Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

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Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#1 Post by Cachinnus » Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:15 am

Hey guys! I want to introduce myself before I get started, since this is my first post and I don't want this to be completely out of the blue.

My name is Jim, but you can call me Cachinnus or Cach because username. I've only been introduced to the world of visual novels for about ... 8 months, I'd say? My wife introduced them to me through DRAMAtical Murder, which I really enjoyed. Since then, I've had quite a focus on visual novels in my schoolwork. I'm earning an Editing, Writing, and Media major at my university, and some projects have called for the creation of personal projects and studies. Last semester for a transmedia campaign (in which you had to create three different types of media to expand upon a whole), I wrote my own visual novel using the Ren'Py engine to accompany an original story idea that was my campaign. I have to say, it was one of my favorite projects I've ever done, and the visual novel was my greatest piece of it.

For my current project, I need to research professional writers in a specific niche. Again, I chose visual novels, which fits right in with my interests. If none of you mind, I'd like to pose a series of questions for anyone able to answer. You don't have to be a professional writer to answer these questions. If you consider yourself amateur in the VN realm, I'd love to hear what you have to say. I'm looking for a wide variety of answers so the more I get the more successful this project will be.

I'll start with some general questions and if this turns into a discussion, I'd love to explore the more intricate nuances of visual novel creation.
  1. Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?
    • Your answer here will not affect your influence. Since I'm approaching a community rather than a specific company, I'd like to consider all levels of writing.
  2. What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?
  3. What got you into visual novels?
  4. What is the engine you use and why do you use it?
  5. What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?
    • I know this is rather vague, but as an example, I had an idea for a story, made a general outline for the paths that I wanted to take, and basically wrote the story as I was learning how to use the Ren'Py engine. My method was very chaotic. I had to backtrack multiple times to make sure I was setting my paths right, and even at the end I found I had to develop two new paths within the main storyline because there was a key question that had to be asked to affect the ending. Fortunately, my VN was rather short, no longer than 5 minutes, but a longer, more intricate VN would require more planning and care than my reckless abandonment.
  6. Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?
  7. Why do you pursue visual novels?
We'll start off with those and see where it takes us! Thanks so much, guys! I really appreciate all your help!

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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#2 Post by Kuiper » Sat Jun 11, 2016 4:14 am

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?

Professional. (I've made money working on commercial visual novels, and I actually wrote for a local newspaper prior to getting involved with VNs.)

What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?

I took creative writing and creative non-fiction/journalism classes as electives in college (unrelated to my major, which was engineering). I also watched all of the lectures from Brandon Sanderson's writing class at BYU that have been posted to Youtube.

What got you into visual novels?

I think my progression was something like:

text-heavy JRPGs ==> anime ==> manga ==> Japanese visual novels ==> Katawa Shoujo ==> other western visual novels

Technically my first visual novel was Phoenix Wright circa 2004, but I didn't actually begin playing visual novels in earnest until around 2007 when I got more entrenched in image board culture and Yume Miru Kusuri got its western release.

What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?

George R.R. Martin describes two writing approaches as "architecture" and "gardening."
"I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they're going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there's going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don't know how many branches it's going to have, they find out as it grows. And I'm much more a gardener than an architect."
These kinds of writers are also sometimes described as "outliners" and "discovery writers." I personally do not consider these to be two distinct "categories" of writers; rather, I think there exists a kind of spectrum or continuum between the two, and most writers exist somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. I am an architect when it comes to the main plot of the story and its setting, but I tend to be more of a gardener when it comes to things like minor subplots and character development.

Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?

I'm working on several projects, each with a different team of people. Most of the teams I'm on are comprised of people I met through the Lemmasoft recruitment forums. One of the projects I'm working on is with a team that I've been with for over a year now; we shipped a demo for IGF last year, and since then we've made several small games. Other projects that I've worked on have been "one and done," where I work together with people for the extent of a single project and then we go our separate ways after the project is concluded (though I may re-unite with some of those folks in the future if we happen to have overlapping availability and interest in a project).

The biggest team that I'm on is four people working on a Unity game, including me (script), one person doing 2D art, and another person doing 3D art/modeling, and one person who handles the bulk of the coding. Each member of the team has their own "support network" that they use to validate certain things before implementing them. For example, I have a writing group that I sometimes submit early samples/drafts to, and that allows me to get feedback from 3-5 people at a time about what's working in the story and what isn't.

Why do you pursue visual novels?

The first time I really got into visual novels, one of my immediate reactions was something like, "whoa, it's like somebody made a BioWare RPG without the running around and fighting enemies." (And incidentally, the parts of BioWare games where you run around and fight things are usually my least favorite part; the fun of a BioWare game is usually all in the dialog trees.) Visual novels basically get to just tell an interactive story without being bogged down with extra mechanics. Compared to AAA RPGs, they're "low fidelity" in that respect, but I personally like the fact that the limitations of the medium place the emphasis on the text.

To address the question of "why not just pick up a book if all you want to do is read a story": Interactive storytelling is cool. Having a "novel" accompanied by visuals and sound is cool. (Though we are talking about "visual novels," I think that music can have an incredibly potent effect yet subtle effect on the emotional state of a player.) There are some stories that I think can be told better in visual novels than any other medium.
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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#3 Post by Rinima » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:15 am

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?
Amateur, but striving to become a professional - or at the least, a somewhat competed serious hobbyist XD

What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?
I've done quite a few fanfictions - one of which became semi-popular in the fandom (I won't say which). I've also written a lot of short stories - never published online, and I write a bit of poetry. The highest my education has taken me with English is to GCSE level (which is the level you need to get any kind of job - the basic qualifications), did want to take a A Level but was unable to due to time restraints.

What got you into visual novels?
Cradle Song (discontinued) is what got be into making them - though Ripples was got me reading.

What is the engine you use and why do you use it?
Ren'py - free, easy to use.

What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?
Idea -> Character creation -> Plotting -> first draft -> editing -> publish

Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?
I tend to commission different people rather than work with the same people over and over again. Depends on the tone and look I'm looking for. I never commission writers though.

Why do you pursue visual novels?
Because it's fun~
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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#4 Post by Kinjo » Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:39 pm

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?
Totally amateur writer, but a professional programmer.

What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?
Absolutely nothing. Fully self-taught.

What got you into visual novels?
Reading Umineko. And messing around in the code realizing "hey, I can do this too!"

What is the engine you use and why do you use it?
Unity, because other engines are far too limited for my tastes and Unity provides a lot of cool stuff to play around with in the code.

What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?
Iterate. Take a sketch of an idea, write it out, then scrap it after coming up with a better idea, etc. Eventually I get a really refined product.

Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?
Yes. They're a bunch of different people: Internet friends, people I meet at conventions, and fans who like my work and want to help me make more. All of the above jobs.

Why do you pursue visual novels?
I enjoy stories, and there's a lot of interesting things you can do with stories in the visual novel format that you can't do anywhere else.

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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#5 Post by Hijiri » Sat Jun 11, 2016 7:34 pm

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?
Amateaur since my skill level is pretty low.
What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?
Just gen ed courses for English classes.
What got you into visual novels?
Reading them.
What is the engine you use and why do you use it?
Ren'Py, mainly because of versatility.
What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?
There's a process?
Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?
Yes I do have a team, an artist and another writer! I often toss ideas at them and I sometimes take ideas they've had and work them into my stories.
Why do you pursue visual novels?
Because this is a cheaper hobby than making legit games, and this genre catches more attention than plain writing.
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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#6 Post by rak0nt0ur » Mon Jun 13, 2016 1:27 am

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?
Amateur, since it's just a hobby

What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?
I took a creative writing class in high school.

What got you into visual novels?
Probably Ryukishi07's works. But 999 and Ace Attorney are also inspiring.

What is the engine you use and why do you use it?
Renpy. It's simple and easy to use.

What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?
I start with a general idea and then make some characters. It usually takes 3-5 revisions to get everything right.

Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?
I create by myself, but I have a group of people that beta test for me. They don't do VNs, but they're interested in writing regular novels and RPG type games. We know there are advantages to having a team working on one product, but have so far found that we work best when we each have our own projects.

Why do you pursue visual novels?

I think they are a unique medium.

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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#7 Post by AsHLeX » Mon Jun 13, 2016 2:05 am

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?
I don't know. Not professional, that's for sure. A hobbyist I guess?

What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?
None.

What got you into visual novels?
I always liked the idea of those books that you could buy with choices in them. (You know the turn to page 18 if you choose A). I used to write those kind of stories until I realized I could do it electronically.

What is the engine you use and why do you use it?

Ren'Py. It's easy to use and i'm used to it.

What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?
Idk. I just sit and write when the ideas come to me, I guess. Usually I have a collection of existing ideas that I can refer to.

I know this is rather vague, but as an example, I had an idea for a story, made a general outline for the paths that I wanted to take, and basically wrote the story as I was learning how to use the Ren'Py engine. My method was very chaotic. I had to backtrack multiple times to make sure I was setting my paths right, and even at the end I found I had to develop two new paths within the main storyline because there was a key question that had to be asked to affect the ending. Fortunately, my VN was rather short, no longer than 5 minutes, but a longer, more intricate VN would require more planning and care than my reckless abandonment.
Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?
I usually rely on creative commons but that can only get you so far. I've started working in groups though. Both is nice in it's own way.

