Talia's Writing GuideHello everyone and welcome to my guide to writing Neopet stories. I created this guide because I truly enjoy writing stories, and I like helping others to so as well. While my other guides (NT Guide, Storytelling Guide) also deal with writing on Neopets, I designed this guide to focus more on the actual aspects and act of writing. Plus, while there will be a certain amount of overlap with my NT Guide, the information here will be able to be used for petpage stories as well the NT. Please enjoy the guide, and never hesitate to neomail me if you have any comments, suggestions, of feedback.
IMPORTANT: Please do not take part or all of this guide and claim it to be your own. This took a lot of time and effort to create. However, you are free to use any of the creative ideas for stories that are listed within this guide.
One thing you can use for inspiration are Random Events (REs). Let's say you have a pet that is painted royal when an RE comes along and makes your poor pet invisible. While this is frustrating, it could be an idea for a story. You could write about a beautifully painted pet who attracted attention and envy everywhere she went, until she suddenly became invisible. How would she feel and what would she do? Would she learn anything about herself and how others really feel about her? What would she do to be seen again? That's only a minor example, but that could easily turn into a story, and that's only one RE. You could consider other color changing REs, the Pant Devil, Jacko, Tooth Faerie, etc.
Of course, your inspiration isn't limited to REs. You can take the books you read to your pets to come up with story ideas. These books already have small summaries and can be excellent springboards for stories. Some people keep 'lab journals' for their lab rats, which can easily be turned into short fiction pieces. You can also look at specific items such as clothing, toys, or weapons in search for inspriation. If you are planning to write a specific pet, then really take a good look at him or her. Is the pet customized? How are they dressed? What's the pet name and what are the stats? If that pet talked to you, then what would the voice sound like? While these questions may say strange, it can really be helpful in preparing to write.
Real life event can be turned into good neopian stories if you are careful. You have to keep in mind that not all things that happen in real life are appropriate to write about here - such as stories that focus on sickness, death, or violence. Still, there are good ideas to be found if you just look. The best idea is to keep a notebook with you and really take the time to observe the people around you.
There are two important things to understand about inspiration. First, never immediately discard an idea just because it seems silly or something you'd never write. Just write down the idea and perhaps you can use it later. Secondly, not every inspiration is going to lead to a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. Often I just find myself thinking of a single scene or moment and then I can build the story around this single event.
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Brainstorming: Brainstorming is simply writing down different words or phrases that come to mind when considering your story. You don't have to use everything you come up with in brainstorming, but it is good to help you decide things like character traits or some main part of the action.
Summaries, Outlines, and Lists: Summaries and outlines are both simply written overviews of a story. Writing a summary or outline is one way to detail the action in a story as to what happens and it what order it happens. I've done this before when writing series so I could figure out what I wanted to happen in each part. Lists can be done to detail characters, settings, and scenes. It can be helpful with neo stories so you can determine the color and species of each neopet, which is important (more discusson on that in Story Basics).
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Characters: In Neopian stories, characters will be the Neopets, Faeries, Petpets, and possibly owners that appear. The majority of the characters are typically neopets. When creating a neopet character you have to think carefully about the personality (i.e. likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc) but also about species and color. Not mentioning species/color of every neopet will automatically cause your story or series to be rejected from the Neopian Times. While it's not as important to remember to mention this for every pet in a story for a petpage, it can actually really help in defining a character. For better or worse, pets have certain stereotypes, and you can use this to your advantage. For example, I had a story where a character was very vain and was always concerned with her clothing. I chose to make this character a Royal girl Kyrii because those traits seem to fit her appearance. You can also build a story around working against stereotype - like having a Grundo who's extremely smart but is treated as if he is dumb because that is the assumption.
It is important to note that there can be no relationships between characters beyond that of friends or family. Do not hint, suggest, or insinuate anything more.
