5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Begin Making a Visual Novel
Making a visual novel can be a lengthy process. It’s about writing a story. Making the art. Crafting all the details that will combine into an exciting experience players will enjoy.
Here are some hints and tips how to make sure the foundations of your project can be made solid. It can help you in the long run by keeping you connected to the game you are making. Asking these 5 questions before you set out to create can save you lot of meandering and getting lost in the dead ends.
- WHY are you telling us this story?
- WHAT is the message you want to carry across to readers?
- WHERE will you place this project in your life?
- WHEN do you plan to finish it?
- WHO can do it better than you?
Why, oh why?
Ok, this is a tricky one. We are all creative. When we feel it’s time to tell the story, we just go ahead and make it. Rarely ever do we pause to ask ourselves, why. But still, from time to time it’s not a bad thing to do. Consider it… similar to checking the tires before mounting that bike.
I’ve worked diligently on a Star Wars project for months and then when game was 75 percent done I realized I’m not really a Star Wars fan. I lost the connection with the project and I’m pretty much sure there was a story more important for me to create.
TRY THIS: Ask yourself if this would be a game or a story that would move you. If someone else made it, would you be smiling playing it? Would you be crying? Would it move you in any way? Also try asking yourself if there is a more important story for you in this moment. If there is, tell us THAT story instead.
DON’T PANIC: Sometimes you feel empty. There are no stories that would make you excited. Many stories are too personal or stirr too strong emotions in us, so we can’t tell them. That’s fine, the time will come when you will be ready to tackle them.
The message you want your readers to receive. That’s theme of your story. Every story, even those simply made to entertain people, always carry a message. Think of Spiderman movies. They are created to rake in cash. Story is simple, almost naive. Guy gets bitten by a spider and gains superpowers, then decides to devote his new powers to fighting crime. “With great power comes great responsibility”. This is not only uncle Ben’s favorite saying, it’s also answer to question WHAT for this story.
Having a clear idea what is the message you want to express is of great practical use. It’s like a compass for adding new content and styling your characters and episodes. Any time you want to add new character, plot arc, episode or any other element, just return to your answer to the WHAT question.
For example, if we were writing a Spiderman VN, would a unicorn fit our game? Well, maybe… if we find a way to express our theme involving the unicorn. Maybe it appears in shape of unicorn-girl who helps Spidey fight crime? Maybe unicorn is a wild beast using its power irresponsibly, contrasting Spiderman? If it’s just about unicorn being all majestic and prancing about, then it probably isn’t the best fit for our game.
TRY THIS: Think of this before actually coming up with the story. It will be much easier to form all the elements if you know what you are trying to express.
DON’T PANIC: However, if you already have a story, try to discover what is the message hidden in there. It doesn’t have to be very lofty. “I want players to feel what it’s like to…” is also a valid theme.
Where on Earth?
Don’t lie to Grandpa! I know you make every project with secret wish for it to become a smashing hit, for everyone to read it and throw money at you. Okay, maybe not this extreme and maybe not for every project, but let’s face it. While we all love to create, we also love to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
That’s what makes this question very important. If you clearly decide what this project means to you, it will be much more easy to devote time for it. Also it can save you a lot of frustration if the project fails in any way.
TRY THIS: Be honest with yourself. Can you really fit this project high on your priority list? Are you willing to make sacrifices? Will you really give up your idle browsing of cat memes and devote that ime to your visual novel?
DON’T PANIC: Even if you realize that there is not much time in your life for a visual novel project at this moment, you can always save the project for later. Maybe you can’t spend hours on end working at your script and art. Try allocating tiny portion of time every day… Doing a little bit every day is better than binging on your project only to abandon it for weeks on end.
When the time is right…
If you know where in your life the project fits, it’s easy to determine a deadline. Despite their name, deadlines are good for you. They determine scope of your project and help you decide how detailed you want your game to be.
For example if you want exquisitely detailed game like dear Ramb’s visual novel, Relentless, then prepare to work on it for many months. If you only have 12 hours to make the game, then it will probably look more like something I’ve cobbled up here.
TRY THIS: Try making an experiment. Create a visual novel in one day. Make it over the course of a weekend. Then try making it in 7 days. Do a one month project. Just work and finish when the time runs out. It will give you good idea what’s your ideal pace and help you set deadlines more realistically.
DON’T PANIC: Making games is not a race. Many games you enjoy, no matter how long or short they are, often took years to complete. So take your time.
Who else, but you?
Who can do this better than you? Maybe you will think, oh there are so much better writers/artists/game designers than me. But think again. It’s YOUR story. Only you have the vision. Only you know what will feel right.
Goal of this question is to honestly assess your abilities. For example, I am making a visual novel and I have no artist to help me. I am making my own art. It’s crappy. I am not an artist. But still, there is no one in this world who will make better art for this story. It’s almost impossible for me to explain to an artist what exactly do I want. So I’m the best suited for this task.
TRY THIS: Sometimes you will discover that your own ability is not adequate. Maybe I have a story which demands better writer than me. You are still the one with the vision, but you realize that to fully respect this story, you need to invite someone to help you. Only then is the right time to seek collaborators.
DON’T PANIC: If your skills are lacking in one area, try to make your game better in another area. Being a bad artist I’ll try to make my writing superb. Even if you are mediocre across the board, who cares. It’s YOUR game and it better be improved from your previous attempt because (repeat after me) – NEVER COMPARE TO OTHERS, BUT TO YOUR EARLIER WORKS!
Feed us back
We’d like to hear what you think? How do you prepare for our projects? Did you find our advice helpful? Did you try it out and how did it work for you? Don’t forget, each time you write us a comment, one happy fluff comes to this world!