People tell us books are dying and no-one is reading anymore, especially young people – but is that true? In this increasingly digital world, haven’t we simply found new ways of telling stories?
People write and read all day, without even realising it, through Facebook posts, news feeds, blog articles, etc. You probably write over a thousand words a day of non-fiction, just sharing ideas with your friends.
But what about fiction? We now read it differently. I’ve recently stumbled upon the world of Visual Novels. A visual novel is what it says on the tin: a novel with drawings to support the story. They are usually focused on dialogue and character interaction, with a first-person narrator. They include drawings of backgrounds and characters, plus music to make the read more enjoyable. Some of these visual novels work like games, with the player choosing what the main character says – but others, called “kinetic novels” are more akin to a film or a graphic novel. You click to change line, but the story unfolds without your intervention.
You could argue that these visual novels are shorter than novels, and so less demanding for the reader. Not necessarily! As a comparison: the full Harry Potter series, counting the 7 books, is about one million words. Clannad, a popular visual novel, is just over that one million wordcount. In a visual novel you might not play all the timelines, and so you might not read all the possible outcomes of a dialogue – it’s still reading, and lots of it.
A visual novel is a cross between a graphic novel, an animated movie, a videogame and a novel. But this doesn’t mean the writing is being lost – on the contrary, it’s being enriched by all these media. Often published and shared on the internet, the stories are made accessible to a large number of people worldwide. Fans of immersive worlds often want to create their own visual novels based on stories they liked, which only encourages people to write and read more.
So let’s read – and not be afraid to read differently.