VN's Without Narration

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ForkAndKnife
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VN's Without Narration

#1 Post by ForkAndKnife » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:16 pm

Hi, all!

I've been working on the script for my VN Street Couch. The script is heavily, heavily dialogue-based, and so far I haven't had a need for any point-blank narration (ex: Alex jumped on the table defiantly). Instead, I would write "Alex: I'm gonna do it! I'm gonna get up there!; Josie: Don't you dare. (pause) Hey! (pause) Hey, get off!.; Lou: Oh, come on, Alex. We eat here!" The only "narration" I plan to include is time and day markers - like "8:00 PM on a Tuesday."

Reading through what I've written, I don't think the lack of narration is detrimental to the story in any way. I think the characters are so reactive that they make up for anything that may be lacking. Additionally, I plan to make good use of the sprites' facial expressions and movements to convey things instead (dialogue, an angry face, and shaking sprite instead of "Lou shook with fury").

My question is: As a potential reader, do you have any objections to this? Would you find it irritating, or think it lacks depth? I've included an example of part of the script here (http://pastebin.com/LBsUy4LP) in case anyone is interested in seeing things in context.

An additional aside for those reading the Pastebin script: Is the dialogue too short? I am trying to make it like normal dialogue, but I'm afraid it may come across as low-brow. Thanks for taking the time to answer!

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Re: VN's Without Narration

#2 Post by Imperf3kt » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:45 pm

In my opinion, vpice narration is like a topping for your dessert.
Without it, your opinion of the dish falls on the dish alone, but with it, the dish is that much more full. It completes it, in a way.
However, sometimes it is sickeningly sweet.

What I'm trying to get at, is as long as your main novel is interesting, the voice narration is only an added benefit. It'll do fine without it, but its gonna be that much better with it. That said, don't overdo it. Don't feel like you must invlude it, or it'll likely degrade a player's experience, instead of enhancing it.
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Re: VN's Without Narration

#3 Post by trooper6 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:05 pm

Do whatever you want to do. Just do it well.

I'll read anything as long as it is done well. VN without narration only dialogue? Sure. VN with no text at all, just visuals? Sure. 1st Person? 2nd Person? 3rd Person? Sure. Anime art? Realistic art? 3-D modeling? Abstract art? Sure. No art only UI stuff and text? Sure.

You follow your artistic vision. I'll try it out if the topic of the game is interesting and you do it well.
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Re: VN's Without Narration

#4 Post by Katy133 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:39 pm

The amount of narration in a visual novel is different from artist to artist (and project to project), but in my case I actually include minimal narration in my visual novels. This is from my background in animation: I'm more comfortable telling the story through dialogue and visuals than through narration.

So, I'd say, do what you feel comfortable with.
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Re: VN's Without Narration

#5 Post by RotGtIE » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:04 pm

Everything about your approach is wrong, your justification reads like a post-hoc rationalization, and your execution is poor enough that it comes as no surprise that you would want to rationalize it.

Having primed everyone against my response, I will now waste my time explaining my short answer.

Firstly, narration is the one and only strength that the written word has over every other form of media. Narration is unique in that it is able to establish enormous amounts of information in a very short span, and most importantly, it provides the audience with the ability to read the minds of the characters involved. Narration is able to do this without making a script awkward in a way that would be impossible for a movie, comic, or video game. When you remove this from your prose, you rip the heart and soul of literature itself out of your work before you've even begun. You gain no advantage in doing so, and you relieve yourself of no burden.

Notable in the description of your approach is a total lack of any clear benefits to omitting narration whatsoever. You don't have one positive thing to say about the act of deliberately excluding any writing outside of direct dialogue, and you describe the rest of the assets in the VN format as being there to offset what's missing when the rest of the prose is gone. In fact, the only thing you really say about narration is that it is "point-blank," for which you provide an example of a highly tell-don't-show sentence to illustrate. All of this leads me to believe that you are motivated primarily by two factors: the presumption that narration itself is tantamount to telling rather than showing, and simple laziness on your part. The latter motivation bears little explanation - it's easy to think that you simply don't need to narrate, and therefore that you are just saving yourself time and effort in not doing so. The main problem is that this is based on the first motivation, which serves as the premise to justify the second.

