When to use more dialogue/narration?

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When to use more dialogue/narration?

#1 Post by Fisseha » Mon Apr 15, 2019 1:53 am


I've been playing/watching a few visual novels I've found online, and in comparing them,
I've noticed that some use more dialogue, while others use more narration.

Now, I believe that both should be balanced, but when exactly should someone use either more?
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Re: When to use more dialogue/narration?

#2 Post by Katy133 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:53 pm

Generally, visual novels have visuals that allow creators to use to help show what's happening (showing how a character feels, what the setting looks like, etc). Therefore, you will rely on dialogue a lot. Similar to, let's say, television.

But (unlike television) there's also the novel element to visual novels. They use text, which means that you can use text to express things that the visuals you're using can't. And example to that would be using metaphors and similes in your narration: In The Terror of St Trinians novel, the character Miss Fridge is given a "cold" motif throughout (she gives icy looks, she says dialogue coldy, she's compared to statues, etc).

The amount of narration versus dialogue you use will also depend on the particular VN and who the main character is. A VN with a "more dialogue/less narration" ratio could be a story about a fast-talking salesperson who doesn't observe their surroundings. A VN with a "less dialogue/more narration" ratio could have a main character who is quiet but highly-intelligent and observant.
Last edited by Katy133 on Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: When to use more dialogue/narration?

#3 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:13 pm

The more you can convey with visuals, the less narration you'll need. Generally, I feel like visual novels shouldn't get bogged down in narration and should tell most of the story in dialogue. I'm including main character "thoughts" as dialogue in my definition. I feel like that often works best for any narration you might need.

One of the visual novels I'm writing has the main character narrating his own story, interspersed when appropriate with the in-story dialogue, as if he is telling the events directly to the reader. It makes everything much more "punchy" than the third person omniscient narration you'll often find in novels.

Of course, that assumes you aren't committing the cardinal sin of "Main Character inner-monologue while gazing at a screen of clouds". Because that is terrible and boring and the way it feels like 50% of Japanese VNs started years ago. I played one game that started with a screen of clouds in the sky and the MC talking about how beautiful a day it was, how he was on his way to a job interview, how he was late because he was lost, etc. for FIFTEEN MINUTES. And I read fast. The kicker was that none of that was meaningful or useful, because being late didn't cost him the job (or even come up), no defining character traits were established, and nothing said was referenced later. The game could (and SHOULD) have started with the MC sitting across from the person interviewing him. In the words of Mark Twain - start your story as late as possible.

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Re: When to use more dialogue/narration?

#4 Post by Mutive » Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:26 pm

I'm of the opinion that nothing is bad as long as it works. Narration can be wonderfully written and intense and give details and nuance that dialogue never could. Dialogue can advance the story tremendously, while showing characterization. Both can be awful and lengthy and bog things down. Some stories require more of one type than others.

(e.g. a dating sim where you're interviewing people to be your ideal date might have no narration. A story about someone trying to escape a desert island might have no dialogue. Neither is inherently a bad story.)

Do what the story demands and avoid useless nonsense (like LateWhiteRabbit's sky example above).
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Re: When to use more dialogue/narration?

#5 Post by Uy27 » Sun May 05, 2019 3:20 pm

I did my game with pure dialogue as I kind of was tired of the amount of narration that was used on visual novels. I feel like it kind of defeats the purpose of the visual part. Don't tell me that he/she is picking up the towel- show me. Don't tell me that he/she is mad or sad- show me.
A wall of text describing the night, the wind and how the bushes are moving? Just show me one or two images of a night scene with bushes being affected by wind. I'll understand. It's dark and it's windy.

Narration is a necessity with books as it is simply words. The author has to make a vivid description so the reader can recreate the words into an image in his/her mind.
But that in a visual novel is not really needed.

Now, I do not mean that narration in itself is bad for a visual novel. Just that too much of it gives the vibe of "I like writing stories but I do not feel like writing a book. So here are some pictures from time to time."
In my opinion, dialogues should be used 90% of the time and for a few transitions or some rare occasions, it could be a bit narration to give a better insight into the story.

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Re: When to use more dialogue/narration?

#6 Post by RicharDann » Thu May 09, 2019 3:01 pm

I use dialogue more often, the things that I would use narration for in, say, a book, can be expressed through visuals, sound and music. But there are aspects of a story you can only convey through narration, so I don't completely rule out it's use, I rely on it when I need to describe something that can't be fully expressed through images or spoken words, or to expand or better explain whatever is being shown or spoken.

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