Writing for a VN

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Sylph
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Writing for a VN

#1 Post by Sylph » Sat May 02, 2009 4:02 pm

Dear LSF,

I need some advice in regards to how to write for a VN in first-person narrative.

I've read plenty of visual novels before but it occurs to me that I never really paid much attention to the writing style or structure. It's obviously different from the way you might write a novel or any other kind of story however. I could just go reread all those old tales but I thought it would be better to get schooling from those who have actually written a VN before.

So, tell me, how should I go about actually writing my own story? Also, when you're writing do you write and code at the same time or you do write a scene and then fit in all the coding necessary for graphics, sound changes and whatever around the text?

Apologies if this thread has already been made before, I did use the search function but couldn't find anything similar

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Re: Writing for a VN

#2 Post by Satoh » Sat May 02, 2009 4:10 pm

It's about envisioning the flow of the text. Instead of writing literary pauses, you can actually create pauses in the appearance of the text itself. You also have the ability to create visual effects to complement the text being displayed.

Think more about how you want the things you write to be read. If you feel a character's speech should have a pause, or should flow in a rambling, fast nature, write the code to reflect that, adding {w} where pauses are necessary and changing the text speed when necessary. That's my approach.

I tend to use flow-of-thought text streams a lot. I add indention and white space randomly to symbolize chaotic thought processes...
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Re: Writing for a VN

#3 Post by Samu-kun » Sat May 02, 2009 4:16 pm

I've had the best results by first writing extremely detailed biographies on all of the characters. First I'll begin with typical stats like gender, age, hobbies. Then I expand into five paragraphs about the character. Then I expand to five more paragraphs about things that I want to happen somewhere in the story and how the characters respond to it.

Next, I write a plot outline with a sentence or two for each scene in the game and what happens. I try to keep in mind the number of backgrounds, CGs, and character sprites I'll need to make as I'm doing this, and avoid adding extra settings or CGs unless it's necessary.

Then I look over the outline and cut out all the plot devices that are redundant or don't lead anywhere and fix up all the plot holes.

Then, I just write the script from the beginning to end in JEdit. I don't do any programming aside from indenting and tagging my script.

(Of course, for a short 15 minute game, all this work wouldn't be necessary.)

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Re: Writing for a VN

#4 Post by killdream » Sat May 02, 2009 5:14 pm

It's a bit different from normal novels, since you have sound and visual effects to aid you, then you don't need to describe every part of the abandoned mansion that lies deep inner the forest. Also, you don't need to describe the appearance of characters, you'd focus more on their feelings/actions.

Also, writing style changes deppending on what style you're going into. While NVL style (the one used in Tsukihime, Planetarian and Narcissu) is more close to your common novels like:
"That's unbelievable!", she said, still angry with me.

But there was no holding back now. We've already crossed the rubicon, the final line.
And even if our lifes wouldn't be the same anymore, we must settle this...

——————Once and for all.
In other hand, the ADV (Kanon, Wind ~ A breath of heart, and so on *don't remember more, sorry xD*) style is closer to light novels, it is, more on character interactions and such:
Victoria: "The air down here is so heavy."
We follow down the pitch-dark corridor with her complaining about everything.
The flashlight died long ago, and now the only light we can see is coming from the end of the corridor.
Mark: "We should speed up our pace."
Altough I'm not complaining aloud, I do feel the same uneasiness of her.
This place is just too wrong.
I actually first get the plot. Normally, It shall fit two lines, but I'd say a five, if much. Then I start thinking about the world, the characters that can appear in the stories, and how their interactions can mold the world and the story itself.

Then I write a few lines about how the main plot should flow, and fews from what I think the interactions between the characters can do with the story (taking into account players decision here). After that I have some good routes, probably I will be discarding a few of them, so I don't get that much of detail.

After that I start to think about the CGs I will need. This is just a rough base, since I will most probably change it, add and remove some CGs, but you'd got a place to start anyways.

I actually do my writing in M$ Word. It helps me alot since I tend to write my visual novel/games stories entire in english... and mine isn't that good, so Word helps me to correct some typos (and I often google for some synonyms and new words too).

After I actually write all that in code (without pictures/sounds/whatever) I go once again through the code and think about what to do and how to do (directing is the last part, for me). Of course, while I'm writing I add a lot of comments on how that scene is supposed to be, what effects I'd use and such, and most of times I just go with it.

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Re: Writing for a VN

#5 Post by dstarsboy » Sat May 02, 2009 10:47 pm

Samu-kun wrote:I've had the best results by first writing extremely detailed biographies on all of the characters. First I'll begin with typical stats like gender, age, hobbies. Then I expand into five paragraphs about the character. Then I expand to five more paragraphs about things that I want to happen somewhere in the story and how the characters respond to it.

