How to create immersive dialogue that progresses the scene?

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GreenVegetations
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How to create immersive dialogue that progresses the scene?

#1 Post by GreenVegetations » Wed Sep 04, 2019 12:31 am

I am having a problem when it comes to writing dialogue. When I try to create an organic branching dialogue between the player and another character I am able to create an immersive conversation that allows the player to feel like they are a part of the world and this will allow for a greater connection with the characters, however, I often find that this form of dialogue does not effectively escalate the tension of the scene or progress the story further. I usually find it easier to simply have fixed dialogue for these story oriented scenes and moments with your standard mini three act structure for them, but this causes the moments to appear more "movie like" which subtracts from the player's immersion in the story and world. I suppose it would be fine for a kinetic novel but I'd like the player to feel as if they themselves were in the game and forming a connection with these characters, which I hope will increase the impact of emotional moments.

How would I go about this issue? A possible solution I thought about is too reserve the immersive conversations for moments of relaxation after tense moments for breathing space, and to use the more fixed dialogue for moments that are important to the narrative. However, I am not quite sure about how effective this method will be.

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Re: How to create immersive dialogue that progresses the scene?

#2 Post by Mutive » Wed Sep 04, 2019 12:19 pm

As is true for any writing question, there's no "right" way to do it.

With that said, I typically find that stories in which there isn't some problem that needs to be solved are boring (because I personally tend to care less about characters talking about random stuff than about characters trying to solve interesting problems). So I do strongly recommend NOT going for a lot of quiet, contemplative character building moments until the "hook" has been placed.

(Note, though, that a hook doesn't have to be something big and flashy like a world ending alien invasion. It can be as simple as needing the right dress for a party or finding a job before being evicted from a home. I really loved "On the Come Up" where the initial problem has the heroine trying to figure out how to win a rap battle...hardly "save the world" stuff, but very compelling all the same.)

Also, there's no particular reason as to why moments where things are happening can't also be character building, or why quieter, more character focused moments can't advance the plot. I feel like there's this weird belief that scenes have to either advance the plot OR build character when a good scene does both at once. (e.g. whether a character flees from a dragon, fights the dragon, or invites the dragon in for tea says a lot about the character.)
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Re: How to create immersive dialogue that progresses the scene?

#3 Post by SilentMonkey » Wed Sep 04, 2019 4:06 pm

As the comment before me said, there is no one way to do this. But here is the way I learned to do this after many failed attempts and getting yelled at by my English professors and I thank them for it:)

It sounds like you want the player to be fully immersed inside your story. To be able to place themselves essentially within the first person perspective.
First we need to understand your target player base. If the kind of player you are catering too is one that wants to be one of the characters, then you must keep them engaged at all times. As soon as the player feels they are watching things happen from the sidelines, all interest is lost. An important key to keeping the player engaged is to establish a 'Need' for them. Only then once the player is connected to that 'Need', does the immersive dialogue truly shine. Relationship development is important but you cannot forget to keep driving the story forward at a regular pace. Don't bore them with ongoing fillers. I would suggest to reserve interactive dialogue for tense moments. For that is your top moment to make the player feel like they are a primary character within your story. Without this, you run the risk of writing dialogue in those tense moments where some players will think, "Wait...I would never say or do something like that." Give yourself flexibility by giving them those three choices, for in one those three is likely to be along the lines of what they want. You have the right mindset on what you want to accomplish, maybe find examples from other projects and learn from those references.

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Re: How to create immersive dialogue that progresses the scene?

#4 Post by GreenVegetations » Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:38 am

Mutive wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 12:19 pm
With that said, I typically find that stories in which there isn't some problem that needs to be solved are boring (because I personally tend to care less about characters talking about random stuff than about characters trying to solve interesting problems). So I do strongly recommend NOT going for a lot of quiet, contemplative character building moments until the "hook" has been placed.
Thanks, it definitely will be somewhat boring for the player without an inherent objective. I think it will be good if the contemplative moments were somehow related to the main issue, which might help me connect the two.
SilentMonkey wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 4:06 pm
It sounds like you want the player to be fully immersed inside your story. To be able to place themselves essentially within the first person perspective.
First we need to understand your target player base. If the kind of player you are catering too is one that wants to be one of the characters, then you must keep them engaged at all times. As soon as the player feels they are watching things happen from the sidelines, all interest is lost. An important key to keeping the player engaged is to establish a 'Need' for them. Only then once the player is connected to that 'Need', does the immersive dialogue truly shine. Relationship development is important but you cannot forget to keep driving the story forward at a regular pace. Don't bore them with ongoing fillers. I would suggest to reserve interactive dialogue for tense moments. For that is your top moment to make the player feel like they are a primary character within your story. Without this, you run the risk of writing dialogue in those tense moments where some players will think, "Wait...I would never say or do something like that." Give yourself flexibility by giving them those three choices, for in one those three is likely to be along the lines of what they want. You have the right mindset on what you want to accomplish, maybe find examples from other projects and learn from those references.
Thanks for the advice! Too much random character moments can feel like filler if it has no inherent point or role in the main plot. I am not sure how well it will translate to the visual novel format but I was actually planning to take some influence from the way classic western rpgs handle their dialogue where the player essentially choose everything that they say. Like I will try to make it so that the heavy plot influencing choices and the casual banter are quite obvious to tell, and will probably focus on lots of quality of life mechanics in case the player might get a bad end to make it so that the implementation of this influence doesn't feel punishing to the player.

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Re: How to create immersive dialogue that progresses the scene?

#5 Post by Mutive » Thu Sep 05, 2019 12:44 pm

Thanks, it definitely will be somewhat boring for the player without an inherent objective. I think it will be good if the contemplative moments were somehow related to the main issue, which might help me connect the two.
I think in most good stories, the character building stuff is directly related to the main plot.

e.g. if you have to stop an undead army, but by doing so may risk death yourself, you take the risk that you may never get a lot of life experiences you were hoping for. (e.g. to bang the love interest, have children, build a chicken coop with your bare hands, whatever) It makes sense to discuss these things on the eve of battle, because it gives stakes to the main conflict. (If the undead army kills you, there will be a bunch of uncooped chickens roaming your yard and occasionally being picked off by racoons. While this isn't objectively as big a deal as death, it's a much more concrete image.)
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Re: How to create immersive dialogue that progresses the scene?

#6 Post by jdhthegr8 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:14 am

I'm of the mind that not all character banter has to specifically advance the plot, but it is important that it in one way or another enhances the overall experience.

In particular, fantasy settings offer lots of opportunity for this in that they allow you to learn more about not just a character but the setting. Maybe it doesn't directly impact the plot that a supporting character has a certain set of religious beliefs for example, but by befriending them you learn more about its place in the world and their own personal worldviews. Even though this doesn't directly advance the plot it still increases the reader's appreciation for the world. Find ways to make it say something about the character:

Chatting about the weather? Maybe it reminds them of where they used to live at a past time.
They have a unique hobby or interest? Perhaps it could be a reflection of their own personal values.
Even small or optional conversations can have their own "hooks" that make the player want to read more, without necessarily being plot-critical.

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