Dialogue versus exposition

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Victoria Jennings
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Dialogue versus exposition

#1 Post by Victoria Jennings » Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:17 pm

I've noticed as I've been writing, my scenes tend to, um... lack a bit in the description department. It's usually not that hard for me to come up with dialogue, but I think it has to do with the fact that I care more about hearing from the characters and learning about them than the protag's internal monologue.

My main question is, is that a big issue? I've read around some of the threads on here, and I've gotten the impression that dialogue is pretty much the most important part of writing a VN. In that case, is it all right for me to have less narration?

One of the big things in collective is that I'm trying to make it so the player feels as if they are actually the MC, so I'm trying to make the experience as immersive as possible, in which case, I was hoping they could supply their own thoughts (instead of me writing it out for them, they just... think about things themselves, like any player would, heh).

What do you guys think? Is dialogue more important than prose or vice versa? What kind of balance is there that everyone should maintain?

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#2 Post by DeeKay » Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:56 pm

Hmm... why would it be an issue ? People might expect less descriptive parts because of a VN's format but it's not really set in stone.
In your case, since you're apparently going for a character centric type of storytelling, the MC voicing their own thoughts like an internal monologue is fine in my opinion (recommended even :) ).

In terms of balance, why not think about dialogue and prose as being complementary rather than one dominating the other ?
Lines of dialogue should be there for a reason. If not, put thoughts instead.
Having the same kind of thought process, if the MC wants to honestly express him/herself, then put a line of dialogue. If they're being sarcastic or want to keep it to themselves or whatever not worth mentioning in their own opinion, then put a thought instead.

I'm not sure I'm being very clear here :?
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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#3 Post by Akjosch » Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:10 pm

VNs tend to need less descriptions because of the "V" part (and also sound effects and music), so they naturally come out dialogue-heavy as compared to novels. That said, there are still senses where they are useful:

* Smells and tastes
* Pain, temperature and other "touch"-type sensations
* Emotions, thoughts and internal monologue
* Nausea, fever and other signs of your body sending alarm signals and going into full defence mode

There are also a few sights which can't be adequately shown on screen, neither as a picture nor as an animation. Some of them are for reasons of good taste (excessive gore, for example), others because they can be described and imagined, but not shown. Examples include things like the protagonist suddenly being able to see four-dimensional objects or being in non-Euclidean spaces, Escher and Lovecraft style.

As long as the author doesn't forget that those other senses and situations exist and includes them where appropriate, the descriptions will naturally find their way into the VN.

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#4 Post by Victoria Jennings » Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:23 pm

DeeKay wrote:Hmm... why would it be an issue ? People might expect less descriptive parts because of a VN's format but it's not really set in stone.
In your case, since you're apparently going for a character centric type of storytelling, the MC voicing their own thoughts like an internal monologue is fine in my opinion (recommended even :) ).
I think you're reading my post wrong. I'm not worried about not getting enough chances to insert descriptive passages, I'm worried about not having enough of them in general, because they aren't my strong suit.
Akjosch wrote:As long as the author doesn't forget that those other senses and situations exist and includes them where appropriate, the descriptions will naturally find their way into the VN.
Well, at this point, all of what I've written has been very... Persona 3-esque. Any instance of internal monologuing is incredibly concise, and the MC only talks through occasional dialogue branches. For the most part, the character(s) they're speaking to take the spotlight. I guess I'm wondering if people in the OELVN community are typically turned off by that or not.

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#5 Post by DeeKay » Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:13 pm

Victoria Jennings wrote:I think you're reading my post wrong. I'm not worried about not getting enough chances to insert descriptive passages, I'm worried about not having enough of them in general, because they aren't my strong suit.
Oh snap you're right ! I guess that's what I get for lacking sleep. I'm so ashamed ! Sorry :?
Victoria Jennings wrote:Well, at this point, all of what I've written has been very... Persona 3-esque. Any instance of internal monologuing is incredibly concise, and the MC only talks through occasional dialogue branches. For the most part, the character(s) they're speaking to take the spotlight. I guess I'm wondering if people in the OELVN community are typically turned off by that or not.
Hmm... I wouldn't be turned off, it can spark an interest of its own. It might not be the best example but some good theatre pieces rely heavily on dialogue only and not a combination of dialogue and visual cues. Descriptive content and internal monologues mustn't hinder your overall ability if it's not part of your writing style to begin with. And well... there's always room for improvement ! At least you're aware that you're not as good as you want to be in prose ! :)

Hope I'm not missing the point this time ^^'''''''''
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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#6 Post by Arelune » Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:24 pm

One of the big things in collective is that I'm trying to make it so the player feels as if they are actually the MC, so I'm trying to make the experience as immersive as possible, in which case, I was hoping they could supply their own thoughts
Giving less internal thought doesn't make me feel like the MC at all. At the contrary, it's because I know what he is feeling that I can pretend to be him because he'll be easier to understand.
As long as he doesn't say things either (like Harvest Moon), this won't work for me. He might say something totally jarring my train of thoughts.
For the most part, the character(s) they're speaking to take the spotlight. I guess I'm wondering if people in the OELVN community are typically turned off by that or not.
This seems a better reason than the one above.

