DEEP CATACOMBS - Ah, the last instalment in my trilogy of articles. (See: A
Story Seminar & Another
Story Seminar.) So far, I've covered creating characters and most of the
plot. I'll just quickly expand on the final part of the plot section: ending
Your story can't ramble on for ever and ever. There has to be a definite end
to it. A bad, unsatisfactory ending will leave the reader feeling cheated and
annoyed: there's nothing worse than reading a good story only to be let down
at the end.
Firstly, an ending must be an ending. It should, ideally, resolve any problems
encountered in the story, complete any adventure, answer any questions. For
a short story, you will need to wrap it up completely. It is a stand alone and
the best ending to have is one that decisively finishes the story. You can leave
cliff hangers, which are effective in some stories: i.e. horror stories etc.
A cliff hanger or a mysterious ending may just leave the reader full of questions
instead of completing the story. You should treat each part of a short story
series as a short story, with its own complete ending.
Many endings also deal with the effects the story has had on the characters.
Perhaps they have learnt something from the story, lost or gained something,
kept a memento. If you're going to put your characters back at home, or where
they were, then this is quite a good idea, to show the story hasn't been pointless.
If their circumstances have changed, you may not need to do this.
For continued series, there is more freedom with the endings, because there
are more of them. Each part needs an ending. Most of these are cliff hangers
or, just simply, "They went home, pondering what tomorrow would bring." Cliff
hangers are useful to bring suspense and keep the reader anxious for the next
part. A more mellow ending can be used just to end up that part and move the
story on. You can do this easily in series, because the part will roll over
into the next one, so it's not a proper ending, just a break in the story. The
real ending for the series is often prolonged over a part or so and ties up
every detail from the story.
There is one more thing you should consider with your endings: sequels. I have
occasionally left room in my endings for sequels. I think it's a good thing
to do. Don't leave the ending too open: it should still finish up that particular
story. However, you may find it advisable to leave something slightly unfinished
or slightly open so that you can write a follow up if you want to.
Remember: never have a cliché ending. They lived happily ever after? No one
does, after all. They woke up and it was all a dream? How cheated is your reader
going to feel, after following a story for ages and then finding out it has
no decent ending? Endings are very important to a story: you can't just tail
off or stop abruptly. Treat it with the same respect as the rest of your story!
Under this heading, I'll list some devices that can be used in stories to good
Often put in italics, these can constitute a large part of the story. Beware
of too many unnecessary flashbacks, which will only detract from the current
plot. But occasional usage of these can serve to move a story onwards and explain
events currently happening.
I often put a small sentence in italics at the beginning or end of a story.
This is useful to set the mood. I also think it helps draw the reader in and
draw the reader out again slowly: from story, to a more general quote.
I've done this once and it's good fun. Make up your own song and base your
story around it. It's interesting to try something different. You'll probably
have to use your own song, due to copyright issues with normal ones. My story
became my adventure, Glass Roses.
Not necessarily actual play scripts, but some Neopets stories are written in
a play format. They might be musicals, pantomimes etc. These stories go very
well if handled properly and are a refreshing new format to try out.
As part of a story, a poem often comes into play as an old prophecy or riddle
that must be deciphered. Make sure to keep them relatively short though: the
readers come to read stories, after all!
I think one of the most important things dividing a good story from a great
story is balance. Too much description slows the story down. Too much action
makes it confusing. Too much dialogue makes it choppy. You should use all of
these, in the right proportions. It's not a thing that can really be taught.
The best thing to do is to write, and then get someone else to give constructive
criticism on it. It's hard to pull off properly, but good balance really makes
a story stand out, and makes it a lot easier to read.
I write freehand first, then type up my stories. It's very time consuming but
it does ensure that they are properly edited as I type them up. It's very important
to edit your stories. There are always improvements to be made. Check through
for spelling and grammar errors first. Then think about your story. Is there
a plot hole? Did a character magically gain a certain item?
There is also word count to be considered. For short stories, 1200 words minimum
is recommended. There's a similar limit for articles - 1000 words, but more
is better. The limits reach up to about 3000 words. If your story goes over
that, consider splitting it up into parts and making it a series.
Ah, yes, the mystery illness that strikes us all down, when you simply cannot
seem to write. Everyone has different ways of getting past it. Some force themselves
to write, sometimes writing total nonsense, until they get some more inspiration.
Some listen to music or go on long walks: doing whatever they can to get a new
idea. I keep several stories on the go, and switch between them when I get bored
with one. Or I read through my old work or other people's stories, in order
to gain more ideas.
Sometimes, those creative juices just aren't gonna flow. So maybe do something
else for a hour or so. Read, edit, write articles on how to get over writer's
Sometimes, you just can't seem to let go of an idea. Maybe, if you've planned
carefully, you've left room for a sequel. Sequels can be great things. A new
plot, with firmly established characters, is sometimes easier to write and offers
great openings for rampant creativity. You have to watch out for recycling though.
Unlike in real life, recycling in stories is boring. You don't want a carbon
copy of your first story, or a plot that goes nowhere and adds nothing. You
need to input something fresh and original into your story.
If one character is such a great idea that you can't leave it alone, try having
recurring stories. For example, a private detective pet who solves a different
case each story. These characters become much loved and adored and well known
to readers. You can spend less time covering old ground and more developing
your character in detail.
However, each story needs to either contain links to the ones that have gone
before it, or have a small recap at the beginning of each story. New readers
will be picking up on your work too. They'll need to know what's going on.
Adventures: keep them short and snappy. Favour action over description, and over
dialogue. The character limit keeps each page quite short.
Series: describe settings, set up good characters, have a long but purposeful
plot. Send in all the parts at the same time!
Short stories: balance it carefully and make sure it is a self contained story
- with a conclusive ending.
Short story series: each part must be able to be a story in its own right.
Spotlights: focus on your pet/petpet, as this is their chance to shine!
Now just go ahead and write!