Let Me Tell You a Story...
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
“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!