Kids these days have much shorter attention spans.
Kids these days are easily bored.
Kids these days don’t like effort.
All of the above is clearly nonsense. And here’s why.
Anyone who has played video games, or has watched someone playing video games, can easily see the level of focus required, and the endless hours a gamer spends very much interacting with this form of entertainment.
Why? What is it about this medium that keeps kids glued to it in a way few things can? Hour after hour. And what do they say when they finish? That game was too short.
The key thing is that video games are goal oriented. You set out to achieve something. And you know what that goal is from the off. Give the player a clear aim, make it difficult to achieve, let them go. That’s all it takes to get them hooked.
Yes, flashy visuals and cool killcams can make fanboys’ hearts flutter. But some of the most popular games are the most simple, from Pacman to Tetris to Angry Birds.
The difference between a good game and a bad one comes down to how you build from the start to the end. How steep is the learning curve? How hard is it to achieve the goal? What things you do different from other games in your genre, how you surprise the player and how frustrated you allow the player to get, all these things effect how engaged the player is.
Not that you should write your novel like a video game, but it’s good to know what it takes to trigger the synapses in the brain.
Have you made it clear what your character’s goal is? Have you made it difficult enough to be interesting? Does success lead to even harder problems? Do you leave the reader unable to resist starting the next chapter?
These aren’t just useful questions to ask if you’re writing children’s books, or thrillers, they apply in some degree to any narrative structure. Learning how to build scenes so the reader is ever more interested and more invested in reaching the end is a delicate balancing act. If it’s too easy and predictable, they will get bored. If it’s too complicated and impossible to navigate, that will also put them off.
Obviously there are big differences between books and video games, but one thing should be the same for both gamers and readers—they should reach the end and feel like they want more.
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