Is my writing good enough?

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FluffyCakeFactory
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Is my writing good enough?

#1 Post by FluffyCakeFactory » Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:17 pm

First things first: I'm not a native English speaker so I am aware my spelling and grammar might not be up to par. I'll definitely need a proofreader. But I wonder if it even makes any sense for me to continues writing in English.

This is kind of a prequel to one of my stories. It is set in Japan and I know people aren't very fond of that setting. However I don't see how I can make it work in another country because of the themes. It's okay if you don't read all of it, every little bit of feedback is welcome.

(Also there are two references hidden!)
“The train is now boarding. Please step back.”
I can't. I just can't do it. The doors are closing in front of me. I turn my back on the train. A sigh escapes my lips as I wonder where I should stay tonight.
First things first. I take out my cellphone and text my parents I won't be coming home this weekend. I don't wait for a reply. My bag is quite heavy but I try to look like I lift it quite easily. Girls aren't weak. At least I'm not.
After leaving the station I step on the streets and inhale deeply. What now?
Another sigh. I can't continue like this. So many people passing by. I watch them for a while. They look busy, too busy to mind anyone. A woman falls down on the street. Her knee is bleeding, but nobody is offering a helping hand. She gets up by herself and continues to walk as if nothing happened.
That's today's society for you. Nobody cares about anyone but themselves. Showing weakness means you'll be left behind. There's only little warmth left in this world and it's not worth looking for it. Can’t say I’m much different right?
No use crying over spilled milk. I need to accept these facts now before it's too late or I'll be hurt.
I feel like a rock in the middle of a river. The crowd flows around me. They're avoiding me the same way they would streetlight posts.
As I start walking I start thinking about the future. I have to make money somehow. I have to stop relying on my parents. I can't really work during daytime and nighttime jobs are a no for minors. If I'm not very lucky, I won't be able to get a job in a soap land or the likes. People in that business became more careful after the police started to enforce the law more strictly. Good for those being exploited, bad for me.

Since I'm in the shopping district anyway, some window shopping can't hurt, maybe it'll inspire me. I'm a highschool girl after all, a bit of daydreaming might lift my spirits. I can continue facing the harsh reality afterwards. It won't go away from looking away but it's important to let mind and soul rest for a bit.
While looking at a beautiful frilly summer dress, my daydreams are harshly interrupted by a stranger's voice.
“It's a beautiful dress, isn't it? The colour is refreshing.”
My body stiffens. Why is a stranger talking to me?
“Yes. Lilac is my favourite colour”, I reply and turn to him.
It’s an older man.
Suddenly a thought occurs to me: enjo kosai. I read about it in a newspaper, all the girls do it nowadays. While this would still be illegal, it would be a good source of income. Why didn’t I think of it earlier? But… Will I really be able to do it? I haven’t prepared at all, but maybe I can net in this guy. I mean why else would he talk to me like that?
“I'm sure it'd suit you.”
His voice and smile are kind. I should be cautious but he doesn't strike me as the violent type. Let's see how far I can get.
“It's pretty expensive though”, I sigh and look the dress with sad eyes. He's a typical business man - nice suit, seemingly expensive watch, short hair, a thin and important looking bag in his hand and also a small belly. His hair seems a bit greasy, but I can make this work.

“Well, it's a good quality brand after all. How about we go inside and you try it on? We can buy it then.”
“But I can't really accept a gift from a stranger!” I try to play innocent.
“Don't worry about that. You looked so sad… If that dress would make you happy, I'll gladly buy it for you.”
“But I don't even know your name.”
“Natsukawa Kenji. Pleased to meet you.”
“Chikamatsu Joruri. The pleasure is all mine.”
The man smiles gently. Should I give in now?
“I'm sorry, but still I can't accept. It would make me feel bad. I would never be able to repay.”
“Then how about that: We'll buy this dress and you'll put it on. Afterwards we'll have dinner together. That way I won't eat alone again and you can pay me back by keeping me company.”
“So you're lonely too…” I tilt my head to look like I'm thinking about it. But I already made my decision. I just need a bit of courage. “I guess it's okay then. It'll benefit us both so there's no debt.” I smile back at him.
“Well, then it's settled.” He opens the door. His movement is quite elegant.