I don't think it would be a problem though. Personally I love it when the text is oozing from the MC's voice. But just because it's different doesn't mean it will turn me off.

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#7 Post by Victoria Jennings » Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:34 pm

DeeKay wrote:Hmm... I wouldn't be turned off, it can spark an interest of its own. It might not be the best example but some good theatre pieces rely heavily on dialogue only and not a combination of dialogue and visual cues. Descriptive content and internal monologues mustn't hinder your overall ability if it's not part of your writing style to begin with. And well... there's always room for improvement ! At least you're aware that you're not as good as you want to be in prose ! :)

Hope I'm not missing the point this time ^^'''''''''
No, thank you, that's helpful. :D
Arelune wrote:Giving less internal thought doesn't make me feel like the MC at all. At the contrary, it's because I know what he is feeling that I can pretend to be him because he'll be easier to understand.
Is that so? I'd rather the player understand what it's like to be themselves than what the MC is supposed to be. But of course, the reason I'm asking for your guys' opinions in the first place is because I'm not an expert in these matters. xD
Arelune wrote:As long as he doesn't say things either (like Harvest Moon), this won't work for me. He might say something totally jarring my train of thoughts.
Danny is indeed a silent protagonist. Again, the only time he ever talks is when the player chooses what he's to say, and even then, the dialogue stays within the choice box.
Arelune wrote:I don't think it would be a problem though. Personally I love it when the text is oozing from the MC's voice. But just because it's different doesn't mean it will turn me off.
All right, that's good to know. Thank you very much. C:

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#8 Post by Arowana » Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:52 pm

One of the big things in collective is that I'm trying to make it so the player feels as if they are actually the MC, so I'm trying to make the experience as immersive as possible, in which case, I was hoping they could supply their own thoughts (instead of me writing it out for them, they just... think about things themselves, like any player would, heh).
If your MC is supposed to be the player and thus has no predefined personality, name, or backstory, then lack of internal narration makes sense to me. Your MC seems to have a name and gender though? If you really want the player to "be" the MC, is there any reason you can't strip those away as well? A good chunk of players, including myself, won't be male, after all. ;p

Was gonna add that you should restrict any MC dialogue to choices for a truly immersive experience. But then you just posted about it, so no need haha.

More generally:

I think how much description a game needs depends on a lot of factors, most obviously how well you can utilize images, animations, and sound to demonstrate things for you (no need to describe what Character A looks like if she's onscreen...no need for her to monologue about how sad she is if there's a mournful piano solo in the background...etc.). Personally, I like it when people rely on these non-writing components as much as possible and only use description when there is no suitable alternative. Which is rather hypocritical, because overdescription is one of my biggest issues. But, eh, guess it takes one to know one. ;p

I do generally agree that dialogue >> description (the VN writers I admire the most are the ones that can write the snappiest dialogue, haha). As long as the dialogue doesn't become an awkward substitute for description (it needs to sound like something a real person would say) and the show vs. tell balance isn't too skewed to the latter.
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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#9 Post by Victoria Jennings » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:19 pm

Arowana wrote:Your MC seems to have a name and gender though? If you really want the player to "be" the MC, is there any reason you can't strip those away as well? A good chunk of players, including myself, won't be male, after all. ;p
The player can change his name. Danny's just the default/canon. Also, I was originally going to allow you to be female, but I changed it for plot purposes. If collective is well-received enough to justify a sequel, the MC will be female, and after that, you can choose.
Arowana wrote:I do generally agree that dialogue >> description (the VN writers I admire the most are the ones that can write the snappiest dialogue, haha). As long as the dialogue doesn't become an awkward substitute for description (it needs to sound like something a real person would say) and the show vs. tell balance isn't too skewed to the latter.
Thank you. This is quite encouraging. :D

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#10 Post by Blane Doyle » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:25 pm

To put a rather personal opinion on this, I think dialogue and prose are just as important as the other. One being exceptionally weak could wear down a written work. In a visual novel both are exceptionally important and should be balanced in a way that reflects the author's intent.

