How do you organize dialogue when writing?

Damascus7

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As I'm starting to get into the later stages of developing my demo, I really have to buckle down on writing dialogue for the game. The problem I'm running into is how to organize all the dialogue in my game on my computer on a way that makes sense, and is easy to find everything.

Currently, I have separate documents for every main quest and side quest in the game, and then sub-sections for the "scenes" in those quests. This has worked well enough for a while, but I'm running into problems when dialogue connects to other dialogue in other quests or outside of quests.

I'm also thinking about using "codes" to make it easier to search for certain dialogue (like Q1S1 for quest 1 scene 1), but I'd still like to figure out a good way to organize everything before I come up with that.

For you game devs, what's your preferred way to organize your dialogue as you're working on it?
 

ATT_Turan

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I just do it directly into the game - when I'm adding a quest, I'll go to all relevant locations and add any conversation options while I remember.

When I'm writing a prolonged conversation for a cutscene, I'll write it out in a Word doc first just to make sure I get it finalized before I put it in and add in movements and balloons and such.

But if you look it up, there are tons of writers tools for this kind of thing...Scrivener, Evernote, a wiki.
 

Tai_MT

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Honestly, a lot of the writing you pick up from doing plays tends to transfer well into writing for games.

But, if you have no experience writing plays (and I really didn't until I started trying to write video games)...

Your options are basically limited to "what comes next?" in terms of the story. You can write your side quests as "stand alone" affairs like most RPG's do (because if your players don't do the sidequest, then it's effect on the narrative is zero... so having them not interact with the main quest makes the most sense) or you can write them as something that can only be done at specific points, and so all dialogue is relevant to the storyline.

Honestly, the easiest method is the "standalone" stuff. You see it in pretty much every single RPG ever made. Side Quests are just that... stand-alone things that happen at the edge of your story and don't hinge on anything to do with the Main Story. They are their own stories. Think of them as vignettes.

Once you've decided on that... you need to "get into the heads" of your characters. That is... know your characters inside and out so that you'll know how they will respond to any given situation and even each other. Dialogue will flow easily and smoothly once you're able to do this. If you need help, then I suggest you watch two movies to sort of see what that looks like. Alien and Aliens. There are a couple segments of these movies where the actors are just having conversations. They're talking over each other, past each other, slipping in and out of dialogue and conversate with ease with each other. This is how you want your dialogue to feel and sound. More organic and less like a stage play. You don't need to invent drama, it will happen naturally. Heart-wrenching moments will happen naturally.

As for organizing dialogue...

I guess I'm not sure what you mean.

See, there are two kinds of writers, near as I can tell. There are those who see the story and the characters as a series of systems and tropes and archetypes and can put them together in very compelling ways. They are "The Science Writers". Or... rather... that's what I call them. For them, everything has a place, and everything must be in its place. It's a lot of "If X, then Y".

The second type is what I am.

"The Window Writers". These are writers who don't create stories, they just communicate them. The story flows through them. From somewhere, somewhen, someother. It isn't their story. They didn't create it. The characters are their own. I did not create Alex, Alex informed me of his existence. I did not make Alex do something terrible, he just told me the terrible things he did. I just work a little magic on it to make it more compelling to read. For these sorts of writers, it happens naturally. They are given the raw product and must simply refine it into something compelling.

So, personally, I have no idea what my characters are going to say until they say it. I don't know what they're going to do until they do it. I don't know where the story is going to end until it does. I don't organize my dialogue, I just "pretty it up". My characters organize it. So, I can't tell a story in any way except linearly. X happened, so how does that change things? Does it change things?

For moments of absolute brilliance where my characters have talked to me "out of order" (I refer to it as "Relaying The Past"), I just write the dialogue down somewhere. Maybe it will be used. Maybe it won't. But, referring back to it every now and again reminds me of who these people are. What they stand for. What they believe in. How they feel about any given topic or person.

For example:
Lydia: "Alex, the history of the world has been people securing their futures through violence. There is no doubt in my mind that 1000 years in the future, humanity will continue that trend. I became a cleric to ease the suffering that comes from securing the future."

This has no place in my story. Not anywhere. But it tells me everything I need to know about Lydia and her relationship with Alex. She views Alex as naïve. She views the world as terrible and unkind. She is doing what she can to save parts of the world she can, because she believes humanity is incapable of moving beyond what it is. She views violence as necessary, but also a sad fact of the world. That's Lydia.

If I know who Lydia is, it's much easier to listen to her, to understand her, and to "pretty up" her words and dialogue in any conversation she's having.

The characters organize the dialogue for me. I need only take notes when it doesn't fit into the story they're telling.
 

