What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

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What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#1 Post by plainviewer » Thu Jan 29, 2015 6:54 pm

Hello everyone,

I'm working on creating my own visual novel, and thus, want to avoid ideas that have been overused in the medium.

Do you know any common clichés and/or mistakes found in visual novels?

Things that, if you noticed them, would make you feel the story was unoriginal or poorly made.

Also, if you know any specific examples, do you any have suggestions on how to correct them?

I know there are plenty of articles--and even some topics here--that discuss clichés, but I couldn't find any specific to visual novels. Only writing in general.

Thank you.

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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#2 Post by firecat » Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:01 pm

the most clichés storys i seen are romance + school, dating sim, horror + romance, and old times + hero.

most rarest i find are future + machinima robots, fighting + romance, death, and funny + old times.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#3 Post by Googaboga » Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:10 pm

If we're talking story-wise, it depends a lot on the genre(s) you want to write. Any type of story can be original or cliche depending on whether or not you follow the specific clichés of that type of story. If what you're looking for are types of stories that are just used a lot in VNs (like high school romances, for example), then that's a little different.

If you are looking specifically for cliches, I guess one cliche that can apply to any genre is the hapless Everyman/woman protagonist who, despite being the main character, is the most uninteresting person in the game. Having an obvious stock love interest forced in there just because, apparently, almost every story needs a romance is another cliche that affects a lot of genres. Though that tends to happen in other types of media more than in VNs.

Some common mistakes that can apply to making a VN are things like; making your first project huge and overwhelming, trying to recruit people without reading the rules and or making much progress on your own first, letting the feature creep get you, not saving back ups of your work, needing everything to be absolutely perfect so instead of releasing it you just keep trying to improve it forever, etc.

Mistakes in VNs are things like spelling/grammar mistakes, glitches in the code, plot holes, bad transitions, un-fitting music for the scene, etc.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#4 Post by ColaCat » Fri Jan 30, 2015 6:40 am

If I were you I'd take a look at some Voltage games. They're good, and serve their purpose of being entertaining, yet ultimately you feel like they're all the same.
If you can take your VN, change the names of the characters, and still end up with something that looks almost exactly like another VN, then you know it's cliche.
For example, most characters fall into a category by which almost every single thing/being/whatever seems to be in. It's always very clean cut, and even when you spice it up a bit it still feels too...flat. I'm thinking shy girl, loud and proud (but with a secret quiet side that only you see), the high school jerk (who is actually really nice), the intelligent loner, etc. etc.
In real life no one would be able to fit that neatly into one place. Hell, why do we all have such a hard time finding out about ourselves? Because we're much more complex than that. Even now, there are things about myself that I don't fully know/understand, and if you asked me to put myself in one of those slots I'd struggle to decide which one to choose. You can have an amazing plot but if the character's fake then it's all going flop. People like things they relate to, but at the same time sense when something's too "simple". It's about making sure you don't make your character a Joe Blogg/Mary Sue, yet make sure that certain parts of their personality shine - just enough for people to get a sense of what they're like - but not enough to completely overshadow everything else about them.
How to avoid it? Well I'd try filling out character sheets, doing quizzes (the Myers Briggs, for example). Pretend you're that character and really get to know them.

Anyway, sorry for the long spiel. TL;DR - a common cliche is having every character be exactly the same as all the other characters, and completely 2D.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#5 Post by trooper6 » Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:52 pm

Googaboga wrote:If we're talking story-wise, it depends a lot on the genre(s) you want to write. Any type of story can be original or cliche depending on whether or not you follow the specific clichés of that type of story. If what you're looking for are types of stories that are just used a lot in VNs (like high school romances, for example), then that's a little different.

If you are looking specifically for cliches, I guess one cliche that can apply to any genre is the hapless Everyman/woman protagonist who, despite being the main character, is the most uninteresting person in the game. Having an obvious stock love interest forced in there just because, apparently, almost every story needs a romance is another cliche that affects a lot of genres. Though that tends to happen in other types of media more than in VNs.

Some common mistakes that can apply to making a VN are things like; making your first project huge and overwhelming, trying to recruit people without reading the rules and or making much progress on your own first, letting the feature creep get you, not saving back ups of your work, needing everything to be absolutely perfect so instead of releasing it you just keep trying to improve it forever, etc.

Mistakes in VNs are things like spelling/grammar mistakes, glitches in the code, plot holes, bad transitions, un-fitting music for the scene, etc.
This is a very important post.

VNs are not a unified story genre. You could do a Western VN (by that I mean cowboys), a Sci-Fi VN, an otome high school dating sim VN, a police procedural VN. Because they are all different story genres, they all have their own clichés. Also cliché is another way of discussion tropes...or audience expectations. If you remove too many of those audience expectations, your audience may reject your work as being inauthentic to the genre you are purporting to be writing in.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#6 Post by SundownKid » Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:57 pm

The biggest cliches I've seen are high school setting, or bishoujo/otome dating sim. Or a combination of the two. That seems to be a huge amount of the visual novels released.

