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Visual Novels - Serious or Comedic?


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Hi Fuwanovel lurkers,

I propose a question that has been on my mind for a while. Do you prefer a comedic tone in your visual novels or a serious one? If you chose a comedic tone, would you prefer it if it was purely comedic or with a sprinkle of seriousness? Likewise, if you prefer a serious tone. I'm currently making in the process of writing my visual novel game and just happened to be curious about what people like to see in their VNs.

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10 minutes ago, Xander said:

Why not both(?

Would you mind elaborating? I find that having a well-defined "identity" of a visual novel is important to its story. I'm sure there are some games that strike a nice, even balance of comedy and seriousness, but it is rare and difficult to execute. Sometimes, bouncing around between serious and light-hearted emotions within a story too often can be jarring for the audience. This is from my personal experience. I find that many people prefer the tone of a VN to be consistent, but I suppose you are one of the few who don't. Please share your thoughts more on this; I'm curious.

Edited by Eirrir
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44 minutes ago, Eirrir said:

Would you mind elaborating? I find that having a well-defined "identity" of a visual novel is important to its story. I'm sure there are some games that strike a nice, even balance of comedy and seriousness, but it is rare and difficult to execute. Sometimes, bouncing around between serious and light-hearted emotions within a story too often can be jarring for the audience. This is from my personal experience. I find that many people prefer the tone of a VN to be consistent, but I suppose you are one of the few who don't. Please share your thoughts more on this; I'm curious.

Play Ayakashibito or Tokyo Babel.  You'll probably get some idea of balancing between humor and seriousness from that.  For that matter, the best novels I've read have both been serious and had dollops of humor spread throughout them.  Humorless works are, to be quite frank about it, acts of literary masturbation that have nothing to do with entertaining the reader.  They are 'writing as art' rather than writing as entertainment.  If you want to do writing as art... well, feel free. 

Edited by Clephas
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Personally, I like stories (in general, not only in VNs) with a comedic and slice-of-lifey start that makes me get attached to the characters and then a change for a more serious/dramatic tone. My feelings for the characters would be stronger that way and it'll affect me more and make me get deeper into the drama and the story overall. Of course, it needs to be done properly, because if not the change between comedy and seriousness would be too cringe-y as Eirrir said.

Edited by MiyazawaLulu
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12 hours ago, MiyazawaLulu said:

Personally, I like stories (in general, not only in VNs) with a comedic and slice-of-lifey start that makes me get attached to the characters and then a change for a more serious/dramatic tone. My feelings for the characters would be stronger that way and it'll affect me more and make me get deeper into the drama and the story overall. Of course, it needs to be done properly, because if not the change between comedy and seriousness would be too cringe-y as Eirrir said.

Ah, I see. If I understand this correctly, you would prefer a gradual change from a comedic to serious tone rather than plunging straight into the serious drama for the sake of building attachment to the characters in the game. Hmm, this is actually a good point that I should put more into consideration. Of course, there are ways to build attachment to characters other than the use of comedy, but in terms of the visual novel I'm making, this might be a good move to make in my story-writing. I'm definitely taking notes on this discussion ٩(^‿^)۶

 

12 hours ago, Clephas said:

Play Ayakashibito or Tokyo Babel.  You'll probably get some idea of balancing between humor and seriousness from that.  For that matter, the best novels I've read have both been serious and had dollops of humor spread throughout them.  Humorless works are, to be quite frank about it, acts of literary masturbation that have nothing to do with entertaining the reader.  They are 'writing as art' rather than writing as entertainment.  If you want to do writing as art... well, feel free. 

Unfortunately, I haven't played those games and do not foresee myself doing so anytime soon because of the lack of free time, but you do bring up a good point about a purely serious story as writing for the sake of itself rather than for the sake of entertaining the readers. I'll keep the tip in mind. Although, I would like to point out that there are very serious stories that have been able to keep me entertained, engaged, and on my toes throughout their duration. Comedy doesn't need to be the sole factor for entertainment, at least in my experience. But I do want to keep my readers entertained throughout my visual novel, whether that's through an emotionally gripping narrative or some memorable, hilarious lines.

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If you have to choose between A or B take both. It's not a crime to write something funny in a serious story neither does it mean you can't be serious in comedy. (Fooling around is serious business.) Do what you want, when you want. If your story starts serious and full of action and you want your characters to have a discussion about what kind cake tastes best while killing hordes of zombies with a paperfan (ok, bad example about serious action scenes ^^"), let the game of pies begin.

The biggest problem I ((Be careful, personal opinion)) have with VNs nowadays is that most of them feel lifeless and like they used some kind of manual. "How to write a ***-ge 101: Selling Stories that even a monkey politician could write" in combination with wish fullfilment and/or supercool-know-it-all-deus-ex-machina-protagonists and/or protagonists with an IQ on the wrong side of zero.

 

*If people didn't notice by now, I'm for comedy.

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The problem with comedy is that is even more subjective than other forms of entertainment. At least in my opinion. Some people are fine with seeing the same old shtick and laugh every time but personally that gets old faster than digesting the same dramatic elements.  Even when comedy is good, too much can be a bad thing. It's cliche but everything in moderation is generally a good rule of thumb. Rather than focusing (solely) on what genres or themes your story will have I think keeping stock of emotional content important as well. Which is a bit hard since emotion is the essence of subjectiveness. Still, you can, to some extent, guess how different scenes will make your readers feel if you know your audience. One good use of comedy is simply to facilitate a cathartic release after a particularly dramatic or sad scene has played out. The best is when comedy serves the scene and feels like a natural progression rather than forced. The exception being the absurd being thrown in for shock value.

But what do I know? I'm no writer that's for sure. Just my perspective as a reader.

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Seriousness by far. Comedy can be fun once in a while (a la Grisaia's common route), but serious plots just bring far more to the table, are more varied, and are much more memorable in the long run.

Bouts of seriousness amidst comedy is always welcome, but I'd say inserting comedy into seriousness runs the risk of killing immersion.

Edited by Funyarinpa
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Personally I prefer a more serious tone in VN's and I honestly feel pretty oversaturated from the typical school life comedy since it gets old pretty fast. And I have a real aversion against mixing serious story VN's with comedy. Not because humor wouldn't work in such VN's at all, but more because Japanese writers just don't understand the concept of a 'grim sense of humor'. They only know school life teenage humor and nothing else. 'Rough humor' like you might see in Quentin Tarantino's works or what a seasoned war veteran might spit out is completely beyond them. That's why VN's like Chusigura or Tokyo Babel didn't really click with me, even if they do have their qualities.

I think for more serious VN's I like Innocent Grey's or early TypeMoon and AkabeiSoft2's writing styles the most. And for more comedic stuff I enjoy light-hearted story VN's like Koihime, Walkure Romanze or Unionism Quartet which aren't too serious but aren't non-stop gag-machines either. Not the biggest fan of pure comedy VN's, but Majikoi was fun, Alcot's My Girlfriend is the President too, and Yuzusoft VN's in small doses aren't bad either.

Edited by ChaosRaven
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Yeah, I agree that comedy should not equate to highschool slice of life. Just waaay too much of that on the market. You either have to stretch the setting in over the top ways or make a self aware parody for me to find it interesting. And even then it's a hit or miss because the genre makes the simpson's look like a fresh new idea.

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Steins;Gate is one of the most dramatic and science-heavy VNs out there, and still you can have plenty laughs with most of the content.

That's because they succeeded in creating a lovable cast of characters there, it's not exactly your "already seen it" typical slice of life comedy.

Besides, what better way to appeal to an otaku than talking of things they love?

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2 hours ago, Funyarinpa said:

Seriousness by far. Comedy can be fun once in a while (a la Grisaia's common route), but serious plots just bring far more to the table, are more varied, and are much more memorable in the long run.

Bouts of seriousness amidst comedy is always welcome, but I'd say inserting comedy into seriousness runs the risk of killing immersion.

That depends. No story would really suffer from short outbursts of good humor, which quite suprisingly - works especially well during moments, you'd least expect it. As in reality, it tends to lessen the "seriousness" of certain situations, by giving them a more lighter wibe, often portraying them in an entirely different light. The Martian is a very good example. The man ends stranded lone on an ice-cold planet far away from Earth, with little to no means to survive for the next few years and what he does? Jokes about it, often in a witty, deadpan kind of fashion. I'd say, despite it's hard sci-fi undertones, what truly makes the book is it's brilliant writing and endless humor that comes with various events Mark has to cope with.