While I put the dress on, he already pays it. We leave the store and he offers to link arms. I agree.
“You didn't even know if it would suit me, yet you payed right away?”
“A beautiful girl like you would look good in anything. A beautiful dress like this only compliments your natural beauty.” It's not like I’m an expert, but that compliment really is too much.
After we took a few steps, he asks me what restaurant I'd like to go to.
“Hmm… I really like Teppanyaki, but something like Ramen would be less expensive…” I think out loud.
Suddenly a tall man steps in front of us and my smile freezes. “You are too nice, Oniisan!”
A shiver runs down my spine. The man's body language is clear. Danger is approaching. Is he a Yakuza?
Instantly I let Kenji’s arm go and take a step back.
“Good evening.” The stranger's voice is as cool as his gaze. “Out on a date?”
“S-she’s a relative of mine. We're out to celebrate her birthday.” Kenji looks nervous. There's no way anyone would believe in his lie. There is just hoping I can get out of this unharmed.
“Ah, is that so? Then why did you introduce yourself to her?”
Kenji looks down. He tries to walk away, but the man blocks his way.
“Leaving your relative alone with a shady looking stranger, eh? That's rude. A man should protect a girl when in danger, even when she's a stranger. But you? You're just a wimpy bastard, hitting on school girls, trying to abuse them.”
“I- I I'm sorry!” Kenji bows deeply. Just a coward. I'm a bit disappointed but also stressed. I will have to deal with this guy by myself.
“Shouldn't I tell the police about you harassing an underage girl?”
“I- I w-won’t do it again. I promise! I deeply apologise. So please forgive me. I've done wrong, I can see it now and I'm sorry!”
“Shut up! You really are annoying. Just leave and pray we won't meet again.” His voice is strangely quiet.
Kenji leaves as quickly as he can and leaves me behind. He does not look back - not even once. I sigh and look at the man.
He looks right back at me. His bushy brows make him look really scary.
There's a strange kind of tension but both of us stay silent for some moments.
“Why didn't you run away?” He breaks the silence.
“Would it have done me any good? Either you are my saviour and I should properly thank you or you are up to no good and wouldn't let me leave that easily.” I try to sound confident but feel like I'm failing.
“Interesting answer.” His smile is genuine, I think. but he still has a scary face...
“Why did you go with him?”
“That's none of your business.”
“Oh, is that so? Not too long ago you were able to trust a stranger, following him around to an unknown place.”
“I got something out of it. Plus, to be honest, he didn't look too dangerous. As you can see he's just a coward. I was safe.”
“But I'm too shady?” The man looks quite amused by now. He makes me feel like I can calm down a bit.
“Yes.” I'm getting the hang of playing brave and confident. I look him straight in the eye. He just starts to laugh quietly.
“If you need money, just come with me. I might have a job for you. If you can trust me, that is.” He walks past me.
I mean if he just lets me go like that he can't be that bad of a guy, right? Following him now might be the solution to my problems. Am I trusting people too easily? Am I just pretending to do so? I'm not sure anymore.
I follow the man and wonder if I’m still sane.

