Some thoughts on repetitive/dragging prose

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Horma
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Some thoughts on repetitive/dragging prose

#1 Post by Horma » Wed Feb 28, 2018 6:05 am

As I've said before, I really love Danganronpa. But the moments where every single character alive overreacts to a stupid joke or the infamous whisper that is shown at least five times in the final chapter of the first game just annoy me so much.

Now that I've started writing a VN script myself, I think I understand why writers resort to this stuff. After all, it's easier for readers to forget about lines that aren't repeated, especially in longer works.

How do you make the important hints stick out from the flavor text without being blatant about it?

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Re: Some thoughts on repetitive/dragging prose

#2 Post by chaironiichan » Wed Feb 28, 2018 7:16 am

Horma wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 6:05 am
How do you make the important hints stick out from the flavor text without being blatant about it?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are asking on how to make certain facts stand out and stick to the reader, correct?

If yes, I think you should first ask yourself: why do I want the reader to remember this certain information?
I haven't played Danganronpa myself, but from what I've heard, it's similar to the Ace Attorney games. And in that game, whenever you gather "evidence", they do not necessarily spoon feed you the answer. The Main Character knows that he has something relevant in his items, but he doesn't outright come to the conclusion as to what that item is. The player has to solve which one it is.

Why is this done? Because you don't want to give the readers everything immediately. Readers don't like being treated that they are dumb, or being spoon fed. Imagine story-telling like it's a drawn circle. If you just draw the whole circle--in this case, repeatedly hammering the point over and over--the reader will get tired or frustrated.

What you want is to draw a partial circle, and let the reader complete the circle on their own. How do you do that? Give them the relevant facts, but let them determine their importance themselves. This will lead to some involvement in the part of the reader, leading them to become more invested in the story.

A note of caution though: as much as you don't want to just give readers the whole circle, you don't want to just give them lines that vaguely resemble one neither. You still need to give the hints, don't pull them out of thin air.
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Re: Some thoughts on repetitive/dragging prose

#3 Post by Horma » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:49 am

Hmm, I haven't played Ace Attorney actually but I've heard that it has better mysteries and technically better writing than Danganronpa. I wish it was on Steam...

My writing has been criticized for being too vague. But the moment I put in some more detail, I start feeling like I'm writing on baby level. I don't really get how people can't sometimes connect certain dots that feel obvious to me. It's most likely an issue with how I'm living in my own little circle and don't know what makes other people tick.

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Re: Some thoughts on repetitive/dragging prose

#4 Post by Mammon » Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:59 am

That's a thin line to walk, making hints just clear enough to be remembered without being a dead giveaway. You could do thinks such as adding a {a}link{/a} within the game that can literally act as a reminder/easy mode for those who forgot.(Can someone help with what that {a} is called again? I forgot the specific name.) People who still remember can choose not to click it, those who took a long break during the game or don't remember it can be reminded. Or make an evidence folder in the menu that people can look into for the actual evidence. Of course this might not help if the hint is something vague that the reader is supposed to figure out themselves rather than being spoonfed with such features, as you said.

I know there's some rarely to never used feature in Ren'py that allows people to write a word as their choice rather than clicking a text box. That might be an interesting addition solving your issues, maybe. It would of course have to be a very specific word intuitive to the reader, which is probably part of the reason that feature never really took off. (code can't decypher vague ideas in sentences, after all.)

In the end it's always a matter of the writer's ability to make something not too obvious or spoiled at the last moment, yet figure out a way to make it a surprising twist that isn't coming out of nowhere. Some VN resolve the issue by making an ending for every suspect to be arrested the killer and the detective considering the case done, only for the player to get some hint that it might've been an innocent person after all. Only after getting all the endings or all the evidence can the truth be figures out, if at all. Not allowing all the evidence to be collected within one run of the game (and thus making a pretty solid case against someone the first time around, only to find out the second playthrough that they have an alibi) could help as well.

(These were all random suggestions from games I've played before but which I have since long forgotten the titles of, sorry.)
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Re: Some thoughts on repetitive/dragging prose

#5 Post by Horma » Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:25 am

Mammon wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:59 am

In the end it's always a matter of the writer's ability to make something not too obvious or spoiled at the last moment, yet figure out a way to make it a surprising twist that isn't coming out of nowhere. Some VN resolve the issue by making an ending for every suspect to be arrested the killer and the detective considering the case done, only for the player to get some hint that it might've been an innocent person after all. Only after getting all the endings or all the evidence can the truth be figures out, if at all. Not allowing all the evidence to be collected within one run of the game (and thus making a pretty solid case against someone the first time around, only to find out the second playthrough that they have an alibi) could help as well.
That's great advice, thanks! I don't like those endings where a detective thinks he's picked the wrong culprit but somehow decides to give up and bam! Game ends. Unless it fits the character's goals/personality to not try again, it doesn't really make sense. Of course, if the detective dies because of their mistake, it's a whole another story.

