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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 20th day of Gathering, Yr 20
The Neopian Times Week 114 > Articles > A Story Seminar

A Story Seminar

by oily106

The title is really quite self explanatory, isn't it? If you've ever dreamt of being published in the Times or just writing a really great story, this article aims to help you. You won't see me around the Article section too much -- I much prefer writing short stories. But, for the benefit of anyone who wants to write a short story, I have emerged from the Short Story section in order to pass on any wisdom I may have gained to those still new to the art of short story writing.

This article is in depth. You may not even need that in a short story. I can write a short story without naming my characters or even giving them much of a personality. But that's not the aim here. If you want to write a story just for the trophy, this article isn't for you. It's for people who aim to improve and develop their writing and create a beautiful story, possibly a long running series.

The first thing is to short story writing or, indeed, any writing at all, is practice. Talent and creativity help but, without practice, they are nothing. We improve constantly and I know that my latest stories are very different to my first. With practice, my style of writing has really developed.

Along with practice comes perseverance. It is important not to give up, within limits. If your story has been rejected five times now, maybe it's time to write a new one. But if it gets rejected once, maybe just a little tweaking could improve it considerably and get it into the Times.

Also, you should develop your writing by reading -- a lot and widely. Fantasy is probably a useful genre to read, because Neopia is, after all, a fantastical world. Reading is also a great way to expand your vocabulary. Always look up words you don't know and try using them out occasionally.

Now that the basic lecture is over, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty of writing a story. Hopefully, I'll walk you through step by step until you have a neatly completed story.

Bear in mind that this article is very detailed and you probably won't need so much behind one short story. I think this article would be more appropriate for short story series or continued series.

Choose your medium

Personally, I write on paper first then type my stories onto the computer. This allows me to work on my stories when I want and yet gives me a chance to re-edit them and check them for errors as I type them up. Yet my articles are always typed straight onto the computer. It may take some experimentation to find what works best for you.

Don't forget, environment is important too. I can cope with background noise. Some people need absolute silence; others find they can't work without their favourite music blaring into their ears. Some people find certain music inspirational. Whatever works best for you.

And make sure your seat is comfortable!

Get inspired

Inspiration -- a fickle thing at the best of times. Sometimes, you have to hunt it down only for it to flee like a startled fawn. Sometimes, it comes along with a big brick and hits you on the head. The main thing is to be prepared for it. Make sure you always have a pen and paper handy to scribble down ideas. Often, inspiration will give you only a rough idea of the story. You need to sit down and work it out (but that'll come later!)

Firstly, you have to get inspired. There's the passive way and the active way. Passive mainly involves sitting around until a nice idea hits you. I've got a lot of story ideas passively -- pictures flashing into my mind, stories writing themselves inside my head. But when you're in a mood for writing, you can't rely on an idea coming to you. That's when you go out and search.

Active inspiration on Neopets is easy. Browse the Trading Cards; read the Neopedia; flip through the Gallery of Evil; explore all Neopia; find items with an interesting description. Sometimes, looking at pictures in the Art Gallery may inspire you. New Features can be a useful source of information too. Another thing to check out are your own pets -- some people develop hugely complicated stories and histories for their pets but never think of writing it down!

On Earth, in the real world, inspiration is harder to find. My advice is just to see everything with open eyes. I haven't written too many non-Neopets stories but I get inspired by everything -- from doors to dragons.

Don't be frustrated if you find thinking of an idea hard -- everyone does at times. Just try not to force yourself too much.

The next few points are not in order. On some stories, I make detailed characters and build a story around them. Sometimes, I work in other ways.

Creating the characters

Sometimes, you'll have characters before the story. Sometimes, characters come after inspiration, or through it. Either way, good characters are essential to any short story. Don't just think short stories are a throwaway thing: character development is still very important, even within a limited word count. Especially if you are writing a series of short stories or a normal series, you MUST have good characters.

Again, personal preference comes a lot into this. Some people can use their own pets in their stories: most do. Have you given your pets personalities? A history? A strange item or unique trait? Your pet could have a story behind it. Especially if you give your pet an unusual colour, you should really think how they got that colour.

I find it hard to use my own pets, but character development is essentially the same. There are many great guides out there for creating characters and while I will go into some detail, I suggest you check out those others too. While you needn't plan the characters in excessive detail, knowing everything from their favourite flavour of toothpaste to their most embarrassing moment, but you should know them quite well. In short story series, you can go into more detail, perhaps slowly revealing their history and maturing their personality. In one short story, you don't need this.