Quite frankly, you have not escaped the problem of telling rather than showing by going straight to dialogue. Apart from being woefully short, the excerpt you have provided clearly demonstrates the very serious problem you have run into by avoiding narration - the dialogue itself is being used in an extremely expository manner, owing to your refusal to establish any information outside of the spoken word of the characters. The whole scene is comprised of characters openly explaining to each other things that both of them already know and have no reason to rehash, other than to inform an unseen audience as to their circumstances. Rather than being able to support and be supported by narration, the dialogue is shouldering the unreasonable burden of directly revealing all the details of the plot and setting, which is serving to make the dialogue much more stilted and unnatural than it should be. One of your characters even uses a line of dialogue just to announce the arrival of another character into the scene, and it's clear as day that you had to resort to this because you robbed yourself of any other means to establish this information. In avoiding narration, you have forced your characters to become the narrators.

This is a fundamental problem with the way you convey information, and not the fault of the tools available to you, the writer. You have an extremely direct approach to conveying information which is completely lacking in subtlety. Your trust in the reader appears to be very low - I don't see anything in your excerpt, let alone in the example you provided in your earlier post in this thread, that indicates you have any trust in your audience that they will be able to pick up on indirect cues. This will create tell-don't-show problems regardless of whether you are using dialogue or narration, and blaming narration itself is robbing you of the accountability which is duly yours, thus preventing you from correcting your own writing problems and improving your skill as a storyteller. You won't get better if you blame your tools, it's just as simple as that.

My recommendation is that you read a few well-written stories which make effective use of narration and subtlety so that the dialogue can function with the full support it needs. You need to learn how to establish what the function of a scene should be so that you can achieve its purpose effectively when you set yourself to writing it. More planning and clearer direction is needed here. Jumping straight into screenplays is not saving you time or effort - if you do that, you're just going to have to double back and rewrite everything anyway.

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Re: VN's Without Narration

#6 Post by trooper6 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 1:28 am

RotGtIE wrote: Firstly, narration is the one and only strength that the written word has over every other form of media. Narration is unique in that it is able to establish enormous amounts of information in a very short span, and most importantly, it provides the audience with the ability to read the minds of the characters involved. Narration is able to do this without making a script awkward in a way that would be impossible for a movie, comic, or video game. When you remove this from your prose, you rip the heart and soul of literature itself out of your work before you've even begun. You gain no advantage in doing so, and you relieve yourself of no burden..
Good thing the OP is making a video game rather than writing a book, eh? Which means they can do no narration if they don't want to.
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Re: VN's Without Narration

#7 Post by RotGtIE » Wed Jan 11, 2017 1:46 am

trooper6 wrote:Good thing the OP is making a video game rather than writing a book, eh? Which means they can do no narration if they don't want to.
Why stop there? Let's go ahead with that idea about a Visual Novel with no text at all while we're at it.

You know what? I think I like your idea. I'm going to apply it to illustrations. Here's my artwork of a beautiful lake done with no drawing whatsoever:



Hey, I think I'm on a roll, let's step it up with a nice song that has no sound:



I was going to upload both of those, but then I decided that it's not really necessary for the files to actually be files. I'm revolutionizing the concept of data!

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Re: VN's Without Narration

#8 Post by Rossfellow » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:15 am

Actually, depending on what your standards of what a visual novel is supposed to be, a VN without narration -does- exist. It blew my mind too. Everything is in the script. All dialogue, and sprite sock-puppeting. So it's either a really high budget kabuki or a low budget anime. You decide.

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Re: VN's Without Narration

#9 Post by Yunou » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:41 am

I'd definitely read a VN without any narration.

I've always been a big fan of third person VNs so completely relying on dialogue-only wouldn't be off-putting at all to me. What I enjoy about visual novels is the creative freedom of them--you can have static or moving backgrounds, you can use video, sound effects, voice acting, etc.

Visual novels are, first and foremost, a tool to tell a story and it allows you the means to tell it however you want.

Now I'm curious to find visual novels without any text at all--just images and choices. That sounds interesting.

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Re: VN's Without Narration

#10 Post by RotGtIE » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:45 am

Hell, there's already School Days if you really want to get into classifying "low-budget anime for your PC/Vita" as a Visual Novel. Most gamers wouldn't even consider VNs to qualify as video games, either. It's a bit awkward that there isn't a distinct category to describe "anime for your PC" but there's certainly a worthy distinction to be made - especially given that there are no AAA budgets operating on LS.

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Re: VN's Without Narration

#11 Post by Mammon » Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:38 am

I have to side with both Trooper6 and RotGtIE's first posts: Anything can work when done well but your plan doesn't seem logical nor useful.

When I saw the title of your thread I thought you were talking about conveying exposition through text or a narrator like pretty much every movie these days does right away. Either NVL-type text, the protagonist or some all-knowing narrator unrelated to the plot sums up the events that perspired in the last few years or gives some symbolic speech that sums up the deeper theme of the story (or which it pretends to have). If you wanted to not have that in your story I would have said yes. It can work but it's starting to become an overused tool and no one should use it unless they really think it would benefit the story.

