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Narrative is the process by which the author reveals the plot. Simply put, narrative is the act of telling (L. narrare, "to tell").
The goal of an IF author should be to make the interactor feel like he or she controls the narrative. The truth is that the computer program is in charge of the story, down to the paragraph, sentence, and even word level -- the interactor's control is quite limited (you can type "burn forest" or "eat grate" and see how the parser will respond, but you can't always do it).
Early IF was written by and for members of a highly technical community, many of whom were influenced by the "Dungeons and Dragons" fantasy role-playing board games. As a result, IF stories generally involved crawling through caverns, looking for treasure, and fighting enemies. Early implementers of IF, such as the authors of the Zork series, called their contribution to the genre a "Computerized Fantasy Simulation game" (Lebling et. al, ¶1). While early IF designers did, in fact in fact, devote their energies to creating a Tolkienesque fantasy environment (featuring dragons, trolls and glowing swords, etc.), there is nothing about the genre of IF itself that requires the element of fantasy. Some of the best recent works of IF take place within completely realistic simulated environments see Christminster (Rees, 1995), and Muse: An Autumn Romance (Huang 1998).