternative assignment, Dr. Burlingame thought, could get his class thinking differently about writing.

“The decision to use Twine in Rhetoric II came from a desire to help students understand storytelling and narrative structure from the inside out,” said Dr. Burlingame. “Too often in intro to literature courses, I think teachers make too many assumptions about their students’ familiarity with storytelling elements like plot, setting, and all that good stuff.”

One student in his class, freshman English major Wes Caton, seemed to thrive with this choose-your-own-adventure style writing. Wes’ story took him around two to three weeks to complete and took inspiration from his favorite video games. The hardest part, he said, was fighting burnout.

“Whenever I find something I enjoy, I usually jump into it headfirst but burn myself out quickly from how much I involve myself in it,” Wes said. “The same thing happened with this story, where I would get in a good, creative mode and write a bunch of the slides and have a ton of thoughts, but would have to take a day or two break afterwards because I had burnt myself out in that one, strong burst.”

Wes’ story, set in a post-apocalyptic world, features a teenage protagonist–you–whose parents have been missing for over a year. You go on an adventure to their hometown to connect with them. The story has four possible endings based on choices made during the events of the story.

Overall, Wes says he enjoyed the project because it helped him expand upon his abilities to craft a story creatively, and it taught him more about fully developing and exploring ideas before starting to write.

“I believe doing different projects like these, which take the student out of their normal writing habits, is very beneficial to the students,” Wes said. “Not only do they get to take a break from analyzing different readings, they get to work out their creative muscles and try out a completely different format of writing that encourages them to look at how important it is to look at something from many different angles.”