Writing For An App

So, as I move towards a sort of beta (at what point does software become beta?) of the app, I’m becoming more and more frightfully aware of the fact that I’m going to need content to display my idea.

And isn’t that where so many great ideas die?

The idea for the app is great. And, to be perfectly objective, the very general idea I have for content is great: a child talking about how his father goes to work when the child would rather he stayed home, followed by work described by a child who’s only ever been able to ask his Papa about it. And, at the end, the child asks the Papa “Why do you go to work if it’s so bad?” And the Papa can say, “Well, I don’t really like the work. But, I get money if I go, and there are a lot of things I like to do with you — from simple things like eating, to more fun things like going to the swimming pool — that I can only do with money.”

And, yeah, that long last sentence is currently how it goes. I’m not crazy about it (translation: I know it’s bad).

That’s what I’m talking about. As I write, I try my hardest to not think about the need to illustrate everything, but it’s not working. I write three sentences and think “I don’t know what should be happening on the screen during this time.” And the story suffers, because I seem to feel a need to work in as many things that I can get a doodle for as possible.

It’s not good writing. And it’s not going to make it into the app. What I’m wondering is whether it’s an inevitable step in the development process.

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The Vision

The vision, I think, is simple: an app that tells children an entertaining story, but in an entertaining way. There are a lot of story-telling apps in the Play Store, but few of them are what I would give my kid. They’re basically videos that ask the kid to press the button for the next page.

I don’t know how you read to your children, but that’s not how I read to my children. If they won’t sit still for me, why should they sit still for a device?

What I’d like to build is an app that tells kids a story the way I would, or very nearly. I would love to be able to have the app read the story wrong and respond to kids correcting it (“No! He’s not a horse! He’s a boy!”) But I don’t think that is within my reach as an amateur programmer.

Telling children a story and then becoming increasingly — and comically — frustrated as they keep touching the things in the pictures, now that is something I could do. (I think.)

Imagine for a moment that you’re basically passively consuming a story and you touch the funny picture of a cat. The narration stops for a moment and says “Yeah, that’s a pretty strange picture of a cat. I bet that cat is having a bad day.” And then the narration picks back up again. I don’t know what you would do, but I would touch other things, what does the narrator say?

If I touch the cat again, will the narrator do it again? This time he says, “We talked about the cat already, come on, let’s do this story.” I try it again, of course. In a voice that is so comically frustrated it sounds more like the Cookie Monster than anything else, the narrator complains: “Enough with the cat! I am trying to tell a story here!”

I think my kids would eat that up. And, of course, I’m banking this project on the idea that other kids would eat it up, too.