Monday, June 6, 2016

The Win Button

After a brief hiatus I have returned! Last week I took some much needed sanity time to myself. I spent that time doing some of the things I enjoy other than writing. I played poker, video games, and started watching Game of Thrones. I began to think of how video games and other forms of competition can be so addicting to us all. A friend of mine is hopelessly addicted to a game that is very simple in design, but it does have something that keeps you going and striving for more within it. It has multiple win buttons.

So what is the win button? More importantly, how can we apply it to our writing? We are wired to want to win. We always want the rewards that come with victory. In gambling that reward comes in the form of money. In a video game that comes with a cut scene, your scoreboard scrolling up more numbers, or a small pixel firework. That ding sound signifying victory also gives us comfort with the expectation of being given something more. A level up, something becomes unlocked, and now some more of the story is revealed.

Level Up

I like to think of each chapter as being a level in a game. I make each scene a new chapter rather than having multiple scenes in a long chapter. The short chapters can give a reader a sense of accomplishment as if they are making progress. The problem is making those chapters count. Sometimes you have background information that needs to be part of a scene to set up something later, but there isn't anything else in that scene to make it memorable. It also makes it easier to cut the fat from your work which can also cause plot holes. As you can see there are many advantages and disadvantages to the method (or madness) I use.

Side Quests

These little tasty morsels give your characters a vehicle to develop while giving background information out without boring readers with a ton of exposition. Exposition is like driving spikes into your reader's eyes. I think putting together side quests is a much better vehicle to send the necessary information through. While the main story and plot points are the reason you write the story to begin with, it is the side quests and stories that fill the dreaded middle of the novel and make it more interesting. Side quests can be as short as one scene, or expand themselves over the course of several novels as a major plot thread.

Revelations And Conclusions

These are the prizes you can give to readers as they read a novel. The end of each chapter or "level" deserves the reward of new information or some sort of conclusion. I like to end a chapter with a revelation that creates a cliffhanger ending. I try not to do that with every chapter. Without conclusions readers don't have any good stopping points. I am a notoriously slow reader, and understand the need for a good stopping point! Also if you never wrap up a side quest or plot point then you end up having a lot of loose ends that will drive you and readers both nuts. Don't cross the streams, unless you like have to stop Zuul.

These new food pellets of word crack will have readers turning the pages to see what is next in the same way they continue to hit the win button in their video games. It is important to leave a reader with a positive or juicy bit to leave them wanting to read on. Only the best wizards of words can wield this power to defeat the evil cannibal bunnies of Middle Scareyplace.

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