Damascus7

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I just do it directly into the game - when I'm adding a quest, I'll go to all relevant locations and add any conversation options while I remember.

When I'm writing a prolonged conversation for a cutscene, I'll write it out in a Word doc first just to make sure I get it finalized before I put it in and add in movements and balloons and such.

But if you look it up, there are tons of writers tools for this kind of thing...Scrivener, Evernote, a wiki.
Unfortunately I come up with a lot of dialogue before I can actually put it in the game, like I'm still working on the map and scripts. I suppose I could always put placeholder events, but I think that would very quickly get confusing.

To Tai: I'm not really sure how to best describe it. I don't mean how to actually write game dialogue, but how to store it and organize it in documents before it's ready to go into the game.

Right now I'm organizing the documents themselves like this:

1632794550207.png

Inside the document I generally use headers for different scenes, but I'm struggling with how I want to organize dialogue that branches or loops back to a previous point, or connects to a scene in a different document. It's kind of a mess of brackets and hyphens and indents.

1632794716292.png
 

AeroFunk80

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Writing dialogue, story, and lore is my favorite part of designing games. I actually go TOO far with it sometimes LOL However; what helps me... and I'm not a pro. I don't consider myself to be the best, but this is what I do:

1. I write out a short synopsis of that scene. What is my ultimate outcome? Figure that out and then write the story up to it. Most writers don't go from beginning, middle, and end. I often write end dialogue first, then some middle, then beginning... and then fill in the gaps.

2. Before I write out dialogue for my characters, I remind myself...what is their personality? I always write up a quick description of each character (even vendors and NPCs). Is what they're saying matching who they are and what I'm going for?

3. I Always, always, always write my dialogue in a word document before putting it in-game. Changing it in Word is easier than the event (especially if you have choices). I also re-read it several times for changes, consistency issues, etc.

4. For choices... I put any tricky dialogue into a "test room." Go through it several times, test all choices, make changes... and when I feel it's good, I then throw it into my actual game. This makes testing it faster.

You appear to have a really good system down for organizing it. I always throw mine into one document and color coordinate choices, etc. Using various documents may help keep mine a bit more organized.
 

watermark

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I use Scrivener to write and organize my stuff. It does have pros and cons:

PROS
1. You can keep everything of a project in one file with groups and reorganize the order and grouping by dragging and dropping, which is easier than the Window's default file system.

2. There's a corkboard feature that allows you to move virtual index cards around. This is very useful when brainstorming because this allows you to see different plot points all in one place. It's easier to discern a pattern this way.

3. You can create hyperlinks to other sections. So in the case of choice dialogue, you can create a link with each choice and you can click on the choice to take you directly to the relevant dialogue.

4. It has a Screenplay mode if you prefer writing your dialogue in a screenplay format.

5. You can create templates for characters and locations.

CONS
1. It is a bit pricey. And you have to pay separate for Windows, Mac, and mobile platforms.

2. Formatting not as robust as Microsoft Word. Somethings, especially bullet lists, can get wonky at times.

Still, I would recommend using it.
 

AssumedPseudonym

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 I’m still in the early stages of my first project, so how I organize things is still a work in progress. Currently, I have a Google Doc with the basics of the story, but very little actual dialogue as yet. While I’ve had the general plot and sequencing done for a while, the specifics have been trickling in as I do mapping, specifics including NPCs, dialogue, general lore, and even a few sidequests. Seeing as I’m not actually doing eventing as yet, “organizing” consists of various sections under subheadings in that one aforementioned Google Doc.

 …Mostly.

 Before I did any actual mapping, I did up a rough sort of prototype of the game. It didn’t include combat, it was just placeholder maps, switches where necessary to advance the game sequence, and dialogue mostly consisted of, “Go there, do that.” There were a few places along the way where more fleshed out dialogue just kind of… happened, though, and I’ll be going back through the prototype once I get to the stage where I’m adding that into the main game.

"The Window Writers". These are writers who don't create stories, they just communicate them. The story flows through them. From somewhere, somewhen, someother. It isn't their story. They didn't create it. The characters are their own. I did not create Alex, Alex informed me of his existence. I did not make Alex do something terrible, he just told me the terrible things he did. I just work a little magic on it to make it more compelling to read. For these sorts of writers, it happens naturally. They are given the raw product and must simply refine it into something compelling.

 The way I’ve always described that is, “I’m not writing the story, the story’s writing itself. It’s just borrowing my fingers and vocabulary to do it.”
 