Characters should always be introduced slowly and perhaps not always be what they seem. Maybe that nice, friendly Acara is just manipulating you for her own needs. Never, ever introduce characters like this

- "Hey, I'm Garet. I'm a bold, ambitious Lupe. I'm green but I have two swirly teardrop markings on my paws and a small white stripe, measuring two and a half inches, on a thirty seven degree slant across my back. By the way, I'm not very nice and I'm going to cheat on that contest later." Characters must be subtle! I will elaborate on this more later. Personality Personality is the most important aspect and you need it in a good character. While you needn't be too detailed, it should be realistic. A hot-tempered Shoyru isn't going to rant and rave the whole time; peaceful pets aren't going to stand idly by while their friends get hurt. Personalities are very complicated and I don't think a thousand articles could do them justice. I'll list some points below, to help you draw up a character in your mind.

- Name three words to sum up the personality of your character.

- Are they realistic?

You can't have a lazy character who's also extremely active.

- Do they fit your story?

There's no hard and fast rule because a character should be able to fit into anything, but you should consider this.

- What would they do if…?

Just quickly run your character through a few simple tests. What would they do if confronted by a monster? If they wanted to get an item, but didn't have enough money? If they saw someone who looked upset? A few questions can help refine your character's personality and allow you to understand how they might work with a plot.

Make sure your character fits well too. Heroes are usually bold and brave but why not break out of the mould? Have a shy, nervy hero instead!


This may have a big impact on their personality. Someone who's gone through tragedy and unhappiness isn't going to be positive all the time -- they may get upset or moody at times for no reason. History can also be a driving plot factor -- maybe they're just re telling their history, maybe they're solving the unresolved questions posed by their past, maybe they're dealing with problems from the rest of their life.

A good history should answer a few main questions:

Where are their parents?
Do they have any siblings?
How did they get to where they are now?
What happened in their past?
How has this affected them?

Try to stay clear of clichés. The most overused one is the Faeries (and I am guilty of this too.) So many pets have been rescued by some sort of Faerie. Try to be original and it will make your character more original, too!


Especially in Neopets, this has a big impact. There is no need to have a special colour -- blue Aishas serve a story as well as Snow Flame ones would. The history often decides a choice of colour too. Avoid, if possible, intricately detailed markings, which will be a pain to explain. Make pets as simple as possible and easy to picture in your mind's eye -- try to relate them to a pet colour already in existence.

Also, make it logical. A pet can't have wings coming out of its legs -- it would make no sense! Be wary too of overloading your character. No one needs multi coloured eyes, feathery wings, ancient tribal markings and rainbow stars! Be sensible.


Not necessary for a character nor even, arguably, part of one. However, accessories are very useful. They may be an unresolved mystery from the character's past that spurs on the whole story. Maybe they're a reminder of a long lost brother or sister. Perhaps it's a weapon, which gives its bearers a strong magic and must be used to destroy some evil or must be destroyed itself.

Accessories can provide their own plot and are also fun to customise your character with and make entertaining side plots or revelations. I often enjoy giving a character a symbolic necklace or bracelet.


The most common is probably magic. It is certainly an interesting thing to give a character and allows you to maybe add a little more depth to a plot or extract characters from massive plot holes they shouldn't have fallen into. You must be careful with magic -- perhaps the magic is very limited or does not work all the time or is very exhausting to use. A character who is perfect is also a character who is boring. Magic must be handled delicately. I prefer not to use it: magic is too convenient to make a pet a hero or spice up a boring character. When written properly, it can be very useful though.

Other abilities may include very strong talents such as writing or drawing or acting or singing. Maybe your character is a chess grandmaster or beats everyone else at Cheat.

Adding It All Up

The above are just parts of creating a good character. Maybe you've gone through them all step by step and ended up with a blind, shy Aisha with a great singing voice and a purple starred coat who was blessed by Fyora and carries a mysterious ring. Isn't that a little too much for one Aisha? You have to consider the proportions in a character.

This guide has focused on creating one character. Yet character interaction is incredibly important. Everyone is different but two conflicting characters will clash a lot. Be careful and consider what you are doing! Conflicting characters may be the catalyst for a plot, or the force driving your characters onwards. Or it may just make your story seem improbable and jerky.

Finishing Up Characters

So you got your characters right? It's usually two or more main characters, up to possibly five. Series may get away with having more major characters. You should also have a minor character or two -- a three word personality and an appearance would do for creating them.

Preferably, readers should empathise with your characters. This means leaving your characters open to human (or Neopet) flaws. Steer clear of the dreaded "Mary Sue" -- the character that is perfect in virtually every way! Flaws make a character interesting, and that makes your story interesting.

On my last word on characters, you must make sure to introduce them properly. Appearance is the first thing -- it's when characters will first meet. Then the first impression: usually just a surface skim of their personality. Characters speak loudest through their actions: try not to describe their personality directly, but show it through how they act.


The Shoyru slumped down moodily in his seat.
The Eyrie preened her feathers meticulously.

That tells you more about the character, more subtly. Make sure that the first character is well introduced too: more on that next article, when I'll also cover writing from different viewpoints and the rudiments of a plot.

'Till next article!


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