How to Write a Short Story
So, do you like the looks of the Neopian Times trophy and avatar? Do you want to become a published writer? Well, here are some of my tips, as a 3-time Short Story Writer, on how to publish a great short story in the Neopian Times.
Before starting, I must warn you that short stories are NOT, by any means, a fast way of getting the avatar. You must come up with 10 different plots, characters, and styles of writing, whereas you could easily attain the avatar with a long 10-part series or draw 10 little comics.
I personally write short stories for fun. I like their simple, entertaining nature and they are fun to write. What I mean by that is that usually when I write a long story, I lose interest halfway through and give up on it. Short stories are the perfect length to write when you are sitting at home for a day, bored.
If you’re up for writing a short story, try my guide. I hope that it helps you become a successful writer in the Neopian Times.
A short story can be 1200 to 4000 words long. Each story is accompanied by a 150 x 150 pixel image that Neopets assigns. It may be the picture of a neopet, a small drawing, or another type of image related to your topic. My opinion is simply taste and will not affect your entry at all, but I prefer the images that are original and not just a pet’s profile picture. If you agree with me, you may want to choose a story that is not about one simple neopet and has flexibility for an interesting design.
Choosing a Subject
Deciding what to write your story about is hard. Seriously, it is what makes or breaks your piece. For inspiration, you can try searching the site and browsing Neopia. Each time you come to a page, stop and think how you can turn it into a story. For example, you can click on the Rainbow Pool. Maybe there can be a story about a pet who wants to be painted but can’t afford it. (Yes, I know – cliché. But that also prevents people from taking the idea.) If you don’t like what you see, go to the next page and repeat the process.
One of my personal ways to get ideas for a story is through inspiration from other writers and entries. But, when using this strategy, you must be careful NOT TO PLAGIARIZE. There is a fine line between inspiration and copying. Also, even if you do not plagiarize, make sure not to write about an already-written subject. Neopia has already read it once and does not need to read it again.
Once you have a topic, the next step is the details. Say that you are writing about a pet wishing to be painted. What should set your story apart from the hundreds of others like it? Add something that the other stories don’t have, such as a petpet who doesn’t want their owner to get painted. And how should it end? Should the pet get painted or not? If you are not sure and you think that committing to either ending would ruin your work, leave it up to the reader to decide. Make an outline of each event that looks like the following:
-Pet decides she wants to be painted baby
-Wins lottery jackpot
-Finally has enough
-Petpet says she doesn’t want pet to be baby
-Pet goes to Fyora with neopoints
-Pet must decide
After your outline is done, decide who the pet and petpet should be. What species/color? What should their names be? What are their personalities? Then, you can fill in your outline with names and you’re ready to start.
Finding Your Writing Style
Write your first paragraph of the story. In our case, it might be about how much Marie, our main pet, wants to become baby. Then, stop. Read it through. Are you 100% happy with it? Or might it sound better in a different tense or point of view? (NOTE: usually, 2nd person is not good for short stories – they are better for adventures. 2nd person is, “You walk. You sit down... etc.” If you are not sure whether your style is perfect, try re-writing it. Then you will have two paragraphs to compare and you can choose whichever flows better.
Other than technical style choices, there are also creative choices to make. Should you write with many sentence fragments and simple, small sentences? This is usually used in more serious stories. But, be careful. When using sentence fragments and short sentences, they must be used properly. You don’t want a story that sounds like,
“He went. She followed. Finally. Him and her. Together. At last.”
Admit it - that sounds terrible. Be sure to use a mixture of short phrases and regular sentences. The point of using the fragment style is to be creative. I find that it helps to read something professionally written in this style immediately before writing. Overall, make sure to only use this style of writing when you know what you are doing.
Going For It
Congratulations, now you are ready to write! I personally have to start at the beginning and end at the end. I think that it is different for each writer, though. Many of my friends say that they like to start where it’s easiest to write. So, choose whichever is best for you and just dive into it. Don’t spend too much time on how the first sentence should be. Once you are done writing, go back to it and make it perfect. But, the two most worked-on parts of your story should be the beginning and the end. The beginning is what captures the reader’s attention and makes them decide to read or move on, and the end is what determines whether or not they liked it. Typically, the longer your story, the better an ending it needs. A reader doesn’t want to go through a 3500-word piece to find out that it was all a dream. (NOTE: NEVER, EVER, EVER break the Writers’ Golden Rule: DO NOT end a piece saying “It was all a dream,” “And they all lived happily ever after,” – unless you are writing a faerie tale – “‘Cut!’ the director screamed,” etc.)
A few Handy Tips
Before I go, here are a few last minute tips for your writing. Some are taken from the Neopedia; some are from my own experience.
1. Write about Neopian topics ONLY. Real-life stories are fine to write for fun and my tips will apply for them, but they will not be accepted in any Neopian contest including the Neopian Times. Related to this, do not take real-life objects and technology and put them into your story. If the item does not exist in Neopia, we do not want to know about it.
2. Read your work out loud. It really helps with fluency.
3. Choose a decent title. I personally find myself choosing the last few words of a story as they usually sum up my points. While this is an okay strategy, try not to use it too much. The title is one of the most important parts – I know that I judge stories in the Neopian Times by their titles. Spend some time picking one out that’s perfect for your short story.
4. CHECK SPELLING AND GRAMMAR. CHECK SPELLING AND GRAMMAR. I cannot stress this enough. First of all, you can use a computer spell-check. But, when reading through, check again. Programs miss mistakes and some typos may turn out to be real words that your computer will accept. Also, Neopian words are obviously not in the computer’s dictionary.
Well, good luck. I hope to see you as an accomplished Neopian Times writer one day.