Be A Star
One of the rarest avatars in Neopia is the Neopian Times Star avatar, which can be achieved by visiting your user lookup if you have had at least ten pieces accepted and published in the Neopian Times. For many users, this avatar is quite difficult, as writing is a hard skill to master and perfect, and creating witty comics requires talent in drawing as well as a good idea. So I have decided to write a guide to help you become both a better writer and to get the Neopian Times avatar. You do not need a lot of talent to write—although it does help—but a large vocabulary and a familiarity with the way books and stories are written. In the following paragraphs I have included some tips and suggestions that make writing all the better, focusing on fictional stories.
The basis to a good story, of course, is a plot that is unique and well thought-out. I suggest trying to avoid clichés, unless you can think of an interesting twist on one that no one else has thought of. Thinking of plots can be hard, though; if you do not have any ideas to right about, don’t worry! All plots start with a source of inspiration. If you are seeking ideas, think about current events. Try creating a mystery or adventure story focusing on a certain land in Neopia or a festival that is occurring. However, if you don’t prefer plot based stories, try thinking of catchphrases or morals that could be the basis to a story. If you’re still stuck, try reading other stories in the Neopian Times for inspiration; I try to save this idea for last, though, because there is always the chance that a story sprouting from someone else’s could be too similar to the original story.
After thinking of a plot, the next thing to focus on is your characters. Names are generally not important, but it can be fun to have a name that reflects the personality of your character. Each character should have a distinct personality, but should not necessarily represent a stereotype, unless this is something that is key to your plot. Throughout the course of the story, you should also keep in mind how your characters develop. How do the events in your story affect your characters? This is especially important to master in a series, where personalities must not change from chapter to chapter and character development has to be cumulative. Also keep in mind that reactions are crucial in stories, as they help shape a better plot. When important plot events occur, picture each character’s reaction, despite if the character is in the specific scene or not. This paragraph may seem a bit confusing, but hang on: writing is a difficult process.
Before you write even one word of a story, you must decide where your story is going to take place. In general, it is best to stay in a general location, although in a series there is more freedom concerning setting. Make sure you know the name of the place where your story is taking place and its overall characteristics. For example: if your story takes place in a jungle, try to have a clear image of the greenery, the weather, and the noises inside it. Another important thing to know is what your characters think about the setting. What do they like or dislike about this place? Do they live in that place or did they go there for a specific reason? If you have a clear idea of where your story is set, it will make your story seem more realistic overall.
After you have thought through the three things I have listed above, it is time to begin writing. The writing process can be a hard thing to master. I suggest writing at different times of the day to find when you can focus best on writing; personally, I prefer writing about an hour or so after my midday meal, but some people like writing in the morning or at nighttime.
Everyone also has a different method of writing. Most people choose to get most of their ideas down on paper in a rough draft of their story and then go back and reread the story and edit grammar and rewrite and edit sentences by adding things and taking unnecessary details out. I generally prefer to go sentence by sentence and edit as I go, but this is different for each person. When you are actually writing your story, there are a few things I have not yet mentioned to keep in mind. Description is a key part of good writing: it should flow well and there should be a good amount of it. There is no such thing as having too much description, but in some cases it can be irrelevant. If you are writing an adventure and your character is running away from an enemy, for example, you would not use a lot of description, as the character is running quickly: if he or she is focused on fleeing, he or she would not notice the colors and textures of his or her surroundings in great detail. (It’s possible, of course, but highly unlikely; in this case, a lot of description would not be logical.)
Another important thing to keep in mind is the relevance of everything you put in your story. Unless you are planning to write a novel for the Neopian Times—which I highly doubt—try to cut your story to the minimum without excluding your description. Basically, don’t put “filler” in your story, even if you need it to make the minimum word count! No one wants to read useless small talk between two characters when it is in no way relevant to your overall idea or plot. If you really need something else to surpass the minimum word count, try adding in some more description in places that don’t have much and could use more!
Finally, when you have finished your story, reread it for grammar mistakes and unnecessary “filler” or important details you have left out. If you’re not sure about something grammar-wise or certain punctuation, skimming other stories in the Neopian Times is a great idea. If you’re still not sure, try flipping through a book in real life or asking on the Neopian Writers board.
Some additional things to keep in mind are that the process of writing a short story and a series are slightly different. A short story should be more focused and contained: try to center it on one particular issue. A series, however, can be slightly less focused on one event and gives the freedom of being able to focus on series of events that occur over the course of the series. Think of a series as a novel or a chapter book in real life and compare it to a real life short story. The writing style is different.
Lastly, remember that writing is a hard thing to master. If your story is rejected, then don’t feel bad! Reread the story and look at things that you could have improved on. Try rewriting certain things and adding and taking out words. If you toy with it a little and submit again, it might get in the next time! Another good idea is to show your story to a friend who reads or writes a lot, as he or she might have some tips for you. You could even read some stories that were published in the Neopian Times to get an idea of what you could work on in your story.
I hope that my writing guide helps you achieve better writing skills as well as the wonderful Neopian Times Star. Thanks so much for reading, and if my guide helped you with your story, feel free to tell me; I’d love to read it!