I have an idea that I think will work pretty well as anime, not only that, it will also throw a few quite significant twists to the character tropes and common plot-lines of anime. (I will not outline the detail of the idea because I don't think it matters that much.)

However, I am bad at drawing, so I am considering writing out the story as a full-fledged novel. For all intents and purposes, consider this task to be the complete translation of an anime story into traditional fantasy fiction.

What kind of difficulty may I encounter?

  • 2
    Anime like a TV show, or manga like a graphic novel?
    – CHEESE
    Jan 26, 2017 at 2:26
  • I think you should take a look at light novels, many of them are written in hope that they are going to be adapted into anime someday. Jan 26, 2017 at 11:17
  • @CHEESE: I don't think it matters, but if anything, a "mainstream" anime series like Naruto or Bleach would do, either in drawing or animation form.
    – user289661
    Jan 26, 2017 at 20:08
  • @I_LIKE_BREAD7: could you give some examples please? (link preferred)
    – user289661
    Jan 26, 2017 at 20:08
  • @user289661 Here's a list of some light novels translated into English baka-tsuki.org/project/… You can also look here baka-tsuki.org/project/index.php?title=Category:Light_novel for other languages. Jan 27, 2017 at 7:46

6 Answers 6


If you think it will work best as anime, write it as anime. Even if you can't draw, there are plenty of illustrators who can't write, and you could make a good team.

However, if you don't want to do that, here are some difficulties you may encounter in adapting anime to novel.

I think it all comes down to that one great standby "show don't tell." In graphic novels of any kind, showing is easy--just put it in the picture and voila, it's shown. But in a novel, you have to stop and write about things. For one frame, one still shot that readers flip by in normal anime, you would have to dedicate a paragraph of solid description, or skip over important details.

In addition, when writing a graphic novel, you don't get the chance to really get inside the character's head unless they sit down and start rattling all their feelings, which should never happen. In a novel, though, the character's feelings and thoughts play a big role.

Graphic novels translated literally make for very dry prose because their only content is dialogue and action. To make this into a novel, you have to spice things up a bit; add some intrigue, some character development, a point of view. You need to really write the writing, not just the story.

And remember: don't write it as an adaptation of an anime story, write it as a true novel, because that's what you want it to be like.

  • If you think it will work best as anime, write it as anime. Even if you can't draw, there are plenty of illustrators who can't write, and you could make a good team. Sounds like an appealing alternative. Can you elaborate what you meant by "write it as anime"? As in, do I sketch out the work anyways despite my poor skill? Or is there a special genre for "instruction for illustrator" consisting of prose?
    – user289661
    Jan 26, 2017 at 20:15
  • @user289661 I'm not totally sure how the process works, as I've never done. But I think you want to find an illustrator who likes your idea, then give them a general idea of what you're feeling. You're not paying the illustrator to draw for you, the two of you are collaborating.
    – CHEESE
    Jan 26, 2017 at 20:25

I'm sure I'm going to be stating the obvious quite a bit, but meh.

In anime, or any visual art, the world shows itself. You cannot monologue and tell the motivation, you need to show through visual action. Subtleties can be places all over the place to set the tone. And the viewer is pretty much a 'fly on the wall'. You need to put enough of the right kinds of action to keep your core audience happy, and to attract newbies to the stands. You cannot tell what's going on, you need to show it.

Sounds like how people profess they write, doesn't it?

Naruto scene

Except, it isn't. When you draw, you see the same thing someone else sees. Sure, your focus might be somewhere else, but you're getting in the same image.

When writing, all you have is words. With these words, you must sculpt the world in which the magic happens. You cannot subtly hint at something with a 'screenshot' that hides the clues. You need to show something with words and keep the reader guessing the hard way.

More importantly, writers have tools anime and visual artists never get: Emotions, Feelings, thoughts.

Instead of showing anger in facial expression, a writer describes it. A downward curl in the lip, an upwards tug in the cheek. Balled fists, a razor sharp glare. A burning fury within our beloved hero, one which is struggled against to not make things worse. Perhaps a queasy feeling in her stomach, as she sits next to the boy she's secretly in love with.

And perhaps most importantly, the difference in word choice. It isn't as pronounced in any visual art, because words are less than 20% of communication. Now, words are 100%, it's literally all you have.

So compare:

  • She shuffled her feet, drudged through the class, and slumped into her seat. "G'mornin'," she grumbles, rubbing the back of her hand against her eye.

  • She bounced through the crowd, making a beeline for her seat. She's wearing the hugest grin ever! Her eyes dart to and fro, taking in rays of light as they bounce off the happy people around her. "Good morning, everyone!"

  • She hums a catchy tune, a song she heard on the radio that just got stuck. The buzzing crowd she finds herself in drowns it out, but she doesn't mind. She passes her classmates, making her way to her seat, right beside Mina. "Someone's in a good mood," Mina grumbles, glaring at her.

The words used set the tone. Descriptive language colours the picture, and can make or break your scene.

Hope this helps ^_^


I suppose one could also consider the difference in the user experience of watching anime versus reading a novel.

Watching anime is somewhat "passive" in that most of the details are directly apparent -- little is left to the imagination (in more ways than one). In a novel however, you have to achieve a balance between the flow of the writing and the details; you have to give enough for the reader to digest, without giving them so much that it bogs things down. Reading is more "active" because it asks the reader to engage and use their imagination to color in the lines laid out by the writer.

In a way, what you are trying to do is to take that part of your story that does not rely on visual details -- delivering the "essence" of the anime, so to speak.

As suggested by @CHEESE, you would do well in considering how to expand characterization and character thoughts / feelings when translating it into written form (Without a face to read, a reader is less capable of empathizing with the character).


I don't have enough reputation to comment, but in response to the conversation with CHEESE, I would suggest reading/watching the beginning of Bakuman.

It involves a young mangaka and a writer who work together, and does explain what the mangaka expects from the writer. They go through a few methods, involving the writer simply writing a story and presenting it to the mangaka, then making names (sketches with appropriate panels but he used stick-figures, since he couldn't draw) and at one point just writing out the names to leave the general flow of the art to the mangaka.

There will, of course, be differences even between manga and anime that follow each other very closely. For example, the importance of movement in an anime is something that can't always be perfectly conveyed in manga or writing. But if you're unfamiliar with the process, and this is the route you want to go with your story, I think it would be worth your time.


Novels that are not Graphic Novels have only two forms of communication: Dialogue and Description. Anime has Video and Audio. Any communication not shared between two forms of Media is a potential loss of information. In some situations a description fails to represent a visual image accurately without adding or removing detail. This is common to Voice Acting as well.

What you're really asking is what makes an Adaptation consistent or inconsistent, as good or better than. And that depends entirely on the work being adapted. Sometimes the best answer is to leave it be, whereas some works don't really leverage the distinctions of their Mediam and were always better off elsewhere.


Pretty much most animes are based on a novel, so write a novel and try to get it as anime. That should be the main part of your work. Even in Animes, most parts of a novel are cut out or stretched endlessly or filled with non canonical storys, just stretch or shorten it up

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