Writing a Great Story
She sits at her desk, the book open before her. The pages are blank, a tribute to the story she's been a part of. The quill pen sits in its inkwell, waiting to make its mark on the yellowed leaves of parchment, to record the instances of the author's life-a story written in blood and tears.
You! YOU sitting there at your computer with absolutely no idea of how to get into the Neopian Times with a story. Didn't you like that? *points up to the italicized writing* You could write like that. Anyone can write like that, if they try. Using a solid launching pad and an easy process, anyone can come out of the depths to write truly stellar work about Neopia. Now, if you want to write about TNT-established characters, this isn't the place. With those people, you have names, a setting, and everything is all organized. I'm not saying that's not acceptable, but the options for that kind of writing narrow down considerably with that choice of style.
Step One: Start with a picture
This is the fun part. What do you want to write about? Is it something dark and evil? Something beautiful and perilous? Well, no matter what, nothing's better as a launching pad than a picture. Browse around through old desktop backgrounds, avatars, Neopian Times article thumbnails, or - my personal favorite - the Collectable Card spoiler list. From a picture, you could get a hero, a villain, a setting, a main character, or any kind of idea. Read some comics, old plots, or even go adoptable hunting for ideas. A weapon, a piece of jewelry, or even an article of clothing could found the creative process.
Step Two: Make your characters
Okay, now that that's done, it's time to formulate your characters. This is the long part. You can have as many or as few as you like, but you'll at least need a main character, a villain, and two or three supporting characters for each one. They can be the same species, gender, or nationality. Their rivalry can be of any sort; they just have to be at odds long enough for your story.
Let's focus on the main character. There aren't any rules for main characters, but the usual type is strong, good, and confident with a few weaknesses. One of my characters, Dreya, is a tall, strong, arrogant queen with an anger issue. That's not all of her in a nutshell; like your main character, she's complicated with a lot of personality levels, and she's changed a lot since I first invented her. That's something you should expect - as your writing style evolves, so should your characters. Villains, also, need to be complex. The best ones balance out your hero, especially when it comes to weaknesses. Dreya's archnemesis, Kespa, took a medallion Dreya's family created, and she battled all of Dreya's family. They respect each other, and so they make a great pair.
Lastly, supporting characters. They come in three levels - those involved all the way through, those who show up three or four times, and those who appear once and then are "dead". Despite the differing levels of involvement, I would suggest putting a lot of work into all of your supporting characters. They need names, of course, and maybe a bit of backstory to go along with them. Good supporting characters contrast the protagonist and villain; for example smart/stupid or evil/not so evil. A common villain supporting character is the stupid minion, but I wouldn't recommend that pairing. It's been done, and it's well-defined. Try something new, like evil villain/REALLY evil psycho minion, or not so evil villain/smart minion. Creativity always brings a better chance of acceptance.
Note on Names: Don't be afraid of making up your own names by mutilating existing ones Example: Andrea-Andreya-Dreya, Selene-Seline-Selina-Silina. Using more uncommon existing names (like Valerie or Lillian) works well too. Above all, BE ORIGINAL!!
Step Three: The Setting
Now that you have your cast, you want a place for the drama to play out. Forests work well, but a shifting environment with multiple areas work well too. Just spend time thinking about what kind of mood you want to create, and then create an arena that highlights your characters and where they live, but presents a challenge. For instance, a desert island is a great place for a friendship story or a murder mystery. A lush forest is a great fantasy setting. Pick a Neopian world and invent a place there, but make sure your characters' species match it. You wouldn't want a Maraquan Techo in Faerieland. Once that's worked out, decide what happens where. Sketch out a map if you want, with marks where decisive things happen. Setting can be hard, but the right location can add spice to your story.
The Final Piece: Writing Style
You have your story. You have your setting. You have your characters. What's left? Your style! It may not sound important, but your style can have a huge effect on whether or not your story floats. Different genres of story call for different ways of writing. Smooth, flowing sentences with loads of detail can be used for good times and happy locations- "The clear, icy stream ran past the tiny, brightly colored house nestled under the huge tree. Emerald leaves filtered golden sunlight, painting the house in a green shade. It was obvious-life was perfect for the family that lived here." By contrast, jerky, arrhythmic sentences loaded with character emotion and not so much detail convey darker moments and depression. "The tears flowed down, not even slowing as they streamed off her face. Life. Why was it this way? She was the queen, the ultimate - no, not any more. She was alone." Taking care to change your style based on story tone can make the writing more professional. Also, grammar is important. If your character has their own dialect, then that's fine. I'm talking about you - your writing, in 3rd person. If a character narrates the story, then looseness is allowed, but 3rd person grammar and spelling are a bonus.
Well, that's it! Good luck, and I hope that you are successful in your writing!! May your pens stay sharp!
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"Terri, calm down, I'm fine!' Terri's spontaneous hugs were sometimes very awkward for me, since I didn't have arms. "Seriously. It's okay..."