Changes to Writing due to NVL

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Ragnarok does VN
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Changes to Writing due to NVL

#1 Post by Ragnarok does VN » Sun Aug 07, 2016 11:01 am

So, before I found Ren'Py I stumbled over the TV Tropes "So you want to make a VN" page, which gives a nice and condensed overview.

One advice they gave is, if you can't do good art, rather use nvl than adv. And oh boy, I certainly can't do good art. And as it is my first VN, I don't want to collaborate with or commission someone. I found a solution, to still have the "visual" aspect of a Visual Novel, but that solution implies I can't use facial expressions to convey emotions.

Now to the real question: As I am using nvl, how should I adjust my writing to that?

My natural writing habit would tend to do something like in the German Naturalism and its "Sekundenstil" (it seems like no translation exists). This effectively means that dialogue is written like it is spoken and not not in a "perfectly clear" language. Also characters will be interrupted. Finally, and I think this are ideas that could be problematic, I want to stay away from an inner monologue/thoughts and I want to use as much dialogue only as possible, or to put it the other way, as few descriptive text as possible.

My reason to avoid inner monologues of the protagonist is that I want the player to identify with him and let the player has his own thoughts about what is happening, as I want my game to be about choice and consequence, not about some really great story/plot.

Similarly, my reason to focus on dialogue is that I want to show how much impact the words we use have. I know that actions are as much a part of social interaction as words, maybe even more than them, that's why I said "as much as possible".

But I am wondering: With the usage of nvl, which relies heavily on the words I write, and not much art to show actions, are those good ideas?

Note: I am not going to change anything because someone wrote "don't do it", but I looking forward to some discussion and insights of experienced VN players and creators. Also I am intentionally going for a "special snowflake" instead of "classic VN", partially because missing knowledge about VNs and partially because I like to experiment.

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RotGtIE
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Re: Changes to Writing due to NVL

#2 Post by RotGtIE » Sun Aug 07, 2016 2:00 pm

Regardless of your use of ADV or NVL, you should always be writing your Visual Novel in the novel format. Especially since this is going to be your first attempt at such a project, you are already being experimental enough even if you go by the conventional standards of the craft. Bending or breaking rules to achieve some clever purpose is a fine ambition, but it is important to understand why the rules exist in the first place and to sufficiently master their proper use before attempting to defy them.

To put it into another perspective, if you had decided to work with an illustrator, how would you feel if they told you that they didn't want to confine themselves to the conventional standards of human anatomy or proper perspective to show scenery? I'd be put off by it. You might want to consider how your audience will feel about you wanting to break from convention for your first work.

I ran some searches on this term "Sekundenstil" that you used. I'll be frank: I'm not pleased with the results I found. These explanations read like an entry from The Postmodernism Generator, and that's not a representation any writer should want to live up to.

One of the greatest strengths of the novel is in its ability to bring the reader inside the minds of its characters - especially its protagonist. This is an extremely powerful advantage which the written word has over all other forms of media - you avoid it at your script's peril. The use of descriptive passages and explorations into the thoughts of your characters immerses the reader into your story in a way that you can only achieve in a novel. This is an extremely useful tool, not an unwanted burden. Your writing is improved by the use of descriptive language, not hampered by it.
My reason to avoid inner monologues of the protagonist is that I want the player to identify with him and let the player has his own thoughts about what is happening
Game Arts experienced this dilemma when they wrote for the protagonists of Lunar and Lunar 2 - Alex and Hiro, respectively. What they attempted to do in Lunar was give Alex as little in the way of inner thoughts, monologue, or involvement in dialogue with the other characters as possible, so as to allow the player to identify with him - or as him - as was the standard for RPGs of the time. The problem which arose from this was that Alex was surrounded by a cast of vibrant characters who had a huge volume of rich development through their own words, thoughts, and actions, and the juxtaposition created by placing him among these characters backfired on his own intended development (or lack thereof). Alex wound up being less of a blank slate to serve as a self-insert for the player and more of a strangely quiet kind of person, even among the most raucous of company and circumstances. His silence and minimal verbal interaction made him stand out all the more for having such traits in the company of major and minor characters who filled the script with their personalities, making him extremely noticeable as a possible stoic or introverted character. This, clearly, was not the intent of Game Arts, and they corrected this problem when they designed Hiro for Lunar 2. Knowing that he would be surrounded by a lively and colorful cast, they needed to give Hiro's personality a hue of its own, so that he wouldn't stand out oddly as being the only clear pane in a stained glass world.

