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A Guide for Future NT Stars


by fierwym

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OK, before you even *begin* to read this, you must know that it is long, and that it is mostly written for those that want to write short stories and series, and maybe even non-Neo stories out of Neopia. Now that this is settled, you can read on. You have been warned…

It’s funny what that little avatar you use on the chat boards can do. No, I mean it. Funny. As in, I laugh while you wonder what I’m laughing about. Actually, you don’t know when I’m laughing. You’re fixed in front of your own computer screen, and me at mine. You know nothing about me! Well, you know I like Neopets, and if you saw my Lookup, you know I adore Knights and heroes. OK, so you know a little about me.

Well, back to what I was talking about. *grins* Avatars. Funny, this article isn’t even about avatars. Laugh now, please. Have I officially made you think I’m insane now? Good. You know a little more about me. ^^

Avatars. Well, with the Chronicles of Knight: the Knight Within (issues 178-189), I obtained twelve beautiful Neopian Times trophies. Of course, this means I got the NT Star avvie as well. Not too shocking, right? I mean, ten and above NT trophies, you get the avvie, right? Wrong. I went to the boards very soon after to basically tell as many people as I could how happy I was (if you had just found out your twelve-part story had just got into the Times, and it was your first story, and you got the avvie as well, you’d be a little happy too. Taariq my Gelert also won Pet Spotlight that day, so I was a little *too* happy ^^ ). Anyway, I went to the boards to basically tell as many people as I could how happy I was. Shocking to me, though, was the fact that someone actually commented on my avvie, and *asked* me if I could give them some writing tips.

Cool! They wanted *me* to give out writing tips! I made a mistake though: I said “sure” right on the boards. Never do that on the boards, not with something like this. You want to know why? Others will ask too! “Can I have tips too?” “Me too?” Pretty soon I had three or four little Future NT Stars under my wings. If any one of you first students ever read this: don’t feel alarmed. I’m not angry at you, just shocked. And perhaps it was a good thing I said “sure” and the others asked “me too?”. Know why? I wouldn’t be writing this article if it weren’t for those first three. ^^ So thanks, whoever you are. (I didn’t keep their names, silly me)

So basically, this article is *exactly* what I wrote for them and those that followed them. All things colored blue beyond this point are comments I made afterwards, specially for this article. So, want to become an NT Star, get those trophies, get that avatar? You’re reading the right article. Well, this is only if you wish to write a *long* short story or a continued series. It may work for articles, but it’s mostly for series-writers like myself. Also, it *may* work for short stories, though perhaps just a few tips. Look at me, I’m babbling. ^^ I do that a lot.

OK, from this point on (seriously) my words are the seven part “How to Become an NT Star” guide. Remember, colored blue parts are comments that further explain the tip (or say why it’s important or whatever ^^ ). OK, before I get carried away again: On with the Guide!

*******

Number One: Your Love For Writing

You should really have a love for writing. Not just a knack for it, but the words need to just come easily. You need to feel like you are to be a writer. It will make everything *much* easier.

Much easier, asks you? I see, far too often, the words “I just can’t write 1500 words for the NT!” I mean it: if you can simply ‘write well’, this will be much easier for you. If you can’t, I suggest doing short writing exercises. My favorite way to do this: go ask a family member for a sentence about anything. It doesn’t even have to be a sentence: let it be a single word or two. Now, go to your computer (or notebook or whatever you use) and start with the single sentence or word that person gave you. Now, the fun part (for me at least). Open your mind to all types of possibilities. Let your imagination be unchained. Don’t let anything stop you (unless it’s dinner or something like that). Just write. Write for as short or as long as you like, but just write. It all starts with that one sentence/word that person gave you, and can end up to be anything. IF you let your imagination go, and write anything (even if it sounds stupid later) you may be able to gather some writing skills. You’ll think “Heh, I like the way that came out, I should write like that more often” or “Bleh, I hated that, I won’t write that way again”. I urge you to save that exercise and any exercise you do after it. It’s a great thing to come back to and say “That’s what I *used* to do,” or “See this? Don’t you think that’s good?” Write notes all over your exercise. Was there some sentence or phrase that you really liked, for some reason? The more you do these exercises the easier they will get. If you truly and honestly open your mind to the possibilities, you can make that 1500 words. Limiting yourself by saying “that’ll be too silly” or “no one will like that” only stops you from moving forward. If you go too far you can always turn back. If you don’t like something, rewrite it. But don’t just stop because you “can’t”. The only reason you can’t is because you say you can’t. If you say you’ll try, then you might just make it. I mean, if you don’t run the race you can’t win it. You MUST write. You wanted those trophies, didn’t you?