Setting: The setting is where and when story takes place. You can be exact and pick a particular location like Meridell, or you can choose to be nonspecific. To have your story just place in some unnamed town, village, or out in the country is perfectly acceptable. The date is usually ambiguous unless you want to mention a specific year. The only thing to remember is that Neopia is a bit behind the times in terms of technology. While it may be natural for us to come home and jumpt on the computer to talk with a friend, Neopets can't do that. Adding technology that doesn't exist in Neopia is one of the top reasons stories are rejected from the Neopian Times. The one exception to this is the Space Station which does have more technology. Also, it's possible for characters to use a spaceship from this station to travel to other planets where technology may be different.
Plot : The plot is what happens in the story - or the problem that has to be resolved. A plot should move in three parts - introducing the problem, the problem at it's worst, and solving the problem. The biggest thing to remember is that the solution should be satisfying. Having a character wake up at the end to announce it was all a dream is overdone and will actually annoy readers. I read an amazing story once that was so exciting. However, it didn't end well. The final words of the story were, "And I'm still running." I was frustrated with this unsatisfying end to the plot, I literally threw the book across the room. Your story can be wonderfully written, but a poorly resolved plot can ruin it.
Dialogue: Dialogue is simply conversation between characters. If you have more than one character, it's very rare not to have conversation. The odd thing about dialogue is that it can be more difficult then it appears. Since dialogue is actually what a character says, then you need to think about how they speak. What word choices or phrases will be chosen because different characters should speak differently - just as different people don't all talk the same in real life. Also, dialogue is one of the few places where you don't have to be grammatically correct. If you think you're character is going to use a double negative, ain't, or slang - then use it. Also, try using a variety of verbs rather than just saying he said she said. Alternative verbs could be shouted, cried, whispered, announced, insisted, etc. Think about not only what is said, but how it is said.
Tone or Mood: The tone or mood is the feel of a story. Is the story supposed to be scary, funny, exciting, or what? By picking a theme and building upon it, you can make the mood more successful and your story more interesting. Careful word choices and using the setting to set up the mood will be helpful.
Theme or Lesson : The theme or the lesson is what can be learned from a story. Usually, we learn along with the characters. For example, you have a character who steals something and then has to face the consequence. The lesson is that stealing is wrong, and this would be shown by what the character has to face after doing the wrong. The only thing that you have to be careful of is not to come across as preachy - basically hitting your reader over the head with what you feel is right or wrong.
Point of View : The point of view can also be called the mode of narration, and it's 'who' is telling the story. Their are three main points of view.
First person: In first person point of view the narrator is also a character. It is written in terms of 'I.' For example: I went to the store. I bought some milk. With this perception, you see the story through the eyes of this character.
Second Person: Second person point of view is where the narrator is a character that is referred to as 'you.' It's not commonly used, except in choose your own adventure stories.
Third Person: Third person is from either the point of view from one of the characters referring to this character by name or pronoun (i.e. he, she , it) or is a all-knowing narrator that knows everything that is happening and what each character is thinking. This second is commonly done, but can be a bit of cheat since the writer can simply state how each character feels rather than describe the way the character is looking or acting.
There are some cases while a writer may use a variety of these types of narration. For example, one section could be written from first person while another maybe third person. When writing third person narrative, I find it most helpful to pick one character through which to tell the story. If I want to switch perceptive, I seperate sections using *** to show I'm writing something different.
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Beginning: An argument can be made that the beginning is the most important part of the story. If you start to read a book and the first few pages don't grab your attention, chances are that you won't finish the book. The same is true with short stories, except that you have less time to hook your reader. So, how can you make the beginning interesting?
One method is to set the tone or mood for your story, and I usually do this by describing the setting. While the phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night," is overused, it really does set up tension for the rest of the story. Automatically the reader begins to envision the way he or she might feel on a dark, stormy night. Of course, you certainly aren't limited when it comes to weather or locations. You can even write a story where the character's mood is direct contrast to their surroundings. This method is good for writers who are strong in description.
If you are good at writing dialogue, then you could start the story in the middle of a conversations between characters. If the conversation sounds interesting, the reader will continue on to learn