With the narration you're talking about, it's almost like cutting off your left hand because you're right-handed. It's not really a good idea just to exclude it for the sake of maybe improving the story, unless you have a good idea why. And definately don't restrict yourself like that with your first project. The example that Rossfellow gave was much more advanced, with a much bigger budget and made by people with more experience. If they want to do it, then they might make it work, With you it seems like an unneccesary addition to the already significant challenge of releasing your first project.

So:
'This is Alex, we've known each other for x years now, and... blah blah blah character, blah blah blah relationship, blah blah blah.' This kind of narration, feel free and encouraged to scrap this. Plenty of people, myself included, have used it, but it's direct exposition and better worked into the script.
'Alex catches the glass before it shatters on the ground.' That's much clearer, less awkwardly and more quickly delivered than conveying it through dialogue, so there's no real need to scrap this kind of narration.

Little tip for your writing though, look up the basics of coding needed for your script so you know what ren'py can do for you and to avoid unneccesary effort. F.e. Josie: <sentence> can be summed up to j <sentence> because you only need one (capital-sensitive) letter to define a speaker. And it would definately help with your idea to convey stuff through emotion too. F.e. (Lou looks annoyed for a split second.) can be turned too:

Code: Select all

show Lou annoyed
with dissolve
show Lou neutral
with dissolve
The dissolve will make the first expression stick for about a second or so and make it fade into the second one. If you know which tricks Ren'py has for you it'll be easier to minimise the narration, though I still advice against scrapping it entirely just for the sake of it.
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Re: VN's Without Narration

#12 Post by Sonomi » Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:46 pm

My question is: As a potential reader, do you have any objections to this? Would you find it irritating, or think it lacks depth?

As a potential reader...not really. A few others have already mentioned this, but my advice is to avoid hindering dialogue with superfluous detail.

Rossfellow mentioned XBLAZE Code:Embryo. It's a beautiful game (wow), but I feel like it suffers heavily from using expository dialogue. Nearly every other line, the characters A) say something they should both already be aware of or B) they use an incredible amount of detail that feels unnatural in a casual conversation. That...makes it hard for me to discern which parts I should be paying more attention to.

The other thing you may want to consider is action. What exactly are your characters doing throughout the conversation, and how are you going to convey that without using expository dialogue? One option would be using artwork to your advantage, but that would require quite a bit to say the least!
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Re: VN's Without Narration

#13 Post by Shinoki » Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:43 pm

I personally prefer a bit of narration. Unless you're using animated sprites or a lot of art or something to show the characters doing actions, using only dialogue will either make the scene too vague or too awkward.

The characters either have to over-explain things that they already know (as other people already say) or leave details out.

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Re: VN's Without Narration

#14 Post by Yunou » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:09 pm

Shinoki wrote:
The characters either have to over-explain things that they already know (as other people already say) or leave details out.
That's also a good point. I think it can definitely be done without characters over explaining details or leaving things out, but it would be harder to do.

Natural dialogue is hard enough on its own, much less with having to rely on it solely for exposition. If you can do it, though, props to you.

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Re: VN's Without Narration

#15 Post by mard » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:10 pm

Mammon wrote:
Little tip for your writing though, look up the basics of coding needed for your script so you know what ren'py can do for you and to avoid unneccesary effort. F.e. Josie: <sentence> can be summed up to j <sentence> because you only need one (capital-sensitive) letter to define a speaker. And it would definately help with your idea to convey stuff through emotion too. F.e. (Lou looks annoyed for a split second.) can be turned too:

Code: Select all

show Lou annoyed
with dissolve
show Lou neutral
with dissolve
The dissolve will make the first expression stick for about a second or so and make it fade into the second one. If you know which tricks Ren'py has for you it'll be easier to minimise the narration, though I still advice against scrapping it entirely just for the sake of it.
See, I'd argue that narration should still be included in this scenario, with the expression shift more-so supplementing it. Basically, the animation enriches the sentence, as the expression shift itself is more of an important factor of the story, than it is something to embelish the dialogue.

Now, there are cases where you don't want the narration, but there are also cases where you do.

Now then, @the OP.

You can write a short story with only dialogue, and no narration, but it will only work in some cases. Anything of substantial length, you will need some level of narration, how much so depending on the story.You'll need less in a Visual Novel than you will in a standard novel written in prose, but you will still need some.

A story can be written without dialogue, and with only narration. But rarely, and I mean extremely rarely, can you have the possibility of managing to write a successful story without any kind of narration.
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