How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

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hoihoisoi
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How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#1 Post by hoihoisoi » Wed Sep 20, 2017 7:51 pm

Hey everyone! Just would like to gain the community's opinion on this particular subject matter of visual novel writing. At this current point in time with my script, I've noticed that I use a whole ton of actions/movements when writing a dialogue scene, and it's something which I'm thinking of stamping out or removing a whole ton of in this current revision of the script.

I can say for certainty that they add 'atmosphere' to the script, but that really is about it. They don't serve any plot purpose in moving the story along other than to provide pacing. Sure, during some more active or moving scenes the actions will become more prominent, but that's not really what I'm talking about. To give you guys an idea of what I'm talking about, it's something like:

A "I don't believe he really thinks that you're his equal does he?"
Picking up his hot cup of coffee while swirling it with the spoon provided, he watches the steam rise up gently, covering the top of the cup in a hazy white hue.
B "He can think whatever he likes, as long as I get my share of the cash."
A "Share of the cash huh?"
Taking a sip from the cup in his hand, A continued.
A "If that's all you're worried about then there isn't much of an issue is there?"
A "Take the cheque, cash it in, and forget the guy even existed."
B "You know I can't do that? He lives right next door."
B pointed towards the wall behind her, her face contorted into an ugly frown.


Otherwise, it can actually be cut into

A "I don't believe he really thinks that you're his equal does he?"
B "He can think whatever he likes, as long as I get my share of the cash."
A "Share of the cash huh?"
A "If that's all you're worried about then there isn't much of an issue is there?"
A "Take the cheque, cash it in, and forget the guy even existed."
B "You know I can't do that? He lives right next door."

Which exactly would you guys prefer? Do you solely focus on dialogue when writing such scenes and throw away all the unnecessary actions in between? Or do you keep all of it? Just want an opinion on it. Thanks in advance guys!
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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#2 Post by TellerFarsight » Wed Sep 20, 2017 8:15 pm

Generally, I'd say it's very important, but I think that type of writing should be at least reduced in a visual novel. The difference between a novel and a visual novel is the visual, so don't be redundant by doing things like describing the background. Even worse would be exactly the example you gave. I don't know if you've done the sprite art for this script, but if the text says she's fiddling with a cup of coffee and I'm staring at someone just stand there with their hands free, it's really conflicting and takes me out of the story. You've chosen to do visual novels, so use those visuals and cut down on the word-visuals.

I was thinking about this recently, because I was playing Danganronpa 2. If you're not familiar, there's a character named Chiaki that plays arcade games in the morning, and if you go talk to her, she's too preoccupied to respond to you. The problem is that the game is presented like a traditional VN, so you don't see her playing a game and ignoring you. While it does describe once that this is happening, what you end up seeing is

show chiaki neutral at center
protag "Good Morning."
chiaki "..."
chiaki "..."
chiaki "..."
chiaki "Good Morning."

So even though they do describe the visuals with traditional novel stylings, in the translation to visual novel I put much more priority on the actual visuals shown to me. So, this interaction becomes an anime girl staring blankly at me for three lines before responding. I forget that she's actually facing away from me and playing an arcade game, and the general perception of this character is that she's just slow.

I know it's not reasonable for me to say something like "just put in some sprites of her holding coffee," but you should be super aware of writing with the sprites you have, and don't write a lot of stuff that conflicts with your visuals.
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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#3 Post by Imperf3kt » Wed Sep 20, 2017 8:51 pm

-Didn't read the OP properly-
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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#4 Post by lunaterra » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:28 pm

The visuals are obviously an extremely important aspect of visual novels (hence the name), but they're not the only part. Removing narration gives you what's essentially a slideshow with subtitles.

Keep your visual assets in mind when writing, but do not remove narration altogether. That's cutting out a big portion of what makes a VN a VN. That's not to say that a VN without narration (e.g., Cinders) isn't a visual novel, but, in my opinion, it takes out a significant aspect of the VN reading experience; long chunks of dialogue-only text tend to come across as rushed, especially when there's no voice acting. You can also express a character's personality and feelings just as well, if not better, through narration as through dialogue.

Characters doing things that can't be shown in sprites is extremely common, and most veteran VN readers won't notice unless it's extremely blatant, like "C throws her hands up in excitement" when C's sprite is relaxed and only shows a slight smirk. All media has to make sacrifices to fit in a budget, and for VNs, that's usually having art assets for actions that only appear once or twice in a VN and aren't essential for the story.

There is a big problem with your first example, but it's not the presence of narration. Your first piece of narration is in present tense ("he watches the steam rise up gently"), but the other two are in past tense ("A continued" and "B pointed towards the wall behind her"). You need to pick one and stick to it. If you're using present tense for your narration, you should only be using past tense in dialogue and when referring to events in the narrative's past.

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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#5 Post by YonYonYon » Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:13 am

I think narration between the dialogue is fine. I myself put in some narrative bits when I feel the dialogue is getting too long and tedious.

Tho I prefer these bits between the dialogue to be shorter so I won't forget what the characters were talking about. The first chunk of your example is a bit long for my taste.
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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#6 Post by Mammon » Thu Sep 21, 2017 3:38 am

I don't mind the narrative you're using in the example, but it can be annoying depending on what it is and how easy or hard it would be to add to the sprites/visual representation. Depending on how often they're drinking coffee it could be advised to add an holding arm with a coffee cup layer. If it were to appear only once, leaving it out would be understandable. The cup could also be on the table; adding the first description while turning the second one.

