Tag Archives: Reader Engagement

Toolbox 23: Are Playing Video Games and Reading Stories That Different?

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


The short answer IMO is no.

Long answer:

Last week, I was explaining why I found a particular game—Oxygen Not Included—so engaging. There were two main reasons. One, was that the challenges got harder as it progressed. And, two, I was the protagonist.

In both story and gaming, the protagonists confronted challenges and either succeeded or failed.

With each encounter, they would grow and see themselves differently.

I asked myself why time slipped away unnoticed when playing Oxygen Not Included?

Engagement on a grand scale.

I was so focused on my next task. Really, really focused that I thought of nothing else. This included all my personal problems.

If I didn’t know what to do in the game, I’d Google it. Once I succeeded, I’d look at what I accomplished and look for the consequences. If they were beyond repair, I’d start again.

It’s probably cheating.  Don’t care.

Here’s the thing: I may restart the world—they all have numbers—so I could start in the exact same spot.

Yet no two games are the same. When I played (enter number of tries here), my slightly different decisions cascaded into a brand new, never been here before, scenario.

I’ve never restarted frustrated or upset. I restarted because I thought of a new angle that might work better.

How this relates to Stories?

They—don’t ask me who—say all stories have been told already. Yet writers keep writing and readers keep reading.

So what’s the deal?

Now that I’ve played this game, I truly believe if I plotted the same general scenario once and wrote it out ten times, I would have ten completely different stories.

Think trope.

All readers have their own expectations. Some love specific plotlines: the friend to boyfriend trope, enemy to lover trope, retellings of fairy-tales, detective solves a murder and there are a million more.

As you can see I’m still wondering about engagement.

I think I’m getting closer.

Why did I start to play ONI? Because I lost interest in the game I was playing. I finished it and that was that.

But Oxygen Not Included is different.

I’m engaged.

My brain has been firing really, really well since. I feel great. No blues. No looking within and judging myself. I feel like I did before my depression hit. (But who knows if I’m remembering my past correctly. It has been over twenty years since it knocked my socks off.)

My emotional balance has lasted so long I’m wondering if I shed that black hole I called home.

Apparently engagement is not only—uhmm—engaging, it’s healing.

Today I smile. I know this wasn’t much of teaching post, but it is what it is. I hope you found something useful. 🙂

Have another opinion? Please share, all comments are welcome here.

Toolbox 16: Engaging the Reader

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


I don’t know about you but I’ve been asking myself this for some time. What engages a reader? That fell flat on its face, so I move on to why do I read.

  • Biggest reason is I’m looking for the next big story.

While I’m looking I’m okay with:

  • visiting to another world (fantasy or not)
  • enjoying a good laugh, surprises, crazy antics
  • solving mysteries

I thought long and hard about what makes up a great story. The Five (TV Series) comes to mind. It blew my mind, but I’m not talking. You’ll have to watch it yourself.

And The Magicians + the Wayward series (the books) were definitely good.

I Googled it. Online says its all about the characters. I’m not sure it is only the characters, but I have to start somewhere.


My problem is don’t necessarily connect with the characters immediately but I do accept them. I’m like that with the people I meet as well. Be warned: it’s a personal thing that may slant my point of view.

Online suggests to write a compelling story, we must start with a compelling character.

Some traits to include:

  • well-rounded and random characteristics from all walks of life
  • a driving need, desire, ambition or goal
  • a deeply hidden, possibly shameful, secret
  • coping/not coping with a contradiction and vulnerability (ex. bravery = deep need vs fear)
  • showing vulnerabilities beneath a tough exterior (to the reader at least)
  • the constant pressure of the consequences of success and failure
  • the drive to face an opponent that has a better chance of succeeding than they do

What’s a hero without a villain

Something I love to see the protagonist and antagonist are both sympathetic characters. I love understanding and even agreeing with both sides. It makes for an undetermined outcome. (Rarely found in a mystery.)

Lets say we’ve done all this and the readers are still not connecting. What then?

Characters carry the reader with them throughout; but occasionally, it takes time to get to know them. Stalling for time….

The world

We might have a very strong woman on a vestroid in the Asteroid Belt. We don’t know why she’s there.

Why do we care?

We might not. But hey! we are experiencing the Asteroid Belt. Hopefully that’s cool enough until the reader gets into the murder, industrial espionage and characters.

I’m thinking of the Magicians and Wayward. Sometimes the world can draw a reader in.

The Stakes

It isn’t the actor as much as what they face that brings out the egads in us.

Our actor faces an incident that could shatter their outer world as well as their inner reality, leaving them changed forever. The consequences leading to something more unimaginable. And will not only destroy the protagonist, but everyone else in their world.

For example check out an episode of Manifest.

Whether or not we used the stakes as a draw, we need to express them as early as possible.


All of us need to find a way to engage our readers. They’ve checked out our cover, and read the blurb. They’ve scanned the first few pages. Lets not lose them now.

Anything you’d like to add? I’m all ears.

Gleaned from: