In what order do you build up your ideas?

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Blane Doyle
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In what order do you build up your ideas?

#1 Post by Blane Doyle » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:06 am

I've been wondering this for a while. I know that everyone makes and plans out different types of media in their own way and it might be interesting to see where this goes in regards to visual novels.

In my experience it seems that most people come up with one of five things first before managing to plan out something they want to make. It's either the characters themselves, the story they want to tell, a basic theme they want to follow, the setting or world of that story, or designs for characters or settings that don't have any real connection to anything until inspiration strikes. One, or a couple sometimes, usually sets off the rest in a domino effect.

Which do you find sets off that effect for you? Does it depend on the media you want to make? If so, what works for visual novels to you? How does it work? Are there other aspects that go into your order that I have missed?

You get the idea.

For me, I used to come up with characters first and build up a story around them. I don't know what happened, but now? I usually come up with a theme or story first, typically story. I get an idea for a plot and eventually work out what kind of story I want to tell with the theme, plot it out, figure out a setting, and as I go characters generally get created one by one as I try to discern who fits into the setting and plot logically and develop them thusly (I can't just make up a cat girl ninja character and set her in a story about a bakery trying to make money... but if YOU can I would kinda like to see that).

Character designs come and go for me. Generally I come up with a basic idea when I figure out who the characters themselves are, but sometimes I don't manage to get a set design down until well after they are cemented (as much as possible anyway). Other times they seem to waiver until someone else gets them down on paper for me because I cannot draw... well... yet... I'm working on it.

Of course this is almost never set in stone from planning ending and writing it out, nothing seems to work that way for me. Usually at least one or two aspects manage to change, and for the better I like to think.

How about you guys? Care to share your experiences with this?

EDIT: I realized after posting this that while I come up with the story first I am more character centric in execution even though characters always come next to last. I wonder what that means...

To counter this, is what you start with what you focus on most once you begin compiling it all? Or is it something else?
Last edited by Blane Doyle on Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:46 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#2 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:19 am

From what I can tell, we usually start with a theme and a general central idea, then the setting and general ideas for the plot start for form, then we pick out the characters based on who we will need or want, then we develop their personalities based on their role in the story and to balance everyone out and finally I start to design the characters based on all that while bouncing stuff of Camille.

I design the characters last because I want them to feel as if they belong to the story and their role. I want people to look at them and inherently understand what type of character they are and I want their design to keep on making sense as they kind out more about a story so they can have little 'aha' moments. I can FEEL when a design isn't right for the character. I'm not sure how, but something inside me says it isn't working and I have to try and pin down what it is. Once I hit on the right design, that's when I start to fall in love with the character and really giving them a sense of life. It's usually when I start talking about them like they are real XD

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#3 Post by Ran08 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:31 am

I'm one of those people! For me... the characters usually come first. :)

I seriously love creating characters. Hahaha, if I have, like, a one-page-long plot summary, I have around 3 pages of character bio. Most of the time, I build my stories around those characters, that's why the background stories are always deeper and more complicated than the main plot itself. I just love analyzing how characters develop and, in the case of visual novel writing, how I can lead them to that development.

These days though, I have become accustomed to something like that. Setting up a theme first and then building a story around that. Like the visual novel I am currently working on. :D After playing Nacira, I was inspired to make a visual novel set in the Philippines. And after I got the idea for it, that's the only time when I started building my characters to fit the story and the theme. I found out though, that it results to a more complicated plot and less complex characters.

So... I guess it really depends. ^_^ But the bottom line is... yeah, you're right, it's a domino effect. ^_^

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#4 Post by enta » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:22 am

I start with the theme before making the characters. I think that the characters should be made for the story and not the other way around.

In my case, I came up with a theme--->Research about that theme(i.e. spiriting away and other mythological and historical stuff related to it)--->Write a simple story map---->Write the story map in detailed way--->Start programming--->Art & Design Planning---->Others.

Three years ago, I start with character-making, drawing, etc. and what did I got? They fruited to nothing because there was no founded story and it's very weak and I got tired of the idea so fast. Thinking back, I matured so much comparing to those times.

Also, when you have the story set on your mind, it's easy to do EVERYTHING. I can easily come up with sketches and scenes I should include. More the less, I LOVE the characters I made better. Their relationship to other characters, their relation to the story, I felt like everything was meant to be! The characters were made(and yes they are) for the story and it's refreshing. All the all-nighters I've pulled to build up the story has paid up(YES, I'm exaggerating). Nevertheless, I love the way I build up my ideas and stories now.

----and my mood is one of the best elements needed in building up ideas too. I doubt I could write something nice when I just finished watching a sad movie and is crying. It would totally effect what I would write, right? 8)

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#5 Post by Desu_Cake » Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:21 am

For me, it varies depending on the initial idea that comes to me.
Over 80% of the time though, I just come up with the story from beginning to end, because that's by far the most important thing to me. The characters and setting are then created in a way that they fit with the broad strokes of the story. The story undergoes a few (usually minor) changes to iron out inconsistencies, and then finally, I write the bloody thing.

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#6 Post by Ronove » Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:22 am

When I come up with a plot for anything it's usually a character and an idea together. More appropriately, how the character and idea go together. I can't come up with characters without some kind of idea because I need something for those characters to grow into. Once I come up with the first character and the idea to go with that character, the idea and character start to grow, and then the world starts to take form in my head with more characters start showing up and it all rolls together and grows from there.

I tried once to do the theme before the characters, but the end result was the characters felt flat and not really anything you could sink your teeth into.

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#7 Post by TrickWithAKnife » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:51 pm

Purpose -> Requirements -> Method -> Create

Purpose:
What I'm trying to achieve. Making a game because it seemed like a cool idea at the time doesn't seem very good for motivation.

Requirements:
What do I need to achieve this goal?

Method:
What is the most effective and realistic way of achieving my goal?

Create:
Less talking, more doing.

But this isn't just the process for an entire project. This same order is used for each part of the project.
For example, when creating a character, I first need to know what their purpose is that cannot be filled by another character, what they need to achieve that purpose, and then make it happen. If they are not vital, then the player is probably going to see them as filler, and rightly so.

If you aren't trying to achieve a goal, how can you stay motivated?
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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#8 Post by Reikun » Tue Apr 02, 2013 5:51 pm

I think my process generally goes like this:
1. Pick a Subject ("I want to make a story with XYZ in it")
2. Think up the 3 sentence pitch http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewto ... =4&t=17683
3. Think up characters
4. Plan the entire story
5. Attempt to get off lazy butt and make it into something
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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#9 Post by Funnyguts » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:33 pm

I've yet to have a consistent method for this. My mind just goes on random tangents, and I'm still working on getting it in some kind of order.
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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#10 Post by Ran08 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:06 pm

Answering the edit! :)

Umm, for me, no, just because I started it first doesn't mean that it's going to be what I will really focus on. It's just what first came to my mind. :D Although I did realize after reading all these that like some of you, I tend to work on the characters before the story itself. Still, sometimes the theme goes first.

Hahaha, so my previous bottom line is still my bottom line her. =) It really depends, but everything is just a domino effect. ^_^

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#11 Post by Blane Doyle » Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:18 am

TrickWithAKnife wrote:Purpose -> Requirements -> Method -> Create

Purpose:
What I'm trying to achieve. Making a game because it seemed like a cool idea at the time doesn't seem very good for motivation.

Requirements:
What do I need to achieve this goal?

Method:
What is the most effective and realistic way of achieving my goal?

Create:
Less talking, more doing.

But this isn't just the process for an entire project. This same order is used for each part of the project.
For example, when creating a character, I first need to know what their purpose is that cannot be filled by another character, what they need to achieve that purpose, and then make it happen. If they are not vital, then the player is probably going to see them as filler, and rightly so.

If you aren't trying to achieve a goal, how can you stay motivated?
With chocolate. (Not really.)

Your method, while seemingly very different to my building method, is actually very similar to my own execution method. When I go about writing and figuring out a medium for my story this is essentially what I do.

And it works pretty darn well, I have to admit. (My only problem then is just sharing what I finish...)

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#12 Post by arachni42 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:30 am

TrickWithAKnife wrote:Purpose -> Requirements -> Method -> Create
That's so..... organized. Personally, I would definitely not be able to stay motivated with that process!

(If the Myers-Briggs means anything to anybody, for J/P I am way over on the P side.)

I usually go by "what I feel like" doing. I usually start with some sort of undeveloped premise, then characters, then developed premise, and eventually what actually happens in the plot (which I find out in the process of writing). I don't usually write in chronological order, either; it's been best for me to go with ideas for different pieces when I have them, reflect on them, and slowly weave them together. The weaving may involve modifications or reorganizing, but at that point in the process that is interesting to me (where it would not be interesting to organize it ahead of time). At that point I'll also think a lot about character voice and themes that have emerged and how to bring them out and make them stronger. I'll fine-tune some parts, but there still may be pieces missing that I need to address. So it all slowly comes together.

The VN format did influence my process some; I am in the process of writing my first VN. (I completed a demo for NaNo.) My original idea started with a premise. Actually, in this case, it started with a theme. "I feel like writing something with lots of gambit pile-ups like Code Geass and Death Note." But I didn't want to write mecha or supernatural, so I decided to apply it to something trivial: popularity in (American) high school. How about a literal popularity contest, with a voting system and everything? Then I created a bunch of genius kids who would try to impress each other (just like in real high school, except more creative), and had all manner of epic ideas I knew from the start would be way too big for me to stay motivated to do.

This was in early Feb, and in late Feb I learned about NaNoRenO (I really am quite new here and new to VNs in general). I did NaNoWriMo a couple years ago and found it to be a good experience, so I thought about doing my original idea... but I decided it would be better to do something I actually had a chance of getting halfway done. Sooo, the influence was for me to heavily limit scope.

I guess in this case, my process for the game I actually made was to start with purpose: to have something with limited scope where I still had an excuse to write about a few of the characters I had already made. So, premise was made in part around the characters. I came up with "speed date in college," because it is very much an excuse to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time. No need for any pretenses -- I'd be able to just write some short but character-development dense dialogues (but not as short as I had originally thought!), and college-level maturity is as interesting for me to write as high school-level maturity. No competitions, but plenty of room for social commentary. I did decide that these characters had actually gone to this high school, but were now in college.

I think that was a much more roundabout way of coming to my final idea than usual, but it worked well for me. The writing itself went how I described above: jumping around, writing different pieces, diagramming, tying them together, reconciling themes, writing the parts I had left out, and finally at least getting the demo portion to where I was almost comfortable showing it to other people (and made myself upload it regardless)... I suppose this is another difference with the VN for me so far. I've written short stories and even the NaNoWriMo novel in the past, but as far as OTHER people actually READING it, well... generally I've only shown stuff to a few friends and that's it. There are probably forums out there where people share their stories, but I'm not very interested in reading other people's short stories. I am interested in playing other people's VNs, though. So, here I am.

I guess for me a lot of different parts of the process happen together.
Blane Doyle wrote:(I can't just make up a cat girl ninja character and set her in a story about a bakery trying to make money... but if YOU can I would kinda like to see that).
I could, but she would probably be quite the eccentric cat girl ninja by the time I was through with her. I'm not so sure she'd be the type of cat girl ninja other people would find interesting. ^_^
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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#13 Post by papillon » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:38 am

The projects I have that fail to launch usually come from a theme, which leads to a set of characters, which leads to me then losing steam and dropping it in my folder of "maybe recycle this someday" (or posting it in the ideas dump). Similar to a lot of game idea threads really. "It would be really cool to have a game set in a SPACE DISCO! And it could feature the ANGRY WAITRESS and the ROLLER DERBY QUEEN and the AWARD WINNING DANCER and... um... I don't actually have a story here."

Projects that actually go somewhere are more likely to have involved, at an early point in development, "I want to make this cool thing happen in a story. How can I set up a story so that this thing will happen?" Because then the related and tangled backstories start tumbling naturally out of my head, along with nebulous characters who will continue to be adjusted to fit the needs of the plot. "I want the space disco to catch fire during a birthday party! So THIS character must be having a birthday and chooses a disco because THIS and it catches fire because THIS and THIS, and that also has THESE consequences, and..."

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#14 Post by nyaatrap » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:09 am

TrickWithAKnife wrote:Purpose -> Requirements -> Method -> Create

Purpose:
What I'm trying to achieve. Making a game because it seemed like a cool idea at the time doesn't seem very good for motivation.

Requirements:
What do I need to achieve this goal?

Method:
What is the most effective and realistic way of achieving my goal?

Create:
Less talking, more doing.
Pretty much this. I've done 2 projects in planned time, following the theory similar to the above.

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Re: In what order do you build up your ideas?

#15 Post by LadyAvori » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:45 pm

It took me a long time to realize that whenever I started with characters my story wouldn't get finish and I'd drop it the second it got old. :cry:

So now I start with Plot:
Starting with plot seems to be a more solid foundation for me. When plot comes first I find it easier make an outline for my story and I never get stuck with "well what comes next." And my fingers just fly when I'm excited about the plot and know what's coming.

Then the characters show up:
When I start with Plot, the protagonist and antagonist isn't far behind. All other characters are added only if the story needs them, not because I think a certain character will be awesome. Of course I try to fit them in, but when it doesn't work I cry a little before telling them to take their awesomeness and go. And funny enough my story seems better for it. :mrgreen:

Setting comes next:
Setting/world comes after I have the plot and at least the main cast of characters. The story I'm working on now was originally set in a European Medieval fantasy, but since I prefer ronin to mercenary and ninja to assassin, I switched to a Japanese Edo fantasy setting. And the plot wasn't affected in the least. :wink:

Character design:
I do an initial character concept when the character first comes to mind. And by that I mean I sketch them into the margins of the note book on their character sheet. Other than that, I don't worry about getting into character designing until after I'm done with the writing. By then I feel that I really know the character, their personality and role in the story, and designing just comes easier. And they may end up looking completely different than their initial concepts.

I always forget about Theme:
I never worry about theme. Theme just shows up in the middle of writing and introduces itself. It says "Hi! You've been unconsciously adding me to the story this whole time and I thought I'd introduce myself. I'm Love and Betrayal, your theme. So I'll just make a note of myself over here. After the rough draft remember to go through and make sure I'm consistent throughout the story. That'd be appreciated, thanks" Because Theme is polite like that.

I didn't realize this was my method until you asked and I took the time to think about it. I'm pretty excited. :D

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