It’s easy, as an aspiring writer, to pick up a bad book and take heart that your writing is better than its. The problem with that thinking is that authors these days aren’t competing just against other books, they’re competing for the leisure time of their audience against every other form of entertainment available.
Books have a sizable handicap in this fight. An avid reader might read 50 books a year (or about .025% of the nearly 200,000 titles published every year in the U.S. alone), whereas a casual movie watcher might see 100 movies without really trying, and an avid movie watcher can see almost every movie that comes out.
Most people would rather give up sex than music; the same can be said, I would wager, of few readers with books. With TV, you can get a decent feel for a show in half an hour, without much risk if you don’t like it. If you don’t like a book, you feel tricked and trapped into reading the whole thing.
So the odds of finding a book you’ll like are lower than with other media (and with more risk if you don’t like a book), plus reading lacks the universal appeal of music and the ease of use of TV and movies.
Here are a few examples of excellent writing in non-book media. For aspiring writers, consider this your competition.
Writing a video game must be especially difficult. A game doesn’t need a story to be good, but can easily be ruined by an attempt to wedge in a boring, slow-paced drama. The challenge is to write a story that entertains and doesn’t drag, for an audience interested more in submachine guns than subplot.
Bioshock is quite simply the best-written game there’s ever been. 90% of its fun is in premise (it’s relatively short on character, by contrast), but it has such a well-realized world and such an intricate, captivating plotline, that I found myself actually looking forward to the story bits, rather than dreading them like usual.
The game creates not only an interesting world, but a world that’s intrinsic to the playing of the game. The plot isn’t especially non-linear, but it’s immersive and entertaining, and the story has layers of meaning (from the ethics of genetics to the philosophy of choice and identity) that a lot of contemporary novels can’t touch.
It’s simple, dramatic game writing at its best.