MoonBunny

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I have a rough list of events for the main story to take, but nearly all of the dialogue is written as it comes to me. I proofread and double check it, of course, but there's no real script that I follow.
Yeah, my process isn't interesting, but it seems to be working well for me.
 

gstv87

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how to organize all the dialogue in my game on my computer on a way that makes sense
in a way such that it reflects the structure of the story that gave birth to it.

........what, you're making the dialogue without having the story thought out first?
the map for finding the information conveyed by the dialogue, should be the script that put the characters on that scene in the first place.
 

Milennin

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I don't plan or organise any dialogue, I write it directly into the game as I go. Easy-peasy.
 

slimmmeiske2

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I tend to write NPC dialogue just in engine, but everything else I write in either one big Word document or in Celtx (depending on which computer I'm at). Since both programs have an overview, you can easily jump to the dialogue scene you need.
My Celtx overview looks something like this:
I. MAIN QUEST
I.1. Day 1
I.1.a. Intro Scene
II. SIDE QUESTS
II.1. Day 1
II.1.a. Clever Elsie

Celtx has gone paid, though there is a free online limited version available.
 

ElCheffe

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I usually prefer to write the dialogue directly within the engine, BUT: As I am not a native speaker I write it down in Word first, simply to use the integrated spelling check to ensure it doesn't contain any big errors.

For specific conversations, I have a sandbox area which is basically the first area you are transfered to when entering the game. I create a test conversation there to verify it works and copy/paste it to the correct place when I am happy.
This is mostly due to conversations being only available at a certain point of time during gameplay and this way I don't have to manually set all the switches etc. to test it.
 

ATT_Turan

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Inside the document I generally use headers for different scenes, but I'm struggling with how I want to organize dialogue that branches or loops back to a previous point, or connects to a scene in a different document. It's kind of a mess of brackets and hyphens and indents.
It sounds like you might benefit, as I suggested in my first post, from making a wiki out of it. There are plenty of free options, and it would be simple to have a few hyperlinked words at the end of a section that can jump you back to the top or to a different page.
 

palinskyjoe

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I write for a living, and I want to echo what @ATT_Turan is saying about creating a wiki or using Evernote or a similar program to organize your dialogue. The wiki thing is also a fun way to worldbuild, but that's an aside. Organizational programs come in VERY handy when you need to quickly search for files/seek specific text. It really is basically the same as what you're doing now with keeping your files organized on your computer, but in a more visual and streamlined way.

Real talk, Google Drive is even an easy and free solution for quick organization and searching of text files. Hyperlinking between docs and pages is super easy.

Also agree with @slimmmeiske2 on Celtx (omg I didn't know it wasn't totally free anymore, though, bummer) -- that is a great tool for writing dialogue in a script format.

The real trick is playing with a few, seeing which one resonates with you, and then sticking with it. I've heard Trello (a project management app) is actually fantastic for organizing ideas and images and files. Play around and you'll definitely find the one for you!
 

Damascus7

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This is a very late reply, sorry, I've had a crazy week. It's disappointing how many of these programs cost more than I can reasonably afford. I tried out Evernote, but it doesn't seem to allow me to make dialogue trees the way I want; I can't seem to nest stacks inside other stacks.

I've been playing around in Google Docs, and it's bookmark-hyperlink thing seems to be working very well for me! That should help me keep track of dialogue trees and jumping back to previous choices. This is probably what I'll be using from now on. Thanks for the tips everyone!
 

rollerbelchen

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As a free version compared to Scrivener (which I needed to use for some time and I really love it!) there is yWriter if I remember correctly. It works the same as Scrivener - you can make chapters and within the chapters you can writes scenes. So basically for your chapter in your game make a new chapter in yWriter and within that chapter you can write every dialog in a scene.
I used it a while ago so sort some recipes for my mom and it works pretty well the sorting part. As for writing a novel I wont recoment it though. It's to busy for my taste compared to Scrivener and Papyrus - later one isn't cheap at all but worth it in my opionion (at least for a German author XD)

Sorry for the late response :kaoswt:
 

GazStation-5

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Woah thread that very inspiring, this is my also my 1st experience writing story, since Scrivener paid so then I'm using manuskript- it's free, so far so good but who knows? still on early stage to say something about it

:VXA2:
 

Ninjakillzu

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Organized writing? *gasp* What is that? :kaomad3::kaomad3:

Honestly, I just write dialogue as I go along. I keep all of my world building in a google/word doc.
 

uglywolf

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Like most others do.

I also doing it directly in the maker.

I tend to make sure I keep the character biodata next to me when doing it, so that I can keep their personality intact.
I didn't keep their biodata as data, I used physical paper and documents instead for faster browsing, ofc, barely organized.
 

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