Next, you need to think of things that no one has thought before. Seems impossible, huh? The best thing to do, then, is take your all-time favorite story, then lapse into a thinking period. What you do is toss and turn that story around, putting characters and scenes of your own, until the old story is gone and a new, original one is there. That's what I do most of the time. Best thing is: if anyone were to try to compare the original and the new, they would find barely nothing in common except a few base facts (i.e., female protagonist, knight hero, ect.)

I’m not saying to copy someone else’s story. That’s cheating. But if you really think about it, all stories are alike in some way or the other: they have a protagonist and an antagonist, they have major and minor characters, they have settings, plots, and climaxes. It’s just what those characters do in that setting and with that plot to get to the climax that makes the story sound different. (Don’t worry if you don’t know some of those words, there’s a short glossary at the end ^^)

What I *am* saying is this: all stories are alike in one way or the other. There is a hero in every tale. But what will YOUR hero do? It depends on the decisions you make. This is YOUR story, so write it. It’s OK to look to other authors to see how they might handle the situation: I know I do. But in the end, it’s YOUR characters in YOUR setting that act on YOUR plot. You are not writing someone else’s book. You are writing your own.

*******

Number Two: Building Characters

Now, start to build off of those few first thoughts. What is your main character’s personality? What are their wishes, their hopes, their dreams? Why are they important? You must ask these questions over and over in your head to keep the character seemingly real. One of the best things you can do is make a chart for each individual character telling everything about them. What’s their eye color, their height, their goals, their dreams. What do they fear?

This is deadly important. I’ve seen far too many a story with a character that suddenly changes hair color or eye color. Well, read on:

If you have something you can readily return to and use, it will make your characters seem real. It gets confusing when your blue-eyed hero suddenly has green eyes. Good readers will spot little things like that, and will dislike the confusion. They will know that you didn’t spend much time on or didn’t care enough about your story from “little-big” mistakes like that. To make your story seem real you must show that you took enough time to keep your character’s traits consistent.

Like I said, keeping your characters consistent is important. No one wants a hero who suddenly has blue eyes when they used to have brown. I mean, come on! You want to write: write it right! Now, I have a handy chart below that you can copy and paste into Word or whatever and print off. You can copy it into your notebook if you’re keeping one. But this *simple* chart will settle your story in and show to readers that you took the time and care to write a good story. No one has to know you took this step: it’s just a nice step to take. I strongly urge you to consider using this or something like it before or when writing your series.

Character Brainstorming: do this for each character, or at least the main ones!

Name:

Age:

Hair Color:

Eye Color:

Height:

Weight:

Body Type:

Gender:

Ethnicity:

Education:

Physical Characteristics (unique):

1.

2.

3.

Character/personality traits:

1.

2.

3.

Talents/unique abilities:

1.

2.

3.

Background/past events that helped shape life:

1.

2.

3.

Goals/dreams/aspirations:

1.

2.

3.

Fears:

1.

2.

3.

I suppose I should explain some of these to you. Name, age, hair color, eye color, and gender are very basic: just fill them in with the proper data. You don’t have to use height or weight: rarely does one say “and he was five foot seven”. Writers typically say “he was tall for his age, blah blah blah.” So under height you need not give an exact height. You can say “tall and lean” or “short and heavy”. I’m not limiting you, however. Go ahead and make it exact if you like. ^^

Body Type: is your character lean and muscular, or plump, or steady, or what? Are they tall and thin, or tall and round, or you name it. It’s just their basic appearance without much detail. One, two, three words is all it takes.