The key was to make their protagonist relatable to the audience - not a blank slate meant to be used as a self-insert. In a talkative world, "too quiet" becomes a very extreme sort of personality. The reason you typically see protagonists with their own personalities in stories outside of gaming is because the characters have to have enough personality for an ordinary person to be able to relate to them, and not having enough of an established personality is sufficiently divergent to put the audience off and make them unable to relate at all. Thus is the opposite effect achieved from what had been intended.
as I want my game to be about choice and consequence, not about some really great story/plot.
I know you didn't exactly mean this the way it came across, but I think it's safe to say that not wanting your story or plot to be great is not the ideal attitude to take into writing. Branching is a feature of VNs, and one which they are well suited to incorporating, sure, but the quality of your story is more important than the features used to enhance it. A hundred choices wouldn't make an audience more interested in a story whose author openly admitted to having little interest in its quality.
Similarly, my reason to focus on dialogue is that I want to show how much impact the words we use have.
To re-emphasize an earlier point, I recommend against trying to be experimental with your first work. It would be for the best if you focused on your storytelling ability before you started trying to do fancy things or make some kind of point somewhere within your prose. You run the risk of a ham-handed delivery if you focus on the message and eschew conventional principles and standards of writing.
Also I am intentionally going for a "special snowflake" instead of "classic VN", partially because missing knowledge about VNs and partially because I like to experiment.
And this is an even worse attitude to bring in to your writing. I should restate that you are already experimenting by doing something you have never done before. Your first jump shouldn't be a quadruple axel. Also somewhat distressing to me is your approach to the problem of lacking knowledge about Visual Novels - why not just read some Visual Novels, then? Anytime you come up against a problem which stems from your lack of knowledge, you should do some research! It's lazy to just brush past a gap in your knowledge when writing. If there's something you're going to write about and you don't know enough about that thing to write a story involving it, start looking into it until you know enough to write to the topic competently! It may seem like a chore at first, but researching and learning about a subject pays off quickly, your writing improves greatly for it, and the process is a lot of fun once you get started. When people say "write what you know," they don't mean "don't write what you don't know." If there's something you can't write about because you don't know it well enough, change that.

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Re: Changes to Writing due to NVL

#3 Post by Ragnarok does VN » Sun Aug 07, 2016 2:42 pm

RotGtIE wrote:...
Thank you for your detailed answer, I appreciate all the Information you put into it. I think, first of all, I will play some games.

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Re: Changes to Writing due to NVL

#4 Post by gekiganwing » Sun Aug 07, 2016 3:24 pm

Ragnarok does VN wrote:And oh boy, I certainly can't do good art. And as it is my first VN, I don't want to collaborate with or commission someone.
Do you want to sell your story? If so, that would present a challenge. I'm not sure what to suggest in that case.

Do you want to release your story as freeware? If so, then don't worry too much about art. Think about how you can use drawings to communicate information about your story. Consider what you can do instead of showing characters and backgrounds on screen.

You might want to look at Tell Her a Story for inspiration. This freeware visual novel involves drawings which were made in-universe by the main character. Other possible sources of inspiration: Digital: A Love Story, which does not show any characters, or The World to Reverse, which only occasionally shows its characters.
Ragnarok does VN wrote: My reason to avoid inner monologues of the protagonist is that I want the player to identify with him and let the player has his own thoughts about what is happening, as I want my game to be about choice and consequence, not about some really great story/plot. Similarly, my reason to focus on dialogue is that I want to show how much impact the words we use have.
If you want to write a story in which the reader is meant to pretend that they are the protagonist, that's fine. If you want to focus on dialogue, that's also fine.

Getting the reader to identify with a protagonist is not easy. I don't know if you have played any video games or read stories with a premise of "This main character is you." If you have, then think about which ones you liked, and which ones you disliked. Consider whether the main character seemed like too much of a blank slate. Did you think the person was sympathetic?
Ragnarok does VN wrote: Also I am intentionally going for a "special snowflake" instead of "classic VN", partially because missing knowledge about VNs and partially because I like to experiment.
Write fiction which you find interesting. If you like experimental fiction, then create it. After all, a visual novel is just one way to tell a story.

There are freeware as well as commercial VNs that are worth reading, if just to think about specific things which they did well, or which they did not do well. If you have time for research, then I believe you will benefit. Until then, be sure to think about what you admire in other forms of fiction. Consider your favorite plot twists, character motivations, and so on. Write down a list of story concepts which you plan to avoid.

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Re: Changes to Writing due to NVL

#5 Post by Caveat Lector » Sun Aug 07, 2016 10:04 pm

I think that particular piece of TV Tropes advice is a bit flawed. In general, take caution when taking writing advice from TV Tropes--tropes are tools and building blocks, not absolutes. The original author of that comment may have been thinking about VN's along the lines of Higurashi, where the character art isn't exactly top-quality, but uses an NVL style. You could use any kind of art style with NVL or ADV, but idk, using NVL to try to "hide" the quality of the art style seems a bit odd to me.

That said, I can say, speaking as someone who is using ADV and NVL in separate projects, that yes, you do need to make a few adjustments to the writing structure, not necessarily the writing style. If you start to write the story out in, say, Microsoft Word, you can get away with longer and bigger paragraphs. But because of the nature of the medium, some of these longer paragraphs can come off as clunky or a wall of text in NVL, or "bleed out" the side of the ADV box. When describing a scene, it'd be better to break up the lines more. Someone who is more experienced in experimenting with both styles can feel free to comment here, but overall, I'd say that no, you shouldn't use a particular style to "cover up" a certain art style, and you should use whatever style feels best suited to how you envision the VN; but yes, you may have to make a few changes to the structure and style you're used to.
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