We end up in a cabaret club. In a VIP room to be exact. It's too early for business I guess because the club is pretty empty. Harada Eiichi - the strange man - really is shady because he is in fact the owner of this very business. But at least he doesn’t seem to be a Yakuza.
I'm sitting on a sofa, next to me a cute girl in a nice dress. I guess she's in her mid 20s.
“Joruri-Chan, right? Would you like some orange juice?” she asks me. I nod. She smiles and pours some juice in my glass. Even though she’s young, she also seems to be quite experienced in serving here.
Harada is sitting across the table, writing something on a sheet of paper.
“There are multiple ways we can approach this”, he says. “For example you could work here. Misaki would do your makeup and show you the ropes. Weekends are off.”
“What about the police? This is against the law. You would be taking quite the risk.”
“That's true, but as long as you stay quiet about this it'll work out. I have some friends who will help out if things get tough.” So at least he has Yakuza friends I guess.
The girl next to me, I suppose she’s that Misaki, smiles at me. “I'll gladly help you out. Being a hostess is hard work though. Just take Papa’s offer if you think you are up to it.”
“What about the payment?” I'm honestly interested.
“I can give you a room or maybe a small apartment, depending on how much you work and how well you are doing.”
“Sounds too good to be true. What about money? I have to eat and drink too, you know.”
Harada smiles. “We’ll get you food, don’t worry. But I’m hesitant to give you money. Let’s see how it goes first. If I can trust you not to spend your paycheck on drugs we might shift to money. There are some terms you have to agree to.” He passes me a paper. Misaki hands me a beautiful pen without being asked for it.
“Of course this is not a real contract but I think it's good to have something to refer to. I think you understand that in this business law can’t help you too much.”
Misaki and Harada start chatting, but I concentrate on reading.
I, ____, want to work at the Shining Lotus.
I will work on weekdays starting between 6pm and 8pm for at least 4 hours a day.
I agree to the following terms:
I will not talk to anyone about my work at the Shining Lotus
except the owners and the staff.
Exceptions might be talked about and agreed upon, but can be withdrawn any time.
If I want to take a day off
I will ask about it at least one week in advance.
I will still work for at least 20 hours a week/ 80 hours a month.
I will hide my age from the customers.
I will not consume any drugs including alcohol.
I will not date or sleep with any customer.
I will not take on another job.
If I happen to be short on money, I will discuss it with the owners first. They may or may not give me a higher payment or an additional job.
I will do my best to get good grades in school.
If any doubt arises, I will show proof of my grades to the owners.
I'm free to talk about any kind of problem to the owners as they will gladly listen and help.
Starting with point 6, things were starting to get more and more weird, but what's with point 8?
“I'm sorry for being rude, but how can I take this seriously? I mean… Talk to you about problems?”
“We are a family. Maybe you won't understand now, but this is not just another job. We want to make the customers feel at home. Only if the staff are feeling well they can convey that feeling to our customers.” He doesn't look mad, just dead serious about his business.
I nod and take a deep breath.
“You can always quit after working enough hours for the month”, he adds.
“Don't worry. Mama, Papa and I will teach you all you need to know.” Misaki smiles.
This sounds too good to be true… Reluctantly I fill in my name and sign the contract. So does… Papa.
“You should introduce her”, says Papa. Misaki gets up.
“Come, let’s meet Mama. Ah, and please just talk like you would at home. No need for horrifics or anything!”
Oh my, what did I get myself into?
Thanks a lot for taking the time to read it.

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Re: Is my writing good enough?

#2 Post by runeraccoon » Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:12 pm

Actually, I enjoyed it. :D

I enjoyed her personality, the setting is clear, by the end of the prose, and the main male interest (whom I assume Misaki is) was introduced in a refreshing way.

I read somewhere that for VNs, past tense works better than present tense to give the readers a sense of retelling the story. Some tiny parts after the dialogues such as [he adds] or [says Papa] are also unnecessary when it's clear which sprite is talking. I think you put some cultural references better here as well. You might want to add more cliches like "nanpa" or something. xD

I assume Joruri's name also has something to do with the reference? I haven't heard it being used as a given name, but I have limited knowledge. Ruri, though, is cuter and more generic.

If there's a weaker link in your prose, I'd say it's the opening. Joruri dwells on her thoughts too much, lacking a bang or action, or reason to put her in that place. As for punctuation or grammar, I'll leave that to native speakers.

Looking forward to the kind of VN you're going to make~

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Re: Is my writing good enough?

#3 Post by Mammon » Mon Jul 31, 2017 2:40 am

A nice read, I second Runeraccoon's opinion. The MC has a surprisingly realistically grim personality that the old man's appearance brings to the light quite nicely and the new setting does seem like a kind of creepy and serious that will make for an interesting story. How will her previous friends and family cause trouble? Will there be important guests borderline forcing Joruri to drink along for the mood? Is the Papa and Mama thing just something innocent or are there creepy or even cult-like reasons behind it?

I don't mean to give suggestions or expectations, I'm merely listing the possible ways I can already see the plot developing. Looks promising if you've already got me anticipating things like that.
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Re: Is my writing good enough?

