Friday, September 26, 2014

Writing Narrative in VNs

Coffee & Tea by Meisan

On Writing Narrative
in Visual Novels
I twitch as he slowly moves his hand to my shirt and up it. His fingertips tickle a bit, but I resist laughing.
-- From a long adult scene posted by a VN creator looking for a Critique.
The scene itself was excellent, lots of descriptive details and quite entertaining, however the sentence structure used to write the scene...? There were more than a few examples I could have used from that post, but this one line covers pretty much everything.

Something I only learned after being published:
When writing a Story, you're Not supposed to put two people's Actions in the same paragraph, and definitely not in the same sentence, for exactly the same reason you don't put two people's Dialogue in the same paragraph.

Everybody knows that when a new character speaks they get a new paragraph, right? In other words, you DON'T put two different people talking in the same paragraph. Anyone who has written any kind of fiction learns this pretty darned quick, (usually from their readers.) When writing for a VN you're kind of forced to do this because each character's dialogue is separated by their individual text boxes.

What nobody seems to get is that the same goes for a new character's ACTIONS. Seriously, when a new character ACTS they're supposed to get their own paragraph -- even if they don't speak!

You paragraph by Change of CHARACTER.
 -- Not because they speak, but because they ACT. What many people seem to forget is that Dialogue is an ACTION. In other words, the reason you don't put two different characters' Dialogue in the same paragraph is BECAUSE you're not supposed to mix two characters' Actions.

"Wait a minute, doesn't that cut everything into tiny bits, you know, when you cut all the dialogue away then divide up all those paragraphs?"

In normal fiction, Character A's dialogue is supposed to be in Character A's paragraph of actions. Character B gets his own paragraph of dialogue AND actions. You divide up a story's paragraphs by individual Character -- not by individual lines of Dialogue OR Actions.
VN fiction is a little trickier. 
In VN fiction, you could add the descriptive parts (the narrative) to the dialogue in the same box using Quotation Marks to separate the dialogue from the narrative, (just like in a real book!) However, most don't bother with description at all because description is normally handled by using Images -- not words. Instead, narrative text ends up in its own textbox, completely separate from the dialogue. This works just fine in most cases.

However, sometimes one doesn't have the right images for a needed scene, or the image is a CG -- a static image. When that happens, the only thing one has to rely on to describe what's happening is Text.

When I'm writing a scene I don't have images for, or I'm using Static characters, (characters that don't change their expressions,) I do put the description in the dialogue boxes with the dialogue and use quotation marks to separate the dialogue from the narrative, just like I would in a regular story.


When I have long descriptive scenes; such as a fight scene or a love scene, I still put the description in the dialogue boxes and use quotation marks, but I write those in Novel Mode. Mainly because it's much faster to read it that way and the reader won't be distracted (or frustrated) by needing to click after every sentence.


But that's just me. If you want to use ADV mode to show each line of Dialogue separate from your descriptive text, be my guest. It's been done before, so I doubt anyone will say anything about it. It's just much, much slower to read.

The problem comes in when there's a LOT of narrative and more than one character is Acting in said narrative.

When you have more than one character doing things, I strongly advise keeping each character's actions separated out to individual lines. Mainly because it's very easy to lose track of who is doing what when the actions of more than one person are all mashed into the same paragraph, but also because that's how you're supposed to do it.

"Where the heck did THAT rule come from?"
Strunk & White's Element's of Style, the grammar handbook.
In dialogue, each speech, even if only a single word, is a paragraph by itself; that is, a new paragraph begins with each change of speaker."

This is often misinterpreted as "Make a new paragraph at every new line of dialogue."

Um... No. The key phrase here is:  
"a new paragraph begins with each change of speaker."

As long as the Speaker is Acting, the Speaker HAS NOT CHANGED. However, every time a new character Acts, you ARE Changing Speakers -- even if they don't talk! Therefore, each new character ACTING gets a New Paragraph, whether or not they have dialogue.

How this works...

I twitch as he slowly moves his hand to my shirt and up it. His fingertips tickle a bit, but I resist laughing.

WHY this is WRONG:
I twitch < Her actions|as |His actions > he slowly moves his hand to my shirt and up it. His fingertips tickle a bit, < His actions | Her actions > but I resist laughing.

First, remove the word AS.
-- This is a red-flag word. 9 times out of 10 it means that you've written the sentence Backwards. In fiction --and only in fiction-- you're supposed to write in Chronological order; the order in which things actually happen. (Reference: Scene & Structure by Bickam)

Also, write story narrative in Past Tense. Sure there are authors that write in the Present Tense, but few of them actually do it right, and in English, it's uncomfortable to read -- especially in Action scenes.

Next, separate the lines by Character
I twitched.
He slowly moved his hand to my shirt and up it.
His fingertips tickled me a bit, but I resisted laughing.
Now that it's gone, you can actually see that the word "AS" literally threw the Action in that sentence (I twitched,) Out of Order.

Now ask yourself, where does "I twitched" actually belong?
-- My guess is that it belongs here:

Adjusted again:
He slowly moved his hand onto my shirt.
I twitched.
His fingertips moved further up it.
It tickled a bit, but I resisted laughing.
See the difference?
 -- By the way, if the sentences you end up with seem too short, it means you need to Add More Description.
But what about when someone is watching someone else, or feeling someone do something to them?
-- Concerned about Observation
This looks perfectly fine, right?
He watched her shake her butt.
He felt her skin move against his.
However, once you take this into account:
"…A new paragraph begins
with Each Change of Speaker."
When a new character ACTS they're supposed to get a new paragraph.

Not so fine after all. You have two people acting in the same line -- in Both Lines. The way around this little gem of a problem, is to SHOW the event by character rather than TELL it in one lump. You begin by dividing the actions by Character:
He watched her.
She shook her butt and her skin moved against his.
He felt it.

Seems kind'a…short eh? That's because those lines TOLD you what happened instead of Showing you what happened so there are all kinds of details missing. Once you add enough details to paint a whole picture…

From his seat at the edge of the stage, he watched her.

Tall, svelte, and in the skimpiest bathing suit he'd ever seen, she moved in close and shook her butt. The round, firm flesh jiggled enticingly against his face.

His cheeks were subjected to the most incredible, though slightly sweaty, facial massage ever.

You can take my advice or leave it, your choice. However this is how I was taught to write by my publishing editors.


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