Why do you pursue visual novels?
It's a hobby. I like to watch things come to life. I like to give life to things. I like to know that there's a meaning for me doing things.
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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#8 Post by Electromancer » Tue Jun 14, 2016 10:12 pm

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?

I'm in the passage between the two states right now. I'm mostly an amateur but I do paid writing whenever I can.

What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?

No formal education or anything. Just read my mind full of books and wrote my heart full of bad writing until I got better.

What got you into visual novels?

I had a love for anime and a love for writing. The two intersected when I discovered VNs.

What is the engine you use and why do you use it?

Ren'Py. The community is wonderful and the tool is easy to use.

What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?

Always draft on paper first. Then type what you have up and revise as you do. Then have as many people as you can critique it. Then rewrite it. Once you think you've rewritten it enough, rewrite it more.

Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?

I'm a member of a ~20-man team of developers from around the world.

Why do you pursue visual novels?

It's a hobby that I would damn desperately love to turn into a part-time job.
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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#9 Post by KittyWills » Tue Jun 14, 2016 10:24 pm

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?

Very much amateur. Coding and Directing is my bread and butter. But I still enjoy creating stories even if most of my first drafts go to more experienced writers for clean up. lol

What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?

I used to write a lot when I was younger. Making stories pretty much as soon as I knew how to. Did NaNoWriMo for years. But sort of fell out of it as I got older, so I never did look into more schooling besides required courses.

What got you into visual novels?

My friend introduced them to me and I found them interesting. I tend to lean towards KNs and Adventure Games. I don't play dating sims pretty much at all.

What is the engine you use and why do you use it?

Ren'py for the simple games; KNs or minimal choice VNs. Unity for anything that has more gameplay or is just larger in general.

What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?

I word vomit into a word doc for a couple weeks with just ideas and snipits of writings. Then organize it all in TWINE to get all the branches looking good. Then go and fill in the meat. Then another writer comes in and cleans up my work.

Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?

At the moment, only my Partner who is our head writer and one in-house artist. I do all the coding and help with writing. We have some friends who will be playtesting for us; but no one official yet. I'm still on the lookout for that perfect in-house composer; after four have vanished on me. -shakes fist at sky-

Why do you pursue visual novels?

It's a good stepping stone into more complex game design, plus my Partner in Crime really enjoys them so that's where we decided to start. We both plan to move out into more complex RPG style games. In till then this is good practice in story writing and word building. Plus it's fun and the community is great. =)

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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#10 Post by truefaiterman » Wed Jun 15, 2016 8:20 am

Hi there, Cachinnus! I hope to be useful!

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?
I'm an amateur working on changing to pro ASAP :P


What is your background in writing? Any courses or schooling that you've taken?
I've studied a little about writing in my spare time, but almost everything I have comes from writing and reading.
I began with dumb fanfiction since I was 11 and slowly trying out different styles, mediums, etc. Nowadays I'm writing a commercial VN and a novel.

What got you into visual novels?
Fighting games. No, I'm serious xD Specially Melty Blood, which got me into Tsukihime, and then Ever17 made me fall in love completely.

What is the engine you use and why do you use it?
I used Renpy for my little tests, since it's fairly easy to use, but I'm using Unity for my current project since I have an awesome coder working on it.

What is your writing process when it comes to visual novels?
I'm... kind of messy, to be honest. I have an idea, slowly translate it into a relatively detailed outline, and then... I mostly respect key scenes and nothing else, writing whatever the F I feel like in the spur of the momment. Then I have to go back a few times and start making sure everything works fine.

Do you have a team? Who are the artists, musicians, etc. that help you create your VN? Is there anyone else that helps you? Playtesters, editors, etc.?
I do have a team at the moment (we're not officially represented here, though, we just focus on the game itself for now).
I'm both the writer, scenario planner and artist (art and voice acting are my main jobs).
I have a coder, and a composer (who is also a singer).
I plan on getting another singer, and a few testers. If possible, a translator too (I write in Spanish).

Why do you pursue visual novels?
Mostly because I like them, and also because producing them is relatively cheap and it's also doable with my skillset.
Artist and voice actor, trying to actually write stuff.

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Re: Visual Novels and the Writing Process (a school project)

#11 Post by Saintest » Wed Jun 15, 2016 9:40 am

Do you consider yourself an amateur or professional writer?
Amateur, but striving to become a professional - or at the least, a somewhat competed serious hobbyist XD

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