SCREAMS THAT’S ACTUALLY A REALLY GOOD QUESTION NO NEED TO BE SORRY
Literary writers worry about this too: here’s some post for literature for there thoughts on the subject.
Since we’re writing dialogue that’s never going to be spoken though, RPG Maker & other non-narrated games employ ellipses a bit more often than their literary counterparts. So there are a few more right ways to use ellipses in RPG Writing than there are literary writing.[[MORE]]
If you’re not using ellipses as an omission, the overall rule you need to keep in mind is Ellipses add time to dialogue. The more ellipses you have, the longer your conversation is going to appear. So if a scene is going at a normal or urgent pace, there’s no need to insert them unless a character is deliberately pausing mid sentence. For example…
When Someone is Unsure of Something: “I think Joe went to the store… I can’t remember though.”
Realizing a Mistake: “…you’re not here to talk, are you?”
Trying to find a politer word: “Yeah, Jenny’s pretty, uh… flighty, I guess.”
Listing things (when appropriate): “There’s games, there’s food, there’s monkeys on unicycles… it’s everything you could ever want!”
As an Emotional Pause or Delay: “Yeah… I know what that’s like.”
The first four aren’t as common, so they tend not to need regulation. The last one however, tends to be overused, whether it’s due to novice writers thinking that all dialogue is dramatic & emotional and thus needs more pauses, or because they think that adding more pauses will make the dialogue more realistic (which is true, but it’s not as fun to read). Either way, it tends to drag the action to a screeching halt, or makes your characters all sound like they’ve just gotten concussions, both things you want to avoid.
A way to limit yourself on unnecessary pauses this is write the script how you normally would, re-read it, then go back and delete all the ellipses. Re-read it again: if the whole sequence sounds better, leave it as is. If there are some areas that you think need a pause or two, insert them back in.
Now, onto more video game specific stuff!
Boxes of Dots by Themselves
When used occasionally as a text box by themselves, ellipses can be a powerful, long pause that can add dramatic tension or set up a good punchline. When used too much though, they can bog down the narrative in useless pages of extra text.
Here’s some guidelines:
If it’s a quick silence, the regular 3 ellipses in a single box will work just fine (like if someone said something stupid or someone is choosing their words carefully speak). If it’s a longer pause, usually you don’t need to take up more than half the box like Red from Pokemon up there. Filling the box entirely can be used for comedic effect.
Ask yourself, “can the same idea be conveyed by having an actual pause in the dialogue?” As in, drop the dialogue boxes entirely, have a 2-3 second delay, then pick them back up again. This is especially good if you want the player to focus on an action the over world sprite of a character is doing.
Hell, if you’re using talk sprites, you can just show the talk sprite by itself without a dialogue box. The audience will know they’re not talking because, well, there won’t be a text box!
Don’t use more than 3 boxes of just ellipses in a row. If you have to use 3 in a row, do it once or twice in the entire game. You want to save it for really special occasions.
If you are using 3 at one time and you’re a talk sprite game just like Wadanohara, this is a really good chance to convey your character’s emotions through just pictures. Observe my 5 second trackpad doodle in photoshop elements:
While not the best drawing, you got the emotion the doodle was going through in just 3 frames: first holding back, then raising their defenses, then crying. You can do this with any emotion (or emotions in case the character is feeling a mix) of course, but dramatic moments tend to come with silence so :u
As Part of a Character Quirk
It’s fine to have a character who talks mostly in “…”, or has most of their sentences trail off at the end. And when I say “a character”, I do mean one character for each type (one for trailing, one for silence) in the main or side cast. Here’s a few notes on those:
Trailing characters (those who end or begin their sentences with “…” but still talk) cover a variety of personality types: shy, tired, bored, etc.. Silent characters - like Fukami from Wadanohara - are usually the silent types since they’re not saying anything. The exact way they talk makes them unique in conversation, and gives their dialogue personality when it’s only them doing it, thus why you can’t have more than one of each in the cast. Don’t worry, other cast members can slip into ellipses from time to time. Just not as often as these guys do.
While you can’t make more than one main or side character be “…” all the time, it’s a-ok to have area-bound NPCs trail off in the speech. They’re not really characters as much as they are flavored text, so they won’t stand out too much in the player’s mind, keeping the focus on the main/side character.
Do NOT cut back to a character unless they have something to say in conversation. And no, “…” is not something. That’s silence. The audience will know that the character did not speak if you don’t include them in the conversation. It’s ridiculous: the audience will still remember that the character’s there. The only time you should cut back to them are A) if they’re talking B) if their silence is a direct reply (Rei: Wanna go ice-skating? Kay: …. Rei: I’ll take that as a no.)
As Ambiguous Dialogue for a Silent Protagonist
Some games have silent protagonist. When the game wants them to say something, usually, one character will be talking, then ask the protagonist a non-yes or now question, and then reply as if they actually spoke.
NPC: Player, do you think there’s hope for humanity?
Player: ……… ……… ………
NPC: …. I see. You are right, there are many times where we have been helped in the past. Thank you for clearing my head like that.
This is limited by nature: if the player character is asked too many questions like that, you might as well have them give actual answers instead. So I wouldn’t worry about that.
For Super Emotional Scenes
Yes, it’s alright to have one or more people at a time dropping ellipses like period all over the place. Sometimes, the narrative needs to be slowed down, and emotions felt in real time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Like the rest, use in moderation so that everything feels extra special.
And that’s my guide on how to properly use ellipses in vidya games. …I didn’t mean to write that much, but I hope this helped!
OH WAIT BEFORE I GO: For those of you thinking, “Hey, putting more ellipses in would be a great way to pad out my story!” Well, you’re right, but that’s like saying, “A good way to make my essay longer is to write down a sentence, then write down the same sentence again but change the word order around so it looks different.” Yeah, it’s a way to pad it out, but it’s lazy, boring, & people are going to notice all the times you do it. Treat your audience better than your teacher and give them something interesting to read about instead. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a short game. uwu