Ethnicity. This little thing might more belong in non-Neopets stories, if you ever write those ^^ It basically means (if human) are they white or black or African or South American or Elf (fantasy, anyone?) or what? Now for Neo, you might just change it to Species/color. Baby Aisha, Blue Gelert, Faerie Ixi. Out of Neo, you might keep this the same. Remember, this lil’ chart is changeable.

Education: Is you character fresh out of the best school or whatever there is? Or his he/she from the country, with country talk? You have to know the limits of what your character can know. You can’t have a person who doesn’t know anything suddenly quoting some great author they never knew. Save that for the school-masters.

Physical Characteristics: Is there a scar above your character’s left eye? A leg missing, perhaps? This is basically where you can write all your character’s physical characteristics. You don’t have to write three, nor are you limited to three. Three is just a good number. ^^

Character/personality traits: Brave and strong or easy-to-frighten? This is the place where you write down their inner characteristics. Anything you want. Go ahead, fill a page. This will help you in the future, remember.

Talents/unique abilities: Is your character able to control the weather? Can he/she cast magical spells? Can they spin thread? What can they do? They have to have *some* talent, or else they will be boring. Perhaps they simply have a knack for getting into trouble *grins*

Background/past events that helped shape life: Everyone has something in their past they helped to make them what they are today. Perhaps they wish to go after some treasure because that’s what their dying friend asked them to do. They end up in the adventure of their lives. *Something* in their past made them what they are now. What was it? This section tends to get long ^^

Goals/dreams/aspirations: Does your character wish to be painted Faerie, or see some place, or do some thing? Every great character has to have *some* goal. What else would drive them to do whatever their quest is? Even villains will have their goals: taking over the world or killing off some good guy for example.

Fears: Pretty self-explanatory. What does the character fear? Death, war, flowers?

OK, do this for each character: or at least the main ones. This includes your protagonist, antagonist, and all major characters. (Remember, there’s a glossary: let’s just say hero and villain for now ^^)

*******

Number Three: Making a Story Seem Real

Continue to build. After creating your main character you must create his/her allies and enemies. Why are they allies/enemies? Build up stories, friendships, grudges. Good writers try to capture the smaller details: just *why* does a character have that goal? What motivates them? You can’t just have a character jump out and say “I want to do this” without reason explained sometime in the story. It might not be right away: it could be explained at the end. This gives the story a sense of being real: your reader will feel connected. If your reader doesn’t feel connected to the story then they will not like it.

It’s now your job to make the reader WANT to read your story. How are you going to do that? Remember that not just the good guys are characters: foes are characters too, and most of the time the same race as the good ones. The “bad guy” CANNOT be entirely evil. No one will connect to him, and your story will lose some sense of realism. Give your “bad guy” something that may redeem him/her. Make them seem “human”. Readers love it when a bad guy becomes good, or seems like he might have. Nothing real is ever entirely evil: remember that.

This is absolutely true. No character can be entirely good or entirely evil. Readers of your story will want to connect to it in some way (true readers will at least). Since nothing can be entirely good or evil then an entirely good or evil character does not seem real. You want your readers to feel connected, and your story to sound real, right? Right? At least give that character something to fear: no entirely evil being fears something, right?

*******

Number Four: Picking a Setting and Adding Suspense

OK. You have your characters, your enemies. Where is this story set? What time zone, what place? Stick to it: you can’t suddenly jump one character from one city to the next (unless, of course, they can teleport or something). It’s like the eyes I told you about. Keep your facts straight. If something is bouncing all over the place no one will understand.

Understanding… That’s a good thing ^^

Half the time when someone doesn’t understand something they don’t like it. It’s their job to try and understand. It’s yours to make it easy to understand. On different occasions you might leave something wide open, however: and that is fine. That’s a good type of “misunderstanding”: Its mystery and suspense. DO THAT! Good stories use suspense. Just make sure its suspense and not a completely misleading, not-understandable piece: readers will like you.