#4 Post by FluffyCakeFactory » Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:30 pm

runeraccoon wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:12 pm
Actually, I enjoyed it. :D

I enjoyed her personality, the setting is clear, by the end of the prose, and the main male interest (whom I assume Misaki is) was introduced in a refreshing way.
Actually Misaki is a girl :lol:
runeraccoon wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:12 pm
I read somewhere that for VNs, past tense works better than present tense to give the readers a sense of retelling the story. Some tiny parts after the dialogues such as [he adds] or [says Papa] are also unnecessary when it's clear which sprite is talking. I think you put some cultural references better here as well. You might want to add more cliches like "nanpa" or something. xD
Oh, I practised a lot to be able to write prose in present tense because I thought that way the reader of a vn would feel a lot more like they have influence on how the story will go. Like when it's past tense it has already happened but in present tense you can shape the future. But I'll have another look at that now, thanks!
About nanpa... I really liked the execution of it in Tokimeki Memorial Girl's side (all three games lol) because there was a creepy & annoying guy but it still was kinda funny and not too scary. I'd like to capture that feeling in the future~
runeraccoon wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:12 pm
I assume Joruri's name also has something to do with the reference? I haven't heard it being used as a given name, but I have limited knowledge. Ruri, though, is cuter and more generic.
Yep, that's the catch. Joruri is actually the name for a kind of puppet theatre. Her surname comes from Chikamatsu Monzaemon who was a dramatist working on joruri and other theatre performances.
The other reference is Misaki's name. I borrowed from a show called "Misaki No.1" which is about a former hostess becoming a teacher.
runeraccoon wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:12 pm
If there's a weaker link in your prose, I'd say it's the opening. Joruri dwells on her thoughts too much, lacking a bang or action, or reason to put her in that place. As for punctuation or grammar, I'll leave that to native speakers.

Looking forward to the kind of VN you're going to make~
Ah yes, thank you! It's really hard to write an active protagonist sometimes. I'll definitely try harder now.
It'll take some time till I make this vn though, I want to tackle a smaller project first.
Mammon wrote:
Mon Jul 31, 2017 2:40 am
A nice read, I second Runeraccoon's opinion. The MC has a surprisingly realistically grim personality that the old man's appearance brings to the light quite nicely and the new setting does seem like a kind of creepy and serious that will make for an interesting story. How will her previous friends and family cause trouble? Will there be important guests borderline forcing Joruri to drink along for the mood? Is the Papa and Mama thing just something innocent or are there creepy or even cult-like reasons behind it?

I don't mean to give suggestions or expectations, I'm merely listing the possible ways I can already see the plot developing. Looks promising if you've already got me anticipating things like that.
Actually you don't know how happy it makes me that you are enjoying the story so much! I love to read speculations like those. I'm definitely on the right track and now I'm motivated to work extra hard!

Thanks again for taking the time to read this, it means a lot to me!

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Re: Is my writing good enough?

#5 Post by runeraccoon » Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:53 pm

FluffyCakeFactory wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:30 pm
Actually Misaki is a girl :lol:
LOL wrong assumption then.
FluffyCakeFactory wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:30 pm
Oh, I practised a lot to be able to write prose in present tense because I thought that way the reader of a vn would feel a lot more like they have influence on how the story will go. Like when it's past tense it has already happened but in present tense you can shape the future. But I'll have another look at that now, thanks!
About nanpa... I really liked the execution of it in Tokimeki Memorial Girl's side (all three games lol) because there was a creepy & annoying guy but it still was kinda funny and not too scary. I'd like to capture that feeling in the future~
viewtopic.php?f=47&t=28488&hilit=past+tense I think this "article" by OokamiKasumi is a great read! I just happened to read it a while before reading your post, so it immediately came to my mind.

And I played all three TMGS too! Though not until the end in the third one. My laptop broke at some point while I was using emulator, haha.

Anyway, good luck, seriously. :)

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Re: Is my writing good enough?

#6 Post by PMscenarios » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:48 am

I wasn't originally going to post about it - but I stopped reading about a paragraph into your text, not for any quality or story-related reason, but because I find it really uncomfortable to read in that kind of "currently happening" present tense. It is totally a personal preference, but it might be worth knowing if you're thinking about tense changes.

Past tense doesn't necessarily need to mean retelling something that's already happened, for a vn it can often just be what happened in the last few minutes before the text printed put. And I personally find I have less input on the story with this kind of present tense, as I don't get time to digest what's happening before something new happens for the protag. I'm along for the ride and just trying to hold on to the handlebars (it is really early and I haven't slept when posting this, sorry if I don't make much sense).