Next, I write a plot outline with a sentence or two for each scene in the game and what happens. I try to keep in mind the number of backgrounds, CGs, and character sprites I'll need to make as I'm doing this, and avoid adding extra settings or CGs unless it's necessary.

Then I look over the outline and cut out all the plot devices that are redundant or don't lead anywhere and fix up all the plot holes.

Then, I just write the script from the beginning to end in JEdit. I don't do any programming aside from indenting and tagging my script.

(Of course, for a short 15 minute game, all this work wouldn't be necessary.)
Great advice! I've read about a dozen tutorials and most seems to lean toward "write one branch from front to back, then another, then another" but I found this difficult to do because I keep bouncing around and have a hard time interweaving the branches. This way sounds pretty concrete, I'll try it.
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Re: Writing for a VN

#6 Post by Satoh » Sun May 03, 2009 12:50 am

Another thing I like to do...

I separate all my chapters into different files (not all my branches mind you, just the chapters as a whole) so that I can tell them apart easily. Each chapter may have several branches in it, or may even have convergences, but I won't forget where one stops and another starts, because the chapters are separated. (If you tried to micromanage it further by separating the choices, it might get very confusing)

Also, if you plan on having different arcs, that are completely unrelated to each other, you could separate those. (be sure to label the chapters appropriately, like "chapter_4_arc_a" versus "chapter_4_arc_b" unless the arcs share the same events in the chapter.)

I like to separate all my system variables, characters, main menu/layout info, images, etc. into the main script file to reduce clutter.

It might all take a bit longer, but it certainly helps keep everything organized. (I'm thinking about creating another file just to write notes and comments in.)

Also, it's probably obvious, but it's good to know a lot about your story beforehand, even if the reader is meant to be unaware of it. (Such as the "characters with no past" the author knows plenty about them, even if the reader never finds it out. I've seen so many people mess up by not knowing their characters it isn't funny.)((Just advice, not accusation or anything... I have a big fear of being misunderstood due to my sarcastic mannerisms.))

Anyway, I hope your projects progress smoothly, and turn out well. Good luck.
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Re: Writing for a VN

#7 Post by Sylph » Sun May 03, 2009 7:36 am

Satoh wrote:I tend to use flow-of-thought text streams a lot.
That does make sense if you're using a first-person narrative. Thoughts and experiences come the reader in the same way they come to the character.
Samu-kun wrote:I've had the best results by first writing extremely detailed biographies on all of the characters. First I'll begin with typical stats like gender, age, hobbies. Then I expand into five paragraphs about the character. Then I expand to five more paragraphs about things that I want to happen somewhere in the story and how the characters respond to it.
I don't need to worry about that kind of planning. I mean, er, I do but I already have those bases covered. I have my characters, setting, plot elements and paths more or less decided. I'm just concerned with the actual getting down and putting concept into written word.
killdream wrote:It's a bit different from normal novels, since you have sound and visual effects to aid you, then you don't need to describe every part of the abandoned mansion that lies deep inner the forest. Also, you don't need to describe the appearance of characters, you'd focus more on their feelings/actions.
I see what you mean, I can already spot a bit of redundancy in my own text but I won't abandon describing some items totally. I'm sure you're aware of this but words can be used to augment the images, especially if you have limited CGs/character sprites.

NVL style VNs have probably had more of an influence on me but I guess I'll be using the ADV style, or some kind of mix of the two. We'll see.
Satoh wrote:I separate all my chapters into different files (not all my branches mind you, just the chapters as a whole) so that I can tell them apart easily. Each chapter may have several branches in it, or may even have convergences, but I won't forget where one stops and another starts, because the chapters are separated. (If you tried to micromanage it further by separating the choices, it might get very confusing)
That makes sense. I plan to have a fairly linear progression in scenes before branching off in totally different directions and endings so division of text into seperate documents is necessary and will generally make things easier.

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Re: Writing for a VN

#8 Post by Mirena » Sun May 03, 2009 12:03 pm

Well, for mine (script is finished, rest is not) I first wrote a rough summary. Then I went a little more into detail and wrote a sentence or two for every scene I wanted to include.
After that I started writing and used the summary as checklist to keep track of my progress.

I first wrote the whole script in word pad and then I brought it over into RenPy. I believe that it's a better way than doing both at the same time because you won't have to disrupt your flow in order to place an image or set a background. I did try to visualize how I wanted to present the scene in visual novel form.

What I didn't do but wish I had was to make a list of locations and character sprites that would be needed. Granted, I made a list of characters a while after but all my locations have proven to be quite the pain. Whenever I thought I had them all a new one would pop up! So don't let that happen to you and do keep track of the needed locations.

