As a professional (and often published in The Neopian Times) writer, I am frequently
Neomailed with questions about how to write well, or how to refine one's writing
skills. Because of this, I have put together this three part writing workshop
to help aspiring writers hone their skills.
Everyone (yes, this means you!) can write a short story. The key elements
to short story writing are an imagination and an idea. Harnessing the powers
of your imagination can be easy if you know how. This simple step by step guide
to short story writing can help you realise your writing potential.
Determine your Skill Level:
A basic understanding of grammar and tense is very important to the short story
writer. Spelling skills help keep your words in order. If you are good at the
language arts, spelling, and grammar- you've got it made. If not, well, the
Can you Fake It?
With the aid of spell check, grammar check, and a thesaurus, you can make your
writing skills go further. A thesaurus is a wonderful tool for any writer- and
can help you replace trite, tired words for more interesting ones. This does
not mean, however, that you should string fifteen adjectives together with no
point or reason like a lovesick Lupess description on the role-playing chatboard.
Ugh. A general rule when writing anything is no more than two adjectives per
noun. You do remember those parts of speech from English class, don't you?
Setting the Scene
Setting is very important to any story. The setting elements include location,
time, and such external influences as weather and temperature. Determine where
your story will be set. Perhaps the Lost Desert? Or the top of Terror Mountain?
The setting will influence many elements of your story, from characterization
Choose interesting characters and develop their personalities to make them seem
like real people. Two of my favorite characters are Franco and Smedley, the
mad scientists who appear in my Harry stories ("A Grarrl Called Harry"
and "Harry Halloween"). Franco has a slushie addiction, and Smedley
has all the warm personality of a porcupine on a bad quill day - but this makes
them very interesting as characters. Think carefully about your characters,
and jot things down about them. Ask yourself some questions about them, such
· What do they wear?
· What do they like to do?
· How do they act towards others?
· What are their goals and dreams?
· What are they afraid of?
Even if the information you uncover isn't useful in the story you're writing
now, save it. You never know when a character may become a reoccurring figure
in your fiction.
The Plot Thickens
Plot drives the story along - it is the action that makes reading worthwhile.
Without plot, you'd have a bunch of characters sitting around in a beautiful
setting doing nothing. You must think of a good plot for your story, or it's
not a story at all. The plot of my aforementioned short story ("A Grarrl
Called Harry") can be summed up in this sentence:
A lovable Grarrl breaks out of the experiment lab of somewhat bumbling
mad scientists Smedley and Franco to start a new life and forge his own identity.
Your plot should be able to be summed up in a sentence, whether it is as simple
as "A Kacheek wants to buy a Usuki doll, but has to work to get the NP" or as
complex as "Rex the wonder Lupe saves Neopia through a series of trials and
tribulations involving the quests of several faeries and bargaining with Dr.
Sloth - and finds true love along the way."
When you combine your setting, characters, and plot - you get a story. Always
begin with an interesting sentence that will catch the reader's attention. Make
sure to keep the characters consistent throughout the story. If it is not within
your character's personality to save the Kacheek from a burning building, don't
make him do so just to further the plot. Work around it in an alternate way.
Make sure the plot includes both conflict and resolution. Unresolved
endings that leave the reader hanging can be fun for the author - but very frustrating
for the reader. Give your audience at least a clue or two as to the outcome
of the story's conflicts. Examine how your plot moves along to make sure it
makes logical sense. In the Harry story, my plot moves as follows:
· Reader is introduced to the Grarrl and his living conditions
· A fight between Franco and Smedley occurs
· The Grarrl uses the opportunity to escape
· Franco and Smedley get very angry
· The Grarrl finds a Chia and follows her to an inn
· The Grarrl eats the inn's sign
· The innkeeper takes the Grarrl in anyway, and gives him a name.
· The Grarrl questions his identity, and comes to terms with his past
Notice that these plot points all include action of some sort, and occur in
a logical sequence. This is very important to the continuity of the story.
Edit, Edit, and Edit!
Check over your story. Make sure to look for the following: · Tense. Your story
should not jump from past tense to present tense for no logical reason. Unless
you are doing flashbacks or other effects, pick a tense and stick to it. Make
all verbs in that tense.
Spelling and Grammatical errors
Spell check and grammar check will help you here. After you have spell and grammar
checked, give the piece to a friend to double-check for anything it may have
Write a creative title that says something about the theme of your piece. A
Grarrl Called Harry was chosen as the title for my story because how the Grarrl
was named "Harry" was the focal point of the story itself. Try not to use generic
boring titles like: "A Lupe Story" or "A Chia's Tale" or
"My NeoPets at the Park".
Submit your short story to The Neopian Times by e-mail as an attached document
with all the formatting put in (bold, underline, etc.) where you want it. Make
the subject of your e-mail something that describes why you are e-mailing, such
as: Short Story Submission .If you have any pictures that illustrate your story,
send them in a .gif or .jpg format as attachments, also. Write a polite, spell
checked, well written note in the e-mail that includes the following:
· A polite greeting
· Your Neopets username
· A brief note about the theme of your story (Example: In All about Aisha,
a young Aisha learns the true meaning of friendship and has an amusing adventure
along the way)
· A closing which thanks the editor of the Times for reading your work
and considering it for publication .
If you are published - great! Be sure to tell all your friends to read your
new short story.
Oh, no! Your story wasn't published! Don't worry, it's not the end of the world.
Most writers have a long stack of rejections that far outweighs their publications
- especially when they are just getting started. Don't give up! Try rereading
the story to see if there were any obvious errors you missed (unsuitable topic,
bad grammar/spelling, unclear wording). If you find errors, rework it and submit
the new and improved version.
Also, remember there is only so much space in the Times for short stories
each week. If other people submitted similar stories the same week or if they
were simply out of room, your piece may not have been chosen. Perhaps the story
had an unclear plot, or had grammatical errors. You can try sending a polite
Neomail to the editor asking why your piece was not published - maybe he'll
even give you a few hints for improvement.
As with all things, practice makes perfect. You can be a short story writer-
don't give up! I hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have any
questions about the content of this article, please feel free to Neomail me.