Complete Guide to Writing Neopet Short Stories (Pt2)
Welcome back, everyone! This is the second part of my writing guide. The first part took you through the actual writing process, but we're not done yet. There's still more things to consider and more of my guide. The next part is word choices.
One thing that makes your writing more interesting is using a variety of adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives describe nouns, and indicate color, size, number, and appearance. Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs tell 'how' something moves, acts, etc.
Let's say you have the following sentences in a story:
It was a cold night. The cold wind howled, and Lee's breath hung before his face in a cold cloud.
While that's descriptive, the word 'cold' was repeated for too many times. By using synonyms, words have same or similar definitions, you can make the paragraph much easier to read.
It was a cold night. The icy wind howled, and Lee's breath hung before his face in a frosty cloud.
Not only does the second version sound more interesting, it actually sets up the scene as being colder. If you ever find yourself stumped for a synonym, you can always use a thesaurus. Now, opinions concerning a thesaurus are varied. I know people who are dead-set against it, but I've found it can be helpful - if used correctly.
Never use a word you aren't familiar with in a story. You may be looking up a synonym, but synonyms sometimes only have similar meanings. For example, cool is a synonym for cold, but the two words don't mean the same thing. Cold is, well, colder than cool. I believe in increasing your vocabulary, but really get to know the meaning of a word before you use it.
There's also the issue of deconnotative and connotative meanings of words. Deconnotative literally means the dictionary definition of a word. Connotative means personal opinion and emotional feel of a word. For example, let's say I go shopping with my mom. Afterwards, I look over her receipt and say, "Wow! You sure are frugal!" On the other hand, I could look over her receipt and say, "Wow! You sure are miserly!" Now, frugal and miserly mean the same thing definition wise, but most people see them differently. Frugal generally has a positive connotation of someone who is smart with money, while miserly gives us the idea of someone who is stingy and greedy. Word choices matter.
Balancing Strengths and Weaknesses:
As writers, we have strengths and weaknesses, but we have to learn to find balance. How can we use strengths, and how can we keep from being defined by our weaknesses? It can be a bit of a struggle, but finding this balance can help to improve writing.
You probably already know your own strengths and weaknesses. Each time you write, there are things that come easily to you while other things are a struggle. Even what we choose to read can shed some light upon this. For example, I'm strong in description and weak in action. When I read, I tend to prefer flowy, descriptive narratives. Try writing and reading different types of stories to see what you prefer.
Whatever your strength is - use it to its full advantage. In the section where I talk about story beginnings, I mention types for those strong in description, dialogue, and action. Use your strength. The more you use what you are strong in, the less noticeable your weaknesses will be.
Of course, you can't purely focus on strengths. Just because I'm weaker with action doesn't mean I can write stories that are purely two characters walking through a beautiful park and talking to one another. You have to have some action. What you have to do is to find different ways to tackle those things that give you trouble. In an action sequence, I'll describe how characters are feeling and describe what is happening through their eyes. That allows me to focus on something other than what is happening. If you have trouble with description, you can use a varied choice of verbs to aid in describing. Instead of saying a character 'ran' into a room, you could use words like burst, exploded, etc. Description can also be added in the editing process.
Finally, you should practice the areas in which you are weak. Write stories that focus on your weaknesses. The stories may be terrible, but you don't have to let others read everything you write. Each time you write, you improve. Try different personal writing exercises to improve your own work.
The Neopian Touch:
Neopets short stories are different than other short stories. These stories take place in Neopia and use Neopian based characters. Because Neopia is a complete, little world, it is filled with its own unique items, places, and characters. Mentioning these unique qualities really give your story that special touch. I've been known to do a little 'research', really looking at different places and searching for different items to include. Little things can make the difference.
Not only can you add these details as part of the setting, you can also incorporate them into descriptions - such as similes and metaphors. A simile is when you compare two unlike things using 'like' or 'as' and a metaphor is similar, except you don't use like or as. You simply state one thing is something else. Examples could be:
Simile: Mr. Martin's smile grew, unfurling like the gossamer wings of a Lightmite.
Metaphor: Dark clouds covered the sky - a shadowy cloak of darkness hiding the sun.
After you finish writing, it's time to start with edits. Editing can be correcting typos and grammatical mistakes, as well as rewriting sections and adding details. You should also read over what you have written and be prepared to edit.
It's very easy to overlook your own mistakes when reading because you know what you meant to write. One thing you can do is to read you stories aloud, perhaps to a friend. You're more likely to catch mistakes if you are reading it to someone. You also might want to have trusted friends read it themselves. The only problem is that stories can be stolen, so make be careful who you let read. It's not typically a good idea to put stories in progress on petpages.
During editing is a good time to add extra details and to make sure you have balanced the action and description. Does the plot flow well or does something need to be added or taken away? That's another reason it's good to have another reader. You might think something is perfectly clear while someone else might find it confusing.
After you feel your story is as complete as possible, you can publish it. You can do this by posting it on a petpage or by submitting it to the Neopian Times. However, you should be aware that just because you feel you've finished, you may need to go back to do some editing.
If you post a story on a petpage, you'll need to use some basic coding so that it can be read by others. The first part of quotation marks won't show on a petpage, which can really make dialogue difficult. The best remedy for that is to put your story on a simple table.
If you want to submit a story to the Neopian Times, make sure it doesn't violate any of the site rules, specifies the color/species of all the Neopets in the story, and doesn't use technology that doesn't exist in Neopia. Once you submit your story, wait to see if it's held over, accepted, or rejected. For more details as to how to get your story published in the Neopian Times, you can read my Guide to the Neopian Times.
Please realize that not everything you write has to be published. Writing is very personal, and the process itself is beneficial - but every piece does NOT need to be published.
One of the most important things to remember is to write for yourself first. While you may be looking over this guide to write for the Neopian Times or a petpage, you should always write for yourself. Being concerned about what others think or if your writing will be accepted will only hamper you. Plus, while constructive criticism is good, you can't take every single piece of advice given to you. I've stated before in this guide that writing is personal. Never forget that.
Also, take the time to just write. Keep a journal or notebook with you to jot down ideas wherever you go, and you might be surprised with what comes to mind. I was once sitting in a doctor's office, and I started observing the people around me. I wrote down these observations and was able to create a decent story out of it. Even the most minor thing can turn into a story. You just have to have an open mind.
Well, that's all for the guide for now. I hope that it's been helpful. Have fun and happy writing!