Rainbow-tinted games

Newbie's experiences on writing game dialogue

2017-10-10 15:47:45

Some experiences and lessons learned by a newbie writer who has now written 30% of the dialogue of her first game.

First off, I'm not a real author or anything. I took, like, one writing class in the university and then toyed with a personal visual novel project for a few months. That's pretty much my whole writing experience before starting on Rose Seed Replica, my game that is intended to reach the word count of about 100k.

So, don't expect any tips on how to write quality stuff because I don't think I could give those. Instead, I'm going to talk about how to get work done as a newbie and how to commit to your project and persist until the job is, well, at least 30% done.

1. Write characters and stories that you love yourself

I'd go as far as saying that, at least for me, this is no doubt the biggest reason why I have gotten this far, and it's what makes me confident about getting all the way to 100%. Writing something that you truly love and care about can be a huge motivation boost, and a newbie like me really needs all that motivation to get the work done.

Well, if you're like me and have rather unusual and niche tastes, you might get marketability headaches and whatnot as a byproduct, but I still think that this is well worth it. Something that you can actually finish still has far more market potential than something you'd drop halfway through because of lack of motivation.

2. There is no shortcut but there are ways to avoid pitfalls

Well, there's no shortcut for me at least. Basically, the only way for me to write more is to spend more time writing. And, of course, my biggest issue in the beginning actually was that I couldn't make myself put enough hours into writing, for a number of reasons.

I'd say that the biggest reason for me was that I just didn't know how much I was writing each day and how much I needed to write. Luckily, that was actually easy to fix with word counting. Another big problem for me was that I used to give up too easily if things weren't progressing smoothly. That was a tougher problem to solve, but eventually I came up with a few ideas that helped.

So, here are my tricks for making myself slave off harder:

  • Keeping track of the word count and just writing until I have reached my daily goal (duh)
  • Limiting Twitter to once per hour or something (if I have trouble focusing)
  • Writing as much as I can whenever I'm inspired
  • Writing difficult scenes when I'm feeling confident
  • Writing easier scenes if I'm struggling
  • Just switching to a different scene if I get stuck
  • Planning things through if I'm having trouble getting started (I'm not a very spontaneous writer)
  • Taking breaks and just laying on my bed doing nothing (this actually does a lot for me)

3. Changing plans is easier than I expected

Somewhere around 20k words I realized that I want to drastically change one of the characters because she'd have such great synergy with the story and the other characters if she were weaker and far less knowledgeable. Even though that was quite a big change, it only took one day to make it. I didn't even need to delete more than a few hundred words because most of the important bits could be given to other characters with relatively small modifications.

What I'm trying to say with this is that you don't need to worry that so much about not having everything planned out in detail. I'm more of a planner type myself because having worries about the pieces not fitting together tend to make writing hard to me. Realizing that the damage is actually pretty minor if you mess up something was a relief to me and made me a bit less worried about just writing things off the top of head.

4. Writing non-linear stories is complicated

So, I'd draw a detailed flowchart and stuff about how the different routes should work. Then, I'd write some of the scenes and the result would feel all nice and logical. There would just be this minor problem of the writing not matching the flowchart at all.

I don't know where the problem is exactly, but it tends to get particularly bad with romantic scenes. Like, I just write on happily and then realize that the situation has developed so that it would make no sense at all for the characters to follow the flowchart. I don't know, maybe there's something I don't know yet that would help me follow the plan, or maybe I should just plan differently to begin with.

In any case, I don't know how to solve this apart from just giving up with the flowchart and writing the new scenes together somehow. Oh, well, good thing there's no one else around to get upset over these surprise changes. I don't think it actually matters that much if you're solo since you can just modify the flowchart and be done with it, but there would certainly be huge issues if there were other team members involved.

5. Prepare for a dialogue overdose

Well, I'm not going to get into details about how games do narration and dialogue in general. Instead, I'm just going to say that I have been writing a ton of dialogue and not much else. The thing is that there's very little narration in Rose Seed Replica to begin with, and even that little is all presented as the protagonist's internal monologue, which is pretty much as close to dialogue as narration gets.

I'm not sure if I actually feel one way or the other about being limited to dialogue and monologue only. I think that it's actually pretty fun once you get the hang of it, but I don't think I know enough about writing yet to recommend for or against it.

Well, either way, I guess being able to write lots of dialogue and enjoy it is more or less a must if you're going to write for games. Mine certainly is neither the first nor the last dialogue heavy game in existence. Quite the opposite, actually.

6. Keep your first project small

Lastly, don't go for the 100k word count on your first project. Really! It's madness! It'll suck the life out of you for months on end. Be reasonable. Don't submit yourself to a wicked nightmare like that.

Me? Rose Seed Replica? 100k? Well, I'd gladly spend my whole life writing games about lesbians and queer girls, so why not...