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Re: Writing for a VN

#9 Post by pinkmouse » Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:13 am

Mirena wrote:Well, for mine (script is finished, rest is not) I first wrote a rough summary. Then I went a little more into detail and wrote a sentence or two for every scene I wanted to include.
After that I started writing and used the summary as checklist to keep track of my progress.

I first wrote the whole script in word pad and then I brought it over into RenPy. I believe that it's a better way than doing both at the same time because you won't have to disrupt your flow in order to place an image or set a background. I did try to visualize how I wanted to present the scene in visual novel form.

What I didn't do but wish I had was to make a list of locations and character sprites that would be needed. Granted, I made a list of characters a while after but all my locations have proven to be quite the pain. Whenever I thought I had them all a new one would pop up! So don't let that happen to you and do keep track of the needed locations.
I found a neat, free program that's designed for writing full-blown novels: yWriter --http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5_Screens.html

It lets you break down the story into scenes, and list the location and characters in each scene.

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Re: Writing for a VN

#10 Post by Koveras » Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:59 pm

IMO writing a visual novel is much more like writing a play than, well, a novel. You basically have the actors, a stage where only a few can be at the same time, and a limited set of decorations (backgrounds + special graphics). Now, you are both a playwright and a director (AND the lead character if you are writing first-person) who must make it all work. If you've actually played in a theater, that'd help a lot, I think. It did for me. ^^

As for the process, my first project (like the previous poster, script finished, the rest is not -__-) is an adaptation of my own short story. First, I basically converted it into a screenplay (characters' words + stage directions), then formalized it in Ren'Py.
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Re: Writing for a VN

#11 Post by Coatl » Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:43 pm

I'm creating my first VN too so I can relate when I say that it seems different when doing a first-person narrative. The way I right is almost like the style of a playwright or like as if I'm taking notes so narrative isn't really something that comes first hand.

Let me start with what I'd do though starting with wording:
Because the narrative is first person, I usually start with clear understanding of what is going on in the story, but I add lil nuances in the dialogue. As you have noticed, I often say "Lil" instead of little, so if my character spoke that way, I would add "lil" in his narrative unless he's trying to be serious or really calm. Adding the character's personality or better yet your own personality really helps bring the mood. Also speak in some detail so that it can compliment the story, I know you're using images for the characters and background, but sometimes there are details that are not shown in the illustrations themselves, be sure however that the details ado not disturb the flow.

Actions such as thuds or punches:
If you're using sound effects using actual sound? you can add to it with dialouge be my guest.

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Re: Writing for a VN

#12 Post by pinkmouse » Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:13 am

Koveras wrote:IMO writing a visual novel is much more like writing a play than, well, a novel. You basically have the actors, a stage where only a few can be at the same time, and a limited set of decorations (backgrounds + special graphics). Now, you are both a playwright and a director (AND the lead character if you are writing first-person) who must make it all work. If you've actually played in a theater, that'd help a lot, I think. It did for me. ^^

As for the process, my first project (like the previous poster, script finished, the rest is not -__-) is an adaptation of my own short story. First, I basically converted it into a screenplay (characters' words + stage directions), then formalized it in Ren'Py.
Oh, I agree - there's so much less descriptive writing than in a static-text story because the illustrations help carry the load. I just mentioned that program because it lets you store information about locations and characters and usefully associate that with relevant scenes - so it makes keeping an inventory of necessary art simple. Plus it's free - so no harm in anyone trying it and seeing if it's useful to them.

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Re: Writing for a VN

#13 Post by Coatl » Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:56 pm

pinkmouse wrote:
Koveras wrote:IMO writing a visual novel is much more like writing a play than, well, a novel. You basically have the actors, a stage where only a few can be at the same time, and a limited set of decorations (backgrounds + special graphics). Now, you are both a playwright and a director (AND the lead character if you are writing first-person) who must make it all work. If you've actually played in a theater, that'd help a lot, I think. It did for me. ^^

As for the process, my first project (like the previous poster, script finished, the rest is not -__-) is an adaptation of my own short story. First, I basically converted it into a screenplay (characters' words + stage directions), then formalized it in Ren'Py.
Oh, I agree - there's so much less descriptive writing than in a static-text story because the illustrations help carry the load. I just mentioned that program because it lets you store information about locations and characters and usefully associate that with relevant scenes - so it makes keeping an inventory of necessary art simple. Plus it's free - so no harm in anyone trying it and seeing if it's useful to them.
Is it as easy as Novelty because I wanted to try it out as well.

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Re: Writing for a VN

#14 Post by pinkmouse » Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:07 am

I'm afraid I don't know Novelty, so I can't comment. However, yWriter is freeware, and it stores all the text content as .rtf (rich text files) which can be read by standard word-processors. So you're not risking either money or losing your work. Why not just give it a go and see if you like it?

(Hmm. Sounds like I'm "selling" it - just wanted to say that I've had no part in creating that software. I'm just a grateful end-user.)

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