Suggestions on how to correct it? Well, if you want a school life game, maybe consider putting it in a more unusual setting. Or if you are going to add romance, consider adding more of a plot than just "romance".

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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#7 Post by fleet » Fri Jan 30, 2015 5:05 pm

Amnesia is another cliche.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#8 Post by OokamiKasumi » Sat Jan 31, 2015 5:59 am

If all you want are Cliches or Tropes, then you only need to go to TV Tropes to find them.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/VisualNovel

However, knowing what is commonly (over-)used in other visual novels will only help you make Bad Copies of what other people have created. Instead, consider doing research on where visual novels came from, such as the Choose Your Own Adventure Novels, and other forms of interactive fiction games. This will give you a much clearer idea of how broad this type of game actually is, and what VNs are capable of being.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#9 Post by Tempus » Sat Jan 31, 2015 1:23 pm

OokamiKasumi wrote:Instead, consider doing research on where visual novels came from, such as the Choose Your Own Adventure Novels, and other forms of interactive fiction games. This will give you a much clearer idea of how broad this type of game actually is, and what VNs are capable of being.
That's very good advice. It's strange how little other forms of interactive fiction are discussed in visual novel circles, and sad that the links between the communities don't seem particularly strong. Of the IF creators I follow, the ones who don't create visual novels tend to have the most interesting things to say.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#10 Post by OokamiKasumi » Sat Jan 31, 2015 3:57 pm

Tempus wrote:...It's strange how little other forms of interactive fiction are discussed in visual novel circles, and sad that the links between the communities don't seem particularly strong. Of the IF creators I follow, the ones who don't create visual novels tend to have the most interesting things to say.
I find that strange too. It's like people have forgotten that Visual Novels are supposed to be interactive fiction. You'd think they'd catch a clue with the word NOVEL in the very name.

Some of the best advice I've gotten for designing my VNs are from the FailBetter games wiki, and the Choice of Games blog. Neither of which create visual novels.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#11 Post by trooper6 » Sat Jan 31, 2015 4:11 pm

I also find it odd. But then I also find it odd how hostile some VN folks are from looking at Adventure Games as well.

VNs have roots in Adventure Games (text adventure or otherwise) on one hand and Interactive Fiction on the other. VNs also have influences in (and have influenced in return) sims/RPGs. They are this wonderful hybrid that can do so many interesting things. But a number of people get strangely hostile, dogmatic, and provincial. Insisting on a very inclusive and narrow idea of what can and can't be a visual novel. Defending artificial boundaries as if their lives depended on them.

It is odd. And more than a little sad to me. I also don't think such narrow thinking will help progress the genre of VN. VN makers (and all creators), in my opinion, should not reject looking at other media and interrelated genres to gain ideas and innovate.

Christine Love was took ideas from epistolary novels and did something really cool and new with the visual novel, and I'm glad she did that.
Cave Cave Deus Videt bring art historian influences into their visual novel and did something really cool and new, and I'm glad they did that.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#12 Post by Katy133 » Sat Jan 31, 2015 6:32 pm

Katy133 wrote:- Angsty characters: "I can't remember the last time I've laughed like this." - Many VNs I've read in the past.

I love snarky characters, and I love grumpy characters. They have the best dialogue. But angsty characters are generally dull at best and annoying at worst. An angsty character is a badly-written depressed character. Depressed characters are so hard to write properly that I'd only recommend trying to write one if you really know what you're doing (one of the few examples of a likeable depressed character I can think of is Susan Ashworth from The Cat Lady game, and the writer clearly has done their research on the subject matter that the game explores). Remember: There is a difference between grumpy and angsty, as I wrote in this article.
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#13 Post by Aqacia » Tue Feb 03, 2015 7:30 am

I'd say that visual novels generally have all kinds of cliches depending on what area you're looking at, if it's story or the characters and even character designs all have their own little cliches just like everything else in life.

One of the ones that i find a lot and dislike is the normal group of characters it often but not always consists of the shy girl, the childhood best friend and the tsundere of the group. Maybe it's just me seeing too much of these done but i have to say that it's quite sad when you encounter these over and over again.

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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#14 Post by Donmai » Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:46 am

Googaboga wrote:Mistakes in VNs are things like spelling/grammar mistakes, glitches in the code, plot holes, bad transitions, un-fitting music for the scene, etc.
I believe that clichés are not a big problem. The overuse of clichés, on the other hand, can kill a good story. It's hard to create a story featuring cowboys and indians, or a otome game without using clichés, because the audience will be in fact looking for them. It's the intelligent use of repetitive elements that define a genre. I believe the real problems were listed by Googabooga. And if you look closely you will find some of them in any story, no matter how carefully it has been edited/revised. There's always some risk something strange will remain unnoticed. One of my favorite "weird moments" is in Lilly's route in Katawa Shoujo (a very well produced game IMO, that's why I'm using it as an example). At some point Kenji tell Hisao that he thinks Lilly is italian because
"She has to be from Sicily. All those mafioso types come from there."
Okay, Kenji give us an explanation on how he confirmed that Lilly was from Mafia:
"This car pulls up next to her, and guess who steps out? A man in a pinstripe suit. Waves her in, then the two leave just like that. I tell you man, she's under protection. Under. Protection."
Knowing that the "man in a pinstripe suit" was in fact Lilly's cross-dressed sister Akira, Hisao describes her to Kenji and he confirms everything.
Ok, now tell me how the legally blind Kenji, who had trouble recognizing the face of a person near him even with his glasses on, could watch that scene from a "safe" distance and see so many details?
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Re: What Are Some Common Visual Novel Clichés?