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Re: Some thoughts on repetitive/dragging prose

#6 Post by Kinjo » Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:30 am

I think these are two distinct issues, so it might be easier to break them down and address them separately.

I noticed a similar writing style in Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, another mystery VN. Whenever something interesting happens, every character in the room always feels the need to speak up and say something about it. Sometimes it does get repetitive, but it also helps the reader better understand the characters (and more equally distributes their screentime). Frequent and repeated exposure to people also makes us like them more. So simply having characters talk more often will impact how much we care about them. This idea is especially important in stories where there is a large but dwindling cast of murder victims.
Horma wrote:How do you make the important hints stick out from the flavor text without being blatant about it?
You can make your hints stand out -- just make them stand out in a different way. Draw a lot of attention to X, not because it's the murder weapon, but because it's cool or interesting or funny to look at. Draw a lot of attention to John Doe, not because he's the murderer but because he has a legitimate place in the story (a reason for being near the crime scene at the right place and time) and is a person the reader cares about. Everything has a second meaning -- basically, it's misdirection.

Alternatively, instead of playing up the importance of something, you can try to downplay it. Even if it's something in the background that doesn't really matter, the reader should pick up on the fact it must be important (because you bothered to mention it). Of course, not everything in the story will end up being an important clue to solving the murder, but some of them will. It's up to the reader to figure out what. And they'll have fun doing it, too.

Either way, the key is that any hints should be hidden in plain sight. Usually this means they are things that mean absolutely nothing (or something innocent) in a regular context, but due to future events or deductions, suddenly take on a whole new meaning. Most often it will be through a series of small deductions that, when added up, drastically change the interpretation of the story's events. The more boldly you can hide things in plain sight, the better a second reading of the story you'll have. Readers will either go "I can't believe I didn't see that!" or if they were smart enough on their first try, be proud that they were able to catch onto something before its importance was revealed.

Here's some further reading from the legendary G. K. Chesterton.

Also, since you said you haven't played it yet, I'd highly recommend playing Ace Attorney (or even watching a Let's Play) to see how they do things. I've picked up a lot of good writing tips from it, myself.

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Re: Some thoughts on repetitive/dragging prose

#7 Post by Kuiper » Sat Mar 03, 2018 2:53 am

One of my favorite ways to get away with repeating a certain fact or idea is to keep approaching it from different perspectives and angles that add something other than restating the fact.

Example 1: We learn in chapter 1 that Alice is frequently late to meetings. In chapter 2, Bob states, "Alice is frequently late to meetings." This is redundant because it's simply restating information that we've already heard.

Example 2: We learn in chapter 1 that Alice is frequently late to meetings. In chapter 2, Bob states, "I hate how Alice is always late to meetings." This reminds us of something that we've already heard (re-stating the fact that Alice is frequently late to meetings), while also letting us know that the fact that Alice is often late is causing Bob to judge her negatively. Here, not only have we received a reminder of something we already knew; we're also getting a bit of insight into Alice and Bob's relationship.

Example 3: We learn in chapter 1 that Alice is frequently late to meetings. In chapter 2, Bob states, "I hate how Alice is always late to meetings." Carol hears Bob and say, "Oh, stop exaggerating, she isn't always late to meetings, she sometimes shows up late for briefings but she's always on time when it's a client meeting or something that actually matters." Bob counter-argues that Alice was in fact late to an important client meeting last week, and the only reason that Alice got away with it is that the client was also late. Carol then tells Bob that he needs to stop being so critical of Alice. Here, we establish several things: 1) Just in case you forget when we mentioned it in chapter 1, Alice is frequently late, 2) Bob judges Alice for this, 3) Carol and Bob disagree to the extent to which Alice's chronic tardiness is a problem, and 4) Carol doesn't have a problem with challenging Bob when she feels he is being critical of Alice. This reminds us of the important fact we established in chapter 1, while also simultaneously giving us insight into THREE different relationships (the Alice-Bob relationship, the Alice-Carol relationship, and the Bob-Carol relationship). Furthermore, the fact that Alice's tardiness was the subject of a heated argument where we brought up concrete examples of Alice's tardiness makes it much more likely that the audience will remember it than if it was simply an off-hand remark that Bob made.
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