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Let Me Tell You a Story...


by nightcrawlers_secret

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DEEP CATACOMBS - My favorite contest, without question, is the Storytelling Contest. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy writing. Maybe it’s because I like the 2000 Neopoints and the rare item. No, I don’t think that’s it. I think I like it so much because it seems to one of the few contests I can actually win.;) So far, I’ve been able to win 5 times, but don’t be too impressed. I know of a person who has won it 30 times! Now, that’s impressive.

I often recommend this contest to others, but I almost always get the same type of responses. Either people say that they aren’t good writers or that they’ve entered a few times and didn’t win. That’s why I decided to create this little guide that might help your entry be selected. However, these aren’t the same tips that you might have heard before. You could say that these tips have my own personal influence that I hope is at least partially originally.

Tip 1: REALLY Read the Story

The common reaction to this might be, “Duh,” but allow me to explain what I mean. Of course you need to read what has happened so far and the characters, but you also need go beyond that. Ask yourself, “What is the tone of the story?” If the story has been comedic so far, you want to make your entry follow this pattern and the same if the story has evolved into an action-adventure. There are rare exceptions where the tone shift can be appropriate, but it isn’t usually a good idea.

Also, you need to learn who the characters are. I don’t mean just that the character’s name is Mary and she’s a Starry Zafara. You need to read to learn about what aspects of her personality have been revealed so far. If Mary has been a brave explorer up this point, suddenly having her act as a coward would not fit the flow of the story that has already been established.

Exactly how much of the tone and the characters has been revealed is usually dependant on how far the story has progressed. In the first couple of entries, you will probably have a bit more freedom with establishing tone and character.

Tip 2: A Little Research Never Hurts

If the story takes place in a particular area of Neopia or about a particular character that has already been established, I like to check out the area or character so I can add specific details. For example, let’s say the story takes place in Faerieland. Instead of just having a generic store or location, your character can be visiting the Healing Springs or searching for the Hidden Tower. Adding such a detail really establishes the story as being uniquely Neopian.

On the same note, I recommend doing the same with items in the story. Your neopet is just drinking a cola and reading the newspaper. She is drinking an Achyfi and reading the Neopian Times. Such details, I found, can be helpful in allowing your post to be chosen as the next part of the story.

Tip 3: Balancing Detail and Action

I like a lot of detail and generous use of adjective and adverbs can certainly help a story. However, you also have to make sure your section is propelling the story forward. If a story takes place in the Haunted Woods and the main character has just entered a spooky looking house. I could write a section like this:

“She gulped as she slipped through the gloom and oppressive quiet. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling like antique and ruined lace as hordes of Spyders watched her silently, their crimson eyes burning like weak lanterns in the overwhelming dark. She stood there as rigid as a statue, convinced that beyond the Spyders, she was the only living creature in the forsaken home.”

That may sound good, but it wouldn’t make a good section to the story because nothing is really happening. The character is just standing in the creepy house, but she’s not actually doing anything. She needs to move about and either see or do something that will push the story forward and move it along. However, don’t make your story devoid of detail. Alone, the above section wouldn’t be a good entry, but it could be made good by the addition of little action.

At the same time, there is always a question of size. Although there is no maximum and minimum, you need to use a bit of common sense. It would be difficult to move the story along with a single paragraph, but a huge entry may leave little room for the story to grow. One of my biggest problems is judging where to end the entry. Usually, unless writing the final entry, you don’t want to ‘solve’ the issue at hand but rather just move the character closer to the resolution.

Tip 4: Persistence, Persistence, Persistence…

I previously stated that I have won the Storytelling Contest five times. The thing I usually don’t add is that I’ve won 5 times out of about 100 entries. Every Monday, I eagerly await the newest Storytelling Contest so that I can enter. Also, I don’t just enter one entry for each available section. I may enter 2, 3, or even 4 separate entries for a single post. You shouldn’t enter the same post multiple times, but it seems like I can usually think of more than one way to continue a story.

Immediately after reading all the previous sections, I will enter one post. Then, I’ll think about it for awhile while away from the computer, and usually at least one more idea will emerge. Then, I'll enter the contest again. I do this until the post is chosen and then the entire process starts anew. It’s a joke between my friends and me that I’m allowed to win hoping that will end the assault of entries.

If you’ve only tried a few times, try again. It doesn’t cost anything and, as long as your entries are decently well-written, you’re bound to win eventually.

Those are my tips for winning at the Storytelling contest. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about spell-check or rereading your entry, because those are basic common sense. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to Neomail me. I’m always looking for a bit of good advice!

 
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