Don't go adding too much in the sprites or removing from the text, though. While redundant descriptions like describing their already visible expressions should be avoided, more useful ones should be kept in for a better reading experience. Just make sure to avoid things such as described by the others.
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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#7 Post by TheJerminator15 » Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:07 am

I think it depends on the scene itself. I wouldn't say it's always necessary, but you can certainly use it to accentuate things in certain situations. Such as using the repeated sips of coffee to highlight a character's nervousness and anxiety for example.

Assuming it's in CG form, you could also use those pieces of narration as descriptions for the programmer to have it switch between holdig the cup and taking a sip. You could maintain the pacing by describing other things, such as the taste, odour, how hot the cup is and whether it's uncomfortable to hold etc.
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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#8 Post by hoihoisoi » Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:02 pm

I see. I think everybody's made a pretty solid point about how narration should be in the script but it shouldn't overshadow the art assets that are already there. But if that's the case, would you prefer 3rd person narration or 1st person narration. It's a bit of an odd limbo right now where I'm really used to 3rd person which is highly descriptive, but I would like to transition to 1st person which is thought oriented. Essentially, a good example using the previous lines would be something on the lines of:

*A is you by the way*

A "I don't believe he really thinks that you're his equal does he?"
I picked up the hot cup of coffee sitting on the table, swirling it with the spoon provided, watching the steam rise up gently, covering the top of the cup in a hazy white hue.
B "He can think whatever he likes, as long as I get my share of the cash."
A "Share of the cash huh?"
Taking a sip from the cup in my hand, I continued.
A "If that's all you're worried about then there isn't much of an issue is there?"
A "Take the cheque, cash it in, and forget the guy even existed."
B "You know I can't do that? He lives right next door."
B pointed towards the wall behind her, her face contorted into an ugly frown.


From several references I've just lightly gone through, most don't take up this style of writing. Instead, it looks something like this instead:

A "I don't believe he really thinks that you're his equal does he?"
B "He can think whatever he likes, as long as I get my share of the cash."
A "Share of the cash huh?"
So it's all about the cash in the end, is it?
A "If that's all you're worried about then there isn't much of an issue is there?"
A "Take the cheque, cash it in, and forget the guy even existed."
B "You know I can't do that? He lives right next door."
Then just move out already damn it. It's not as if you're stuck here forever, is it?

What I usually write is in the example above, while the second one is what I see VNs normally write. My question is, do you think that both writing styles can exist in a single piece, or not? I'm not sure, but I can't seem to blend both of them together into a coherent scene, either one or the other can exist at any one given time. In that sense, all of the 'actions/movement' is removed from the narration completely, replaced by thought processes instead. What's your opinion on this narration style and how would you usually write your scene? And in that sense, how important is displaying movement and action using this more thought oriented narration style? Would just like to see what most people go to from a VN perspective. (Cause the 3rd person writing style is usually skewed towards novel writing due to the lack of art assets)
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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#9 Post by YonYonYon » Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:39 pm

You should mix them. The first one is too impersonal, it may become less engaging. The secon one is way too personal, it can get kinda uncomfortable.

I still don't like the long sentence about picking up the cup and watching the steam. It doesn't give anything important to the story, it just paints a pretty nice calm scenery, which is actually a lie because some conflict is going on. Like, the "oh, it's just about the cash then" made me go "Oooooooh, someone is bitter!" It also took me away from the interesting dialogue going on.

But on the other hand, I liked B's sentence better because it was an action, action is what moves the story forward. Also, the "Then move out, dammit!" bit was way too bitter and kinda hateful, it detached me from A's character.

So, maybe I'd write the scene like this
A "I don't believe he really thinks that you're his equal does he?"
B "He can think whatever he likes, as long as I get my share of the cash."
A "Share of the cash huh?"
So it was all about the cash in the end, was it? I picked the hot cup of coffee sitting on the table and took a sip.
A "If that's all you're worried about then there isn't much of an issue is there?"
A "Take the cheque, cash it in, and forget the guy even existed."
B "You know I can't do that? He lives right next door."
B pointed towards the wall behind her, her face contorted into an ugly frown.
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Re: How Important Is Movement/Action During Dialogue

#10 Post by Mammon » Fri Sep 22, 2017 2:26 am

hoihoisoi wrote:But if that's the case, would you prefer 3rd person narration or 1st person narration. It's a bit of an odd limbo right now where I'm really used to 3rd person which is highly descriptive, but I would like to transition to 1st person which is thought oriented.
My question is, do you think that both writing styles can exist in a single piece, or not? I'm not sure, but I can't seem to blend both of them together into a coherent scene, either one or the other can exist at any one given time. In that sense, all of the 'actions/movement' is removed from the narration completely, replaced by thought processes instead.
I'm currently writing according to a system that you're describing here, one that both uses 3rd person to describe things and 1st to give the MC's opinion. (W = MC, S = other person.)

S I say something boring.
M I see. How interesting, ma'am.
M {i}This is so dreadfully dull.
MC pinches himself to stay awake, all the while forcing a smile.

I hope that Italics will make it clear that and when MC is thinking, while the non-speaker will remain reserved for more neutral descriptions. My MC will also have quite a strong opinion and personality so he should be different from those descriptions. His thoughts serve to build his personality and show his opinion on the matter, the broad descriptions would only be for describing that which happens outside of his mind. And about describing expressions, one shouldn't do it in a VN but sometimes you can describe it further in ways that the expression itself might not be able to, like above.

I don't know if this sounds doable to you, but I manage it quite nicely. There are probably a lot of different approaches, but it would likely be for the best to pick one where thoughts and narrative can't be interchanged. If you're wondering which one to use quite often because they can both work, then you should add some more absolutes between them to make sure they differ and can't serve the same purpose.
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