Make your writing clear. Rewrite things to make it sound better. Stories that “hook” you are stories that use vivid words and don’t jump off the subject. When readers understand what you are saying, and like the way you say it, they will like your story. You want readers to like your story. ^^

*******

Number Five: Creating Your Story

OK, characters, enemies, settings, and understandable text. What next? A story, of course! What do your characters do, considering their traits, friends, enemies, and settings? That’s up to you to decide. Number one thing: try to limit your begging for ideas. It’s OK to get a whiff of an idea: not OK to get an entire storyline. It’s not YOUR STORY then. It has to be YOUR STORY. Not someone else’s. If you have to run to someone else then you can’t really think up a story by yourself, and you really shouldn’t consider writing.

I really mean it: stop begging for ideas on the boards!! This really annoys people (at least it does me). I don’t mind if you go on the boards asking for a word or phrase (like the little exercise in number one ^^ ). But it’s annoying to just go to the boards (or through Neomail) and say: “Can you give me an idea for a story?” I know that sometimes your mind is numb and you can’t really think of anything. But if you want to write, why do you have to ask someone else for ideas? Can’t you make your own?

A story should have already started to fixate in your mind as you created your characters and setting. The worst possible thing you can do is go to the computer/paper, ready to write a story when you have absolutely no idea what you want to write.

“Then what, dear Fier, can we do? We don’t know what to write! If we can’t go to the boards, then we are so lost!!” My, my, you are impatient, aren’t you? Go ahead, read on…

*******

Number Six: Creating a Plotline

OK, you have characters, settings, and ideas. Before you put your hand to the keyboard or your pen to the paper, one of the best things you can do is write a plot. What do I mean? What you should do is start writing a basic summary from start of story to finish. It can be in paragraph or bullet or whatever form you want. You are just writing a story on a page or so, just to know which way it will go. I do that a lot. When actually writing the story you will rarely run into writer’s blocks… if you already know what is happening. By writing a plotline/summary, you will know what happens from start to finish before you even begin. This is the best way to go about it.

Really, people, I know what I’m talking about. You CAN write 1500 words if you know exactly what you wish to write about. No no, not just the topic: *what* you will write. This is mostly for series. When I wrote the twelve-part The Knight Within, I didn’t just jump into it. I first opened Word and then wrote down everything I would want in a Neopets story. It turned out to be Meridellian with all the knights ^^ Anyway, after I had the dead basics of the plot (i.e.: base characters and extremely base plot) I opened another Word and began to write a small summery, bit by bit, of each chapter/part in the story. Trust me, when you do this, you’ll end up combining and splitting your first summery. The Knight Within was originally an eight-part story ^^

So, basically: get out your pen and paper or keyboard and Word and write out a summery of the story. Paragraph, bullet, whatever you want. I don’t care. It’s your story, your notes. But to avoid writer’s block, the best thing to do is write out the most detailed summery you can make. It will change: don’t be afraid to let it change. But wouldn’t you much rather have a slightly-off map than no map at all?

*******

Number Seven: Casting Off

Characters, settings, ideas, and plotline. Guess what you must do now, voyager? Cast off into the great thrashing sea of writing. I warn you now: writing is like sailing. You will encounter storms, you will have times when no wind blows you forward, and you face an insurmountable block. But carry on! Each day that passes try to move a little farther. You will be faced by obstacles: whoever said writing was easy? But if you have a map: your plotline; sails: your love of writing; oars: your ideas; and a ready crew: your characters; you will make it to that distant shore. I’ll be waiting there, voyager. The journey of writing, I say again, is very hard. But the rewards can be worth any loot of gold a sailor can dream!

I must have written this in a poetic mood. *eyes previous paragraph* Hope it didn’t make you laugh. It wasn’t supposed to make you laugh. ^^ It was supposed to be inspirational, though I think I might have gone a bit too far. ^^ OK, OK, I’ll stop about the voyager paragraph.

*******

Ending

Well, there goes all seven parts, slightly tweaked, with tons of new info added. *Grins ruefully* It wasn’t too long, right? Right? Are you snoring?

