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 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
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
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.
"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.
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
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