The most common issue though, is it requires a certain mastery to pull off and most writers tend to fail, by either stretching the humor way too far as it allows, or simply introducing situations, that are - by all means - not funny at all. Sadly, it happens incredibly often in vn's, where most of it is based on hilariously cliched scenarios.

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2 hours ago, Okarin said:

Steins;Gate is one of the most dramatic and science-heavy VNs out there, and still you can have plenty laughs with most of the content.

That's because they succeeded in creating a lovable cast of characters there, it's not exactly your "already seen it" typical slice of life comedy.

Besides, what better way to appeal to an otaku than talking of things they love?

Yeah, I agree. Steins;Gate is one of the very rare VNs that strike a wonderful balance of serious drama and comedy, while still being pretty original. Its writing and story-telling has been one that I hope to emulate. From what I've read, it may be a very good idea for me to use comedy as a means for the player to grow attached to the characters in the game, and perhaps once that attachment and familiarity has been established, the drama that follows might have a much more emotional impact. What I still need to consider is how to build that connection and do it well. I suppose that's where my past gaming experience and knowledge should kick in, and Steins;Gate's writing is definitely one I need to research more carefully.

 

3 hours ago, ChaosRaven said:

Personally I prefer a more serious tone in VN's and I honestly feel pretty oversaturated from the typical school life comedy since it gets old pretty fast. And I have a real aversion against mixing serious story VN's with comedy. Not because humor wouldn't work in such VN's at all, but more because Japanese writers just don't understand the concept of a 'grim sense of humor'. They only know school life teenage humor and nothing else. 'Rough humor' like you might see in Quentin Tarantino's works or what a seasoned war veteran might spit out is completely beyond them. That's why VN's like Chusigura or Tokyo Babel didn't really click with me, even if they do have their qualities.

I think for more serious VN's I like Innocent Grey's or early TypeMoon and AkabeiSoft2's writing styles the most. And for more comedic stuff I enjoy light-hearted story VN's like Koihime, Walkure Romanze or Unionism Quartet which aren't too serious but aren't non-stop gag-machines either. Not the biggest fan of pure comedy VN's, but Majikoi was fun, Alcot's My Girlfriend is the President too, and Yuzusoft VN's in small doses aren't bad either.

Thank you for mentioning the games whose writing styles you enjoy. I realize I should research past games that have been successful in this department. I also have grown tired of the typical school life comedy, and I think I understand what you are trying to say about Japanese writers and teenage/immature humor. Of course, there are people who enjoy these types of humor, so I guess it really depends on the context and tone of the game. 

 

2 hours ago, EdwardWongHPTIV said:

Yeah, I agree that comedy should not equate to highschool slice of life. Just waaay too much of that on the market. You either have to stretch the setting in over the top ways or make a self aware parody for me to find it interesting. And even then it's a hit or miss because the genre makes the simpson's look like a fresh new idea.

I agree that the market is becoming over-saturated with the same type of comedy and the same 'shtick." If I understand your comment correctly, you would like to see a more original, and perhaps more mature, type of humor in your VNs. Noted.

Edited by Eirrir
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Comedic with a touch of seriousness for sure. Without any dramatic tension, there is far less involvement in pure comedy and drama without comedy is only for potentiating teenage angst or mental masturbation as @Clephas said. To be perfectly honest I don't even understand why any overall comedic happy VNs ever have any bad endings either, but perhaps that's just because I'm an old bastard and know real drama from the real world only too well and use VNs for pure escapism.

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I absolutely prefer a comedic tone.
Surely there's nothing you can't tackle without a hint of good humour? Wait, no, you'd probably get booed down for writing something "distasteful" or "disrespectful".

If I were to state my preferences, I generally prefer something entirely comedic, though bursts of serious themes are not unwelcome when being serious seems to be the best way of tackling the issues.
 

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I'm not sure I've read a VN that was 100% serious all the way through. Of course VNs with some serious content vary in how much comedy they have, Grisaia is loaded with it while something like Sharin has a little less. I think the general structure is some comedy or light hearted moments while you get to know the character/setting before gradually moving into more serious territory. No interesting/thrilling/dark VN story I've read has been "ruined" by having some light hearted moments in the build up.

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