The Basics


A Spoken Line in the Message format has two basic components:


Graphic Novel format will have more features which we will explore later.


  • Character name should be in all caps and have no spaces.
  • Actors with two names (i.e. Doctor Smith) should be written in all caps, separated by an underscore.
  • Only 3 special characters are allowed: underscore, apostrophes and periods. This example would work:

Dialogue Line

  • Dialogue lines are Actors talking to each other.
  • They should not contain any line breaks.
We all sprang from apes, but you obviously didn't spring far enough.

Line Style: Think

  • Often you'll want to capture the main Actor reflecting to themselves.
  • Use a [#think] command for this:
I wonder what she meant by that?

Narrator (Special Actor)

  • The Narrator is a special actor used to deliver in-game prose description of events to the player.
  • It's styled differently and sits in the middle of the History.
  • Narration should be in the 2nd person style, present tense.
You lean down and looked over the corpse.
The short, cool breeze helps you forget about Tiffany.
Tuesday, 3:14 P.M.
1256 Juniper Blvd.
  • Narration is from the perspective of the player, and so cannot inform the player of things the Voice Actor doesn't know.

Bad Example:

You leave. Marco doesn't feel happy about that decision.

Good Example:

As you leave, you notice Marco scowl. It appears he's unhappy with your decision.
  • Narration should never take the place of non-visualized Actors, such as a computer speaker or television.

Line Style: Time

The Narrator may indicate that that [#time] has passed without changing locations

  • A character sleeps for the night and wakes up the next day.
  • One character waits while another leaves and returns with something.
  • A character takes a test.
Three hours later.

Note: A [#time] transition should never directly follow a Travel transition.

Line Style: Notification

  • This style of Narrator is to teach the player something.
  • It should be used very sparingly as it is used to break the narrative
Be aware how you treat the townsfolk. Each one has a way of helping you.

Narrator Technical Details

It functions like a normal Actor, with the following exceptions:

  • Does not need to be defined in a Moment.
  • Does not need an Enter or Exit command. Instead, Narration is great for describing how another Actor enters or exits the Moments.
  • Has no visualization and cannot leave the Hidden state.
  • Narrator does not need (and should not have) an emotion


  • Tale's Graphic Novel format allows you to add Actor Emotions to dialogue
  • This section does not apply to Prose nor Messaging formats


Each line of dialogue should have these 3 components:

  1. Actor
  2. (Emotion)
  3. Text

  4. In this format you'll be able to direct the character to have an emotional expression that matches the dialogue

How are you today?
I am grieved indeed

But is it certain—absolutely certain?

Oh, yes! They left Brighton together on Sunday night, and were traced almost to London, but not beyond; they are certainly not gone to Scotland.

Emotion Types

You'll have potentially 9 emotional possibilities for each character you choose:

  • Neutral
  • Happy
  • Angry
  • Confused
  • Sad
  • Surprised
  • Nervous
  • Smug
  • Suspicious


  • Actors should always have an Emotion even if that Emotion is (Neutral)
    Just a regular line of dialogue


You can markup your dialogue with limited styles, including Emphasis, Foreign, and Keyword markup. Markup is added by placing two of the required character before the first word in the phrase, and two of the character after the last word in the phrase.


  • For putting narrative weight on a word or phrase.
  • Uses the underscore. __ (two underscores in a row before and after the text)


These chips are __really__ hot!


How many times do I have to say it? You are __not the father__!

Foreign Words

  • For marking a word as having a uniqueness or unfamiliarity to it
  • Commonly used for identifying foreign language or fantasy/alien words.
  • Uses the ~~ (two tildes in a row before and after the text)
~~Domo arigato~~, my friend.
It is known as a ~~Molak B'dur~~, a sword of incredible power.


  • For marking a word as an important keyword that will be pivotal to the story
  • Uses the ^^ (two carets in a row before and after the text)
The professor was in the ^^laundry room^^ with the ^^broomstick^^ at ^^3:14 P.M.^^!
Our rebellion may succeed if you can but ^^recruit six warriors^^.



  • You can use images in your story to represent pictures that one character is sending to another
  • The player should not need to see an image to understand the story. Players should WANT to see them, but not NEED to.
  • Do not use copyrighted images, make sure you've chosen images that are royalty free.
  • There are 2 types of images: Objects and Vignettes.


  • Objects are typically physical items presented without context.
  • They're helpful when an item is impactful (such as an artifact or keycard) or isn't effectively described (such as a comedy twisty straw).
  • Objects enter chat history without a background.
  • Use the syntax [&. OBJECT_NAME] (notice the . after the &)
Drusilla turns from you for a moment. When she turns back, she holds a tightly rolled scroll in her hand.



