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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 14th day of Celebrating, Yr 19
The Neopian Times Week 118 > Articles > Another Story Seminar

Another Story Seminar

by oily106

DEEP CATACOMBS - Welcome back to the second article in this article series on how to write stories. Last article, we covered the basics of creating a character. In this article, we'll move onto using the characters and creating a plot.

Firstly, choose your viewpoint. Are you writing as "I" in first person, as if you were one of the characters? Because then everything you see and do will be influenced by the character.

You can also write in third person, as if you were there, watching your characters. Third person often allows you to describe events more freely, but first person often allows you to describe emotions more. Decide which one you want and stick to it! Changes in person are incredibly irritating!

Little touches help the story. A Gelert or Lupe may often describe smells as well as what they see, because they have an extremely sensitive nose. Flotsams have flippers, not feet – how is this going to affect them?

Occasionally, you may have to switch viewpoints, perhaps to build up an effective contrast. I usually do this with *** between two paragraphs, to indicate I've changed viewpoints. Some people choose to put one character into italics instead. Whatever you prefer, as long as you make it clear you are switching from one character to the other.

I think I've just about covered characters now and you've probably got restless and wondered how will I ever manage to make a story now? Well, you need another thing – a plot.

Plots

Plots are arguably the most important thing in a story. Plots are when you fall into your grandma's cellar and discover a mystic sword. Plots are when you walk down the road. They can be detailed or really pretty simple.

Plots are always driven by an event, or a problem. Characters may provide the problem but occasionally, you may just have to make up a problem from an outside influence.

This is where all your hard work in creating your characters comes into play. Examine them and try different categories.

First, there is your ordinary, everyday type story. Maybe a day in Neoschool for your pet; maybe just your character's birthday. Your Neohome is a great place to set a story: there's you and all your pets to consider and it's easy to find a good plot. Also included under this type of story are mini adventures: scary trips your pets have had on Halloween etc. I think it's best to try to include humour in this type of story too, to make it fun to read.

Second, there is what I term a "quest" type story. Maybe an artifact of huge destructive power or a mystical gem must be found in order to save/destroy the world. These type of stories are usually quite long and more "serious." They tend to be epic type adventures but there's a wide range of ideas available for them. You usually travel in tons of new places, meet new companions and dig up old legends, all while saving the world along the way.

Thirdly, there are the more "historic" type stories. These stories tend to use well known Neopian characters, because your own characters are usually not well known enough to interest everyone. It's easy to get many ideas for these type of plots from the Neopedia or Trading Cards. Ever wondered where Princess Sankara went? If the Snow Faerie is actually evil? It's best to give your story an interesting twist: no one's going to want you to say Sloth is evil and Fyora is good. We know that! Try changing it around: now that's an interesting story!

And there's also a general adventure type story. You introduce your character to the reader and speak briefly of their situation. Then you plunge into an adventure which, by the end of 2000 words or so, is usually resolved. Occasionally, you may choose to expand the adventure and make it a series. Often, these stories feature one off characters but some characters you will see popping up again and again, each time with a new story.

Of course, these are not the only type of stories! Don't feel the need to be limited. Try a different type of story: break some new ground! These are just the main type of stories I've seen around.

Personally, I think plots are driven by conflict or by desire. Desire to have an item, to be the best in the Battledome, to ace a test at Neoschool or rule the world. Desire is a powerful, motivating force and drives the plot forwards. Of course, you might have a bumbling, unlucky character who unwillingly falls into an adventure. But most characters offer to help hide the thief or look for the lost necklace, creating the beginning of an adventure.

The other force is conflict: this helps create an interesting plot. Maybe your annoying sibling is foiling your world domination plans or you have a rival. Rivals or other enemies are generally called "antagonists." While you don't necessarily need one, they're great to force your plot onwards, to create some interest or provide comic relief. You can pick a well known Neopian enemy, or create your own.

Another important thing to consider is whether your story is humorous of serious. Those are not exclusive conditions: I've seen many stories with both. It should be appropriate used though: a tense moment just before the villain grabs the powerful ring should not be treated with a rousing rendition of M*YNCI's latest hit. Remember, humour is no excuse for a boring plot!

Now, it's time to start. I often plan out plots for series briefly before I begin, so I don't end up with a totally illogical plot. This also helps the plot to run more smoothly and is less confusing for you to write. I'm going to repeat a mantra you've probably heard many, many times: Beginning, Middle and End.

Beginning

First, introduce your character. Like I said last time, introduce them subtly. You may want to start with some action, like:

A scruffy looking Lupe hurtled along a narrow alley way, the shiny, precious statue clasped in his mouth.

Or:

"I said to be quiet!" the Uni screamed.

Maybe you decide to start more sedately. Then you will have more time to describe the setting and character.

The small Cybunny stretched out on the lush green grass of Meridell, lying in the small patch of shadow cast by the nearby trees.

It is important to give your readers a mental image of who your character is and where they are. Most of the sentences above say that, in varying detail and will, if I developed them into a story, go on to describe the environment and situation briefly. Stories are about creating pictures in your readers' minds: confusing and non descriptive beginnings will just annoy your reader and they will probably not bother to continue reading.

Probably the best thing to do is to grab your reader. I enjoy being plunged into a new situation, with a hint of mystery about it. Another pet lying in a grassy meadow doesn’t draw me in. That's not to say it still can't be a great story but overly long descriptions put people off.

I personally start some of my stories with a quote or a short philosophical sentence, in order to set up some interest.

Middle

Ahh, the middle. Think of the beginning and end as pieces of bread: the middle is the great meaty (or vegetarian alternative) filling. Sure, it's great to have nice bread but all bread and no substance will leave the reader feeling cheated. The middle is where you stick your event, or possibly mull over previous events. This is the story part of your story.

There's not that much to say for this: middles are specific to your story. The main thing is that something should either have already happened, or be happening. This is the event. A long plot may have many, many events, divided into smaller subplots even. But something must happen to your character.

My advice? Plan, plan, plan. Otherwise, your story will run out of steam pretty quickly. A plan for a story might look like this:

(So-and-so) finds a mystic item/ (NoName)decides she is bored.

This is the catalyst of the story: something that starts the plot off.

She meets up with (Blah), who is her friend/ Someone tries to steal the mystic item off (NoName.)

This is introducing another character and, in the case of the second scenario, setting up some conflict.

(Blah) and (So-and-so) run away and fall in with some pirates by accident/ (NoName) falls captive to the mystic item.

This is introducing a problem, something the character will have to overcome.

(Blah) and (So-and-so) free all the other prisoners and try to escape from the ship, but (Blah) unfortunately is captured at the last minute and the pirates sail off into the horizon/ (NoName) breaks free of the mystic item when the thief steals it off her. The thief is trapped inside the item and (NoName) is free!

And this is the ending. The first one is not a particularly happy ending: freedom has come at the price of a friend, but the problem has been resolved. In the second one, the "baddy" has met his downfall and (NoName) is free.

The second plot is slightly more boring: (NoName) spends a lot of time trapped inside the item. You'll have to make sure that there is another interesting character questing to free her or something. The first scenario is quite neat, but the ending is loose. Where did (Blah) go? I think it leaves room of a sequel…

And talking of room and of sequels, I think I'd better wrap up this article here. Next article, look for tips on ending, balancing your story and other miscellaneous information.


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