#15 Post by Chocopyro » Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:43 am

When it comes to cliches in my experience, focusing on them at all is probably when they become a problem. Like I tried writing a story that avoided them entirely, and in the end, I couldn't write the story I wanted to tell. Then again, try to embrace them, and... Well, anyone who obsessively embraces the "No cliche" banner could tell you the long list of what's wrong here. I can speak as a consumer, I do NOT care if cliches are used if the over all game experience is immersive enough to keep my mind in the story. Perhaps I've grown desensitized to it, or maybe use cliches as a base before buying a game so I know what kind of experience I'm dipping my feet in before hand. After all, Vanilla ice cream is often regarded as being plain, bland, and uninteresting, but any condenser of vanilla ice cream could tell if a particular brand is well made or not. So if you choose to make vanilla ice cream, make damn sure you do it well, while adding your own special ingredients to the mix which hopefully strengthens the flavor.

So when making a visual novel, make your own ingredients, even if you are aiming give an experience that may have been told a thousand times before. Get it write, and you may just remind hardcore veterans of that genre why it was they fell in love with it in the first place.

Now that said, cliches are old. They've been used. People may already be tired of them. Don't become reliant on them. You don't need me to tell you this. :wink:

Here's a few solutions I could think of in alleviating a cliche.

School Setting: Easiest way to fix it is to not use it, but come on. Lots of people love the school setting. If they didn't, it wouldn't be popping up so often. If you feel it benifits your over all game experience or artistic/story direction, by all means. Do it. Just make sure the school itself is treated with its own personality, just like the characters. No, I don't mean the setting literally talks to you, but what sorts of charm does it have in the eyes of the characters who walk its campus? Is it a new state of the art school erected in an old sleepy mountain town that's struggling to adapt to the modern world? Or has the general atmosphere become oppressive since a school shooting that occured a few years before your protagonist even enrolled? If the protagonist is a student, then the player is going to be spending a lot of time there. So make sure its fun and interesting to explore, even if the game is a comical, more character driven story. There could always be that one dusty room on the third floor which might be inhabited by a hobo who leads people to believe its haunted.

Japanese Setting: I see a lot of people grumble on and on about this. "Does it have to be Japan? What makes the country so important to the story that it can't be placed in an American, Australian, or German town?" Yeah, lets face it. If you're setting the story in Japan just cause, you might as well set it anywhere else. But hey man, there is an answer here. Sociology. The Japanese view of life is quite a bit different from the western view. And its not any one huge thing that makes it like this. Its all the little things. Like this for example. If you're setting a story in japan, make sure you drop your cultural ethnocentricity's at the door and adapt theirs... Unless you're writing from a foreigner's point of view. Bottom line, do you're research.

Unhappy Protagonist: A pretty common one, and actually somewhat hard to pull off. The best advice I can put here is that you're character may not actually perceive themselves as an unhappy person. As was my case in middle school. I had depression from 7th grade to 11th and didn't even know it. Another piece of advice: If you want a discontented character, try to make it from a recent change in their life that they're begrudgingly trying to adapt to. You won't find many people who were unhappy for every second of every day in their lives. Rain clouds pass. You're character may even be a particularly positive one who is just going through a rough patch in life.

Certain character tropes: If you see your character falling into a commonly used archetype, don't freak out. This is actually a fair starting point. In fact, its a good way to lead the player into a character's personality, only to surprise them with layers of depth they weren't expecting. In other words, "humanize them, bro!". Of course if you aren't willing on prowling around, studying people in their natural habitat, a good place to turn is surprisingly astrology. Doesn't matter if you believe it or not, if you figure out the perimeters of a character's sun/ascendant/moon, then you pretty much already have a functioning character. Sure, it may be just as lazy as using a character archetype, but its hard not to get at least relatable characters, even if they are presented in a more familiar, anime style of portrayal. (Then again, not every VN out there needs to be anime, those are just the ones I prefer.)

I guess to sum up my own pretentious creative beliefs, a cliche is like that toy in your collection that every child already owns. Are you going to play with that toy exactly how you saw other kids doing it, or make up your own game using it? Or do you want to get the toys nobody else has? -shrug- Kay, enough with vanilla ice cream and toys. That was only my point of view, and I don't claim these thoughts to be right or wrong.
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