  • Vignettes are typically full painted scenes comprised of characters, items, and locations.
  • They're helpful when you have a big or explosive moment to show, or want to leave the player on a powerful image at a cliffhanger.
  • Use the syntax [&. VIGNETTE_NAME]

    Note: The syntax for Vignettes and Objects is identical except for the period after the ampersand. Objects have a period, Vignettes don't.

It's them! The Cult of Minerva!



FableLabs will sometimes add simple animated effects to exciting moments in your story, such as an explosion, sword fight, or helicopter flying overhead. Unlike other script components, these have no formal call in the stories you submit. Instead, leave us a comment using a ; followed by VFX if you have an idea. Always write stories as if there will be no VFX.

; VFX The man is slashed across the stomach with a sword.
; VFX Clouds cover the screen, then part, revealing a full moon.


Prose Format

  • Nothing to do, this doesn't apply to you!

Messaging Format

  • Messaging stories only require a Voice definition once (the Actor the player is role playing):

    (Voice BOB)
  • You can change the Backdrop anytime by specifying the new Set:

    (Moment KITCHEN)

Graphic Novel Format

  • These directions apply to the Graphic Novel format. If you're creating a Prose story, you can skip this entirely. If you're creating a Basic story, you can skip to the "Basic Moment" section.
  • Every time you start a new scene (including the first of your story), you must set up a Moment.
  • Think of a Moment like what happens behind the curtains between scenes in a stage play. The director sets up where the action will happen with sets and assembles the cast who will eventually be in the scene, even if they aren't on stage when the curtains first open.

Let's say we have a Moment in the KITCHEN:

(Moment KITCHEN,
Actor BOB,
Actor MARY,
Actor JOE Hidden,
Actor ASSISTANT Hidden)
  • Notice that a Moments can only ever have 1 location but they can have unlimited Actors!
  • The (Actor) command defines each Actor that will be in the scene.
  • Actors are visible in the scene by default; use the Hidden command to have them wait on the stage wings
  • Since BOB and MARY are not hidden they can start interacting right away:
Hi, Mary! Look at us two, just chatting in the kitchen!

  • The KITCHEN only has 2 characters right now who are engaged in a private conversation. Let's say we want to have JOE join them.
  • JOE was part of the Moment but he started off Hidden. Let's have him walk on the stage:
(Enter JOE)

Now I'm here, too!
  • NARRATOR never needs to be part of the Moment, he's a special Actor that is assumed to be in ALL Moments.
  • Generally you always want to enter a character before they speak, but occasionally you'll want to have someone speak from off-camera:
Joe's phone starts ringing!

Joe, you've got a call on line one
  • Joe's ASSISTANT is assumed to be talking to Joe on the phone or from another room in the above example.
  • Much like (Enter), we can also tell Actors to leave the stage with (Exit):
Sorry guys, looks like I have to leave already!

(Exit JOE)

Note: If an Actor is not defined in the Moment, they cannot be called onto stage with an Enter command nor can they speak off-camera. Doing so will generate an instant error! When do you need to create a new Moment? Generally every single time you change the setting! When you create a moment, it will automatically remove all characters and the location from the previous moment, and replace them with the newly defined components.

The First Graphic Novel Moment

If it's your first Moment, you'll need to add 2 additional commands:

  • Voice: Every single time the player makes a choice, it will be automatically spoken as dialogue by the actor you designate as Voice.
  • Idle Idle: Idle Idle informs the system how to handle emotions. There's no decisions to be made: just include it.
(Moment KITCHEN,
Actor BOB,
Actor MARY,
Actor JOE Hidden,
Voice BOB,
Idle Idle)
Actor Initial Emotion
  • You can specify an Actor's default emotion if you don't want it to be Neutral
    Actor DALE 1 Hidden Happy, 
    Actor MANDY Angry)

Phrasing of Enters/Exits

Silent Enter/Exit

  • By default, characters entering or exiting the Moment will generate a line in the History.
  • You can prevent the chat history from displaying enters and exits by adding the Silent modifier after the actor
I'll check the other room.

(Exit MARK Silent)

For purposes of consistency, you should either always use the Silent command, or never use the Silent command per series.

Customize Enter/Exit Message

  • To override the default messages, use one or more (Enter)/(Exit) commands followed by text with no speaker:
(Exit JAKE, Exit DAVE, Enter MAURICE)
The pair leave just as Maurice arrives

Narrator for Enter/Exit

  • In Graphic Novel stories we often let the Narrator describe enters and exits:
John quietly shakes his head at you, then turns and leaves through the front door.

(Exit JOHN Silent)

Wow, what was his problem?

Enter/Exit Pacing

Multiple Enters or Exits

  • To issue multiple exits or enters at the same time separate them with a comma
  • These characters will all leave at the same time with 1 combined tap:
(Exit JAKE, Exit DAVE, Enter MAURICE)
  • Or you can have each character leaving have their own tap:
(Exit JAKE)

(Exit DAVE)


You cannot combine Enter and Exit in the same line

Exit All Actors

  • This exits all the actors out at once:

Enter or Exiting w/ Immediate Dialogue

  • An Enter/Exit takes a tap to advance if by itself
  • You may want to have a character Enter and say something immediately without requiring 2 taps
  • Simply put the Enter directly above their line
(Enter JAKE, Neutral)
  • Exact same process if you want to Exit the Actor without an additional tap:
(Exit JAKE)
I'm outta here
  • You can even get more clever and have one character talk while the other is leaving:
I'm outta here

(Exit JAKE)
Wait, don't go!

Moment & Stage Direction Technical Footnotes

  • Moments reinforce the world state into deterministic chunks
  • Moments control asset loading and unloading, allowing the engine to know when we need which assets
  • Moments offer the ability to change location, change actors out, pick new layouts
  • Think of Moments like Movie Scenes with a casting call that may not require all actors to be present

  • The part of the script before the first (Moment) is automatically built into a moment with all the characters from the entire script present in ascending slot positions with neutral expressions

  • Calling (Moment) by itself keeps the location and other settings the same but wipes all actors
  • The following commands implicitly create or update a moment (as such should ideally be stacked together on a line)
    • (Moment)
    • (Travel)
    • (Voice)
    • (Layout)
    • (Actor)
    • (Template)

Backwards Compatibility

  • The following are equivalent:
(Enter, Neutral)
(Enter LOGAN, Neutral)



When the story moves to a new time or place, we create a transition to inform the player. There are four basic types of transition...

  • Travel: Used for area-to-area movement.
  • Banner: Used for room-to-room movement.
  • Location: Used for instant background swaps
  • Time Passes: Used for the advancement of time.

A new moment is not required in between transitions.


When your character moves a great distance, or when the player is meant to feel weight at the point of travel, a Travel command is used. During Travel, the player will be interrupted and forced to initiate the travel by using a button. This is the most impactful transition type in Tales.

  • Moving from your house to the mall.
  • Flying from Japan to China.
  • Entering a spooky house.

Note: Travel command should have a line break before and after

When your character moves between locations, but the move is minor enough to avoid bothering the player with an interruption. To achieve this effect, both the Location and the Banner commands must be used in conjunction with the location name.

  • Moving from your living room to your bedroom.
  • Walking down the stairs to a basement.
  • Traveling through a forest and seeing the scenery change.
(Location ASIAN_DINER, Banner ASIAN_DINER Run)

Note: Banner command should have a line break before and after


The Location command is used when the location changes instantaneously. This should only ever be used when the characters, narratively, are not moving.

  • The lights go out (switching from lit cave to dark cave)
  • A painting is stolen (switch from museum with art to museum without art)
  • A characters teleports instantaneously from Maine to Moscow.
(Location ASIAN_DINER)

Note: Location command should have a line break before and after Technically this is a shortcut on creating a new Moment and putting all the same Actors within a new setting.


Moments can also be used to create Location transitions. As seen in the moment section above, a moment transition is done when you place the name of the scene location next to the command Moment inside of a moment definition. The Moment transition visually functions similarly to a Location transition, but adds the functionality of a moment, such refreshing available Actors.

(Moment KITCHEN,
Actor BOB,
Actor MARY,
Actor JOE Hidden)

Time Passes

Writers often want to signify the passage of [#time] without changing locations

  • A character sleeps for the night and wakes up the next day.
  • One character waits while another leaves and returns with something.
  • A character takes a test.
Three hours later.

Note: A [#time] transition should never directly follow a Travel transition.


  • In messaging stories you may want to represent a new day or a new person texting you.
  • You'll want to call a wipe commmand to clear the screen
Talk to you later!


[# time] One hour later.

I really need to talk to you


  • If you want to represent that a few seconds have passed, the syntax below will render a pendulum for a few swings.
  • This is generally only used in Messaging stories.

Ready to Level Up?

Start playing around with the Tales Writer!

If you've mastered the basics, continue onward to learn how to add:

  • Choices
  • Variables
  • Conditions
  • Multiple Endings