That doesn't mean there cannot be more of one than the other, no. You can have much more narration than dialogue and get away with it if the dialogue is just as good, if not better, than the narration in my opinion. The same can be very true in reverse. I also think that a story based game should be more narration heavy while a game focusing on characters should be more dialogue heavy, but again this is personal opinion speaking.

One way I have found to make narration more immersible for a player is to have it in first person and to have the narrator describe what they see the way they would talk. This does not always work for everyone, and it may not work for what you want, but for some people it works exceptionally well and can bring very funny, sad, or terrifying scenes to light with a few simple choices of words. First person narration is also, generally, a good way to imagine yourself in the story, especially if you have the option to name the main character after yourself (that is just a nifty add on to me, not strictly necessary, though I am glad to see you added it in as I find it helps a great deal).

It all depends on what you are writing and how you write it.

Then again, I am the kind of person who likes to pretend I am the main character when the main character has a set personality for fantasy fulfillment and not when the character is a blank slate so... I may have a vastly different look on this than others.

Though my opinions here may not help much given what you are looking for, I thought you could you as many thoughts as you could get on the situation.

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#11 Post by Victoria Jennings » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:39 pm

Blane Doyle wrote:One way I have found to make narration more immersible for a player is to have it in first person and to have the narrator describe what they see the way they would talk.
Actually, I was planning on writing the narration in second person, similar to a typical CYOA book. 0:

Also, thanks everyone, for your posts! I'm turning over everything all of you have said in my head and trying to figure out what would work best for collective. This is immensely helpful. :3

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#12 Post by Obscura » Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:14 pm

Well, I have obvious biases about this. :)

In a lot of VNs I notice the descriptive passages are redundant. They just describe what's already on the screen. Or, they seem like bland filler that could be used in practically any VN. I'm probably in the minority here, but I skip through most descriptive passages because they have absolutely no drama, no conflict, no interest, no nothing. I don't need to hear about the weather or how somebody feels waking up every morning. Basically, unless you write like a pro, I'm a big proponent of just eliminating all that stuff and getting straight to the point. This is one of the reasons I skipped through 90% of my playthrough of Katawa Shoujo and felt like slamming my head against the desk waiting for something to happen. But you know, a lot of people really enjoyed that VN, so who am I to say?
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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#13 Post by Dim Sum » Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:53 pm

Victoria Jennings wrote:I've noticed as I've been writing, my scenes tend to, um... lack a bit in the description department. It's usually not that hard for me to come up with dialogue, but I think it has to do with the fact that I care more about hearing from the characters and learning about them than the protag's internal monologue.

My main question is, is that a big issue? I've read around some of the threads on here, and I've gotten the impression that dialogue is pretty much the most important part of writing a VN. In that case, is it all right for me to have less narration?

One of the big things in collective is that I'm trying to make it so the player feels as if they are actually the MC, so I'm trying to make the experience as immersive as possible, in which case, I was hoping they could supply their own thoughts (instead of me writing it out for them, they just... think about things themselves, like any player would, heh).

What do you guys think? Is dialogue more important than prose or vice versa? What kind of balance is there that everyone should maintain?
Add to Obscura: Prose in VN is part of dialogue.

Difference between redundant versus acceptable balance is not pro quality but "zen" quality.

i.e. you want blank space for reader's mind to calm.

Used to be very distinct Asian style and even in West, more done in foreign films than in US of A where it's more exposition.

It also like old Eye to Eye vs. Eye to Body post.

Eye to eye is closer to unspoken dialogue. Eye to Body is closer to spoken observation. Prose is also about spoken observation. Which object is the reader most lingering on when they see image. What is first details running through reader's thoughts w/o author forcing reader to accept "their written detail.".

It semi-important as it helps reader get a rest break. More you put into it, more reader is comfortable of saying "I'll stop here now and save, it's going to be fine" More casual readers chance of returning to complete VN increases.

But: It mostly dead attempts nowadays. As VN readers evolve more and savvy up into seeing it all about art or plot or music than "Visual Pocket Books", less important it be there except for it being there. It's more a piece of bone, good VN writer gives to people affected by it than anything.

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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#14 Post by OokamiKasumi » Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:01 am

Obscura wrote:...Basically, unless you write like a pro, I'm a big proponent of just eliminating all that stuff and getting straight to the point. This is one of the reasons I skipped through 90% of my playthrough of Katawa Shoujo and felt like slamming my head against the desk waiting for something to happen. But you know, a lot of people really enjoyed that VN, so who am I to say?
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Re: Dialogue versus exposition

#15 Post by AxemRed » Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:50 am

OokamiKasumi wrote:If they paid to have a professional artist, they should have paid to have a professional writer too.
AFAIK all artists were volunteers.

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