P. s I'd write out onomatopoeia and noise expressions as dialogue instead.
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Re: Is my writing good enough?

#7 Post by arisan » Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:24 pm

FluffyCakeFactory wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:17 pm
But I wonder if it even makes any sense for me to continues writing in English.
I'd like to respond to this first of all, because I think a lot of what follows hinges on this. If you think your command of of English is limiting what you express, not simply in a technical sense but in terms of substance, then I don't think you'll be able to get the best feedback or respond to that feedback as best you could. Whether or not you should continue writing in English depends on your objectives, though, and what compromises you can make to get there.

Now given that, I'll leave aside any technical comments. My main issue with the sample is that it feels too contrived. The "Papa" of the club apparently picks up on the protagonist's circumstances pretty quickly, which demonstrates he's an expert in this area. But how does he do it? Is it so obvious that she's a vagrant but also a student? If so, the telling details should be made clear to the reader as well. Otherwise, the assumptions he makes of her are unfounded and provide the setup too conveniently. Furthermore, the protagonist's objectives aren't outlined clearly enough. If she ran away for independence, she's getting an extremely poor deal out of the hostess club; if she ran away for protection, then her inclination toward enjo kosai with the milquetoast does't make much sense; she'd probably want someone stronger (which would tie in to her apparent fixation with the yakuza).

Even as you present that information, though, it shouldn't be done entirely through internal monologues; that get's boring fast. Besides, it seems our protagonist isn't the best at examining herself objectively. Some of that information should come from the reactions of other people to her.

That aside, the setup is intriguing enough. It would probably help to include "stage notes" about visual and auditory assets that might be used, so we get a better sense of the whole thing.

Furthermore, I'd have to disagree with the OokamiKasumi post on some points, mainly two incorrect assumptions it proceeds from.

First, that paragraphs are written around actions. Paragraphs are written around ideas. Often, a character's movement within a scene constitutes such an idea. But sometimes, multiple characters' actions will come together around a single idea. Identifying those ideas is more important than isolating paragraphs per character. (Dialogue is separated for reasons, but that'd be veering too much on a tangent.)

Of course, in certain formats of VN, paragraph rarely counts for much, since there's rarely enough room for paragraphs to develop. In terms of line-by-line development, the post seems more or less solid, but I would not trace those guidelines back to such a flawed assumption.

Second, is that one should simply write in the past tense. The historic presence is an established mode of writing and the opposition to it seems more subjective than anything else. Furthermore, it is not sufficient to say that the past tense can simply be handwaved. I mean, of course it can, but that would be a point against you as well. If you have a first-person voice speaking in the past tense, narration itself becomes the narrator's performative act--and this must be justified. Why is the narrator telling the story? To whom? The historical present works around this by simulating thought and perception themselves in writing, but without the disjointedness of a pure stream-of-consciousness approach.
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Re: Is my writing good enough?

#8 Post by quilleth » Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:06 pm

I read the first paragraphs or so and then skimmed the rest, but my first impression is that you seem to use a pretty consistent sentence structure. Your first couple of paragraphs have short, simple sentences. You can make your writing a lot more interesting to read by varying up your sentence structure, length, etc. Even just combining some of your sentences with conjunctions (and, or, but, yet) will help things flow more smoothly.
For example, you have this: “Yes.” I'm getting the hang of playing brave and confident. I look him straight in the eye. He just starts to laugh quietly.' To make this flow better, you could write it like: "Yes." I'm getting the hang of playing brave and confident, but when I look him straight in the eye, he just laughs quietly.

That's not to say that the short simple sentences don't work well in some places, but they work better when you're trying to use the brevity as a way of showing emotion or action. "I can't. I just can't." works well because it helps to set the tone. We know right away that this character is struggling with their emotions.

Past or present tense is really a matter of opinion and personal preference. If you're comfortable writing in one over the other, then you should stick with that one.

And I think in this line: "Come, let’s meet Mama. Ah, and please just talk like you would at home. No need for horrifics or anything!" you mean honorifics instead of horrifics. But for being concerned about your English, you've done really well! If you'd like to continue writing in English, I don't see why you shouldn't. You seem to already be planning on having a proofreader/ editor, who would (hopefully) catch any grammar or spelling errors or possibly even be able to help with translation.

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