Well, even though that’s done (and this is called “ending”), the article isn’t near the end. *cackles*

*******

Other Tips About Writing

Be descriptive. Readers like it when they can *see* what they are reading. It’s your job as a writer to make it that way. Try not to say “Billy jumped up into the air and flew away sadly, knowing he wouldn’t see his friends again.” Try something like “Wings outspread, the red Shoyru waved to the friends he had known for so long, and would probably never see again. A wind passed under the outstretched wings, and Billy was aloft. Turning to fly with the wind, he tore his eyes off his friends and let the breeze carry him away like a ship drifting on the sea.” I just made that up now ^^ I have no idea who Billy the Shoyru is, but that doesn’t mean you can steal that phrasing. It’s just an example.

Remember to use your pronouns. Most people dislike reading “Billy flew off. Billy did not want to leave. Billy wished to stay. Billy was sad Billy had to go.” See what I mean? Once you have the character set, then you use “he” “she” “they” and all the others. “Billy flew off. He did not want to leave. He wished to stay. He was sad he had to go.” Still sounds a bit repetitive, but it can be rephrased to sound better. Just don’t forget your pronouns.

Another note with pronouns: don’t switch. If your character is a guy don’t say “she”. Make sure you have the right pronoun. It gets confusing if you get your characters mixed up ^^

Get detailed. I mean it. Describe the way the sun set. Don’t just say the sun set. Say what colors there are, and the noises, and the sounds. Then again, don’t get too detailed. If you have some sword fight (or any fight, for that matter) don’t say “And Billy dodged left as his opponent swung at him…” and on, and on… You’ll lose your readers. I mean, the “back” button is only a click away. State that they fought, and maybe a few details in the middle. You aren’t writing a medical book that has to be precise. You want to be detailed enough to tell them what’s happening without getting so detailed that you ruin it. It’s all in the way that you present your work. If you say “and he did this and he did that and he didn’t like it but he still did it and…” Wow, is that annoying. Yeah, there’s a lot of detail (if you fill in the this, that’s, and it’s with something). Keep re-writing it until it sounds flowing.

Use figurative language. Metaphors, similes, personification… What! You don’t know what these are? Well, didn’t I say there was a glossary below? ^^ It’s nice to use as many of them as you can, over and over. “The ocean was loud.” Wow, cool. It was loud. I can *really* hear it. How about “The waves crashing in the ocean were like the great drums of war, beating constantly, if unevenly, upon the great shore.” (Did I get carried away again? Heh, it rhymes! It rhymes! *cackles merrily*) This was an example of a simile. I promise, there is a glossary below ^^

Get feedback. Go tell others about it, read bits and snatches. They might spot mistakes that you missed. At the same time…

Be careful with what you tell. What I mean here is be careful with telling people over the net about your story, or anything in it. (Unless you absolutely trust them). Some who says “I’ll rate your story” may just be trying to steal an idea. It’s far safer to have a family member or friend, or maybe a close, close Neofriend see it and judge it.

Create an Interesting Title. Half the time people will get interested in your story just because of the title you chose. I know, I know, don’t judge the book by its cover. But wouldn’t you much rather read “The Return of the King” rather than “A King Returns”? (all credit goes to Tolkien for that masterpiece). ^^ You see, part of what makes you want to read a story is the title itself. You are drawn to it somehow. It might be the way it was phrased or the words that were used. Create some interesting title: it will raise your chances of someone reading it, and maybe liking it. I would be more drawn to “An Echo on the Wind” (see, Eternally_Forgotten: you’re still eternally remembered) than to “A Ghost’s Memories”.

Make your story memorable. Make it one of those stories that will last in your reader’s minds. Funny, inspirational, dark, mysterious, you name it: try to make it something that your readers will remember. You might do this with the use of lots of metaphors and similes and other figurative languages (remember the glossary at the end ^^ ). You might do it with good descriptions. You might do it with an original and creative story. The most remembered will use all of these and more. But if you really want to *write*, not just write to get that silly little avatar; but write because writing feels good, and you really just want to: you’ll want to make something people will remember. It all depends on your word choices.

*******

Short Glossary of Writing Terms You Should Know

Alphabetical order, some writing terms and some figurative language:

  • alliteration: repetition of beginning consonant sounds. Example: Little Lilly laughed and licked her lollypop.

  • antagonist: a character or force that is in conflict with the main character, or protagonist. Example: Try Galem in the Hannah and the Ice Caves plot or Kass in the Battle for Meridell.

  • climax: the high point of interest or suspense in a literary work. Often when the great problem is solved. (i.e., the Ring is destroyed, credit to Tolkien again)

  • conflict: a struggle between two opposing forces. Types of conflict are:

    • External: between the character and some outside force. Another character, nature, society…

    • Internal: between the character and him/herself.

  • diction: word choice. Can be a major part of the writer’s style.

  • figurative language: writing or speech not meant to be taken literally

  • flashback: a section of a story that interrupts the main course of events, often a memory or recollection.

  • foreshadowing: the use in a literary work of clues that suggest event that have yet to occur

  • irony: the general name for techniques that involve surprising, interesting, or amusing contradictions.

    • verbal irony: words are used to suggest the opposite of their usual meaning

    • dramatic irony: a contradiction in what a character thinks and what the reader knows to be so

    • situational irony: an event that occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the characters, the reader, or the audience.

  • metaphor: a figure of speech in which one thing is spoken as though it were something else (i.e., heart of gold; death, the long sleep; etc.)

  • personification: a non-human object is given human characteristics (i.e., the tree sighed; the wind bellowed, etc.)

  • protagonist: the main character in a literary work (i.e. Frodo in Tolkien’s work; Avari or Raatri in the Chronicles of Knight series; etc.)

  • setting: the time and place of the action

  • simile: compares two dissimilar things by using a key word such as like or as. Example: The wind was like an echo, low and soft.

  • suspense: a feeling of growing curiosity or anxious uncertainty about the outcome of events

Well, that’s just a short glossary. If you’d like to continue learning other words or things that can help in a work, just go search the Internet or even ask me. ^^ I can give nice lists.

*******

Acknowledgements

Well, it comes time to give those last few lines. *sniffle* Here is a list of all the people I have to thank:

  • eternally_forgotten: Heh, without you, I wouldn’t have such a nice example for this article ^^ See, you are “eternally remembered”

  • dark_stars_angel: I’m not quite sure why I’m thanking you. Perhaps just for being a good friend, or something. *nods* I don’t even think you knew of this article ^^

  • My Neofriends: Heh, some of you asked for guides too! ^^

  • My family: Thanks for supporting me with my work. ^^ It’s always appreciated ^^

  • My English Teacher: It was he that taught me nearly three-quarters of the things I’ve spoken of here ^^ Thank you so, So, SO much! *is in love with writing*

  • The First Three: Sorry I can’t remember your names. The First Three were the first three that asked me for tips, thus starting the seven-part series that eventually became this article.

  • Neo: Heh, if they hadn’t published the Knight Within in the first place, no one would have asked me for tips, eh?

  • The NT Star Avvie: No avvie, no tips, no article. Enough said ^^

  • Readers: If you like this, send me a word! Thanks for being patient all the way through this mountain of an article.

  • The Future NT Stars: Well, as this article was to help people become NT Stars, they should be included here. I mean, if there was no one to write a guide for, then why write it?

*******

True Ending

Truly, I am ending now. I just have a final few words to say.

Fans of The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within, I’ll probably be taking a break from the story (after tale II is done), though it will continue on for quite some time. If you liked it, good! Send me a Neomail.

If this article helped you in any small way, please let me know. I’d like to know if this actually helped you. And if your story gets into the Times because of something I’ve said here, please tell me as well. That’s something great to know!

Please don’t sent me Neofriend requests. The “block” button is only a click away for me, and I will block it if there floods too many.

I grant you permission to print off this article or any parts in it, as long as some credit is given to me. I at least urge you to print off the character chart.

Well, that pretty much sums it up. Neomails are always open, so Neomail me with comments, questions, or whatever.

Well, as I’m off to write some more stories, I think you should be too. Off! Scurry! And write a tale that all with read with admiration!

 
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