Aesop Story Engine: An Open Source WordPress Plugin For Storytelling

The Aesop Story Engine is one of the most beautiful tools for WordPress that I’ve seen in a long time. Named for Aesop, the master story teller whose fables are woven into our cultural consciousness, this engine provides a powerful suite of multimedia storytelling tools. The Aesop Story Engine plugin was created to be a foundation for building feature-rich, interactive, long-form storytelling themes for WordPress.

The engine powers the Aesop Hosted Storytelling site where users can create stories for free. The Aesop development team has released it as an open source WordPress plugin, making it possible for you to add the same storytelling capabilities to your own website.


12 Interactive Storytelling Components:

Aesop Story Engine includes 12 Story Telling components for adding interactive elements to your content:

  • Audio – Display an audio player with support for MP3
  • Video – Fullscreen video with support for Kickstarter, Viddler, YouTube, Vimeo, Daily Motion, and Blip.TV
  • Content – Display a background image, background color, or can split the content into multiple magazine type columns
  • Character – Display a character avatar, title, and small bio to help remind readers of key story characters
  • Galleries – Create and manage unlimited story galleries displayed as a grid, a thumbnail gallery, or a stacked type gallery, with caption support
  • Image – Displays an image and caption, with optional lightbox and optional offset so it hangs outside of the content column
  • Locations – Showcase character travels with a map, add markers with custom messages
  • Parallax – A fullwidth image component with caption and lightbox
  • Quote – Display a fullwidth quote with large text, control the color and background
  • Timeline – Create a story with a timeline that sticks to the bottom, works a bit like chapters
  • Collections – Upload a PDF or image, that is shown to the user once they click the component
  • Document Viewer – Meant to be used on a page of your site, and allows you to display stories from a specific collection (category)

Each story is unique. Therefore, these components can be used multiple times and configured differently for each element. Check out the demo page for multiple examples of the storytelling components in action.

How Aesop Story Engine Works:

The story engine plugin loads two files, a CSS file for basic styles and a JS file to power the interactive components. These two files are the core of the plugin and have a combined weight of just 33kb. Once you install the plugin, you’ll find a new “Add Component” button in the WordPress post editor. This launches a modal window where you can select and configure each component.


Configuration options continue further down the page for each element, all of which have a vast array of customization options such as text color, background color or image, alignment, width, height, captions and more.

This video demo gives a brief overview of the engine:

A Beautiful Way to Tell a Story with WordPress

As a child, your experience of reading fables was more probably more colorful and visceral than it likely is today. The Aesop Story Engine helps you to recreate a more vibrant story reading experience for your readers by enabling you to quickly build a captivating story with visual and multimedia components. Instead of one long block of text, your story can be brought to life with fullscreen backgrounds, colorful images, characters, audio clips, maps and more. Essentially, the story telling engine gives you the ability to write with all of your senses.

Aesop Story Engine can be implemented with any WordPress theme. However, please be advised that your theme will dictate much of how these story elements are displayed. The plugin provides the functionality that adds and formats the basic components within your current theme. The story engine looks best when the theme has been designed with the components in mind. That said, there are probably very few themes that could match up with the demos. The team plans to make a sample WordPress child theme available soon, which will make working with the story engine a reality for more users.

Nick Haskins, the engine’s creator, was formerly the lead developer of where he integrated storytelling features to create big, visual posts. He created Aesop Story Engine to make it easy for anyone to build beautiful stories without having to know any code. The plugin is a fully functional beta and Haskins wants to know if there is any interest.

I think he’s on right track for providing an exciting new tool that will become indispensible for publishers. The New York Times recently showcased a beautiful collection of this trend in 2013: The Year in Interactive Storytelling. Do you think it’s likely to continue in 2014? Would you be interested to use Aesop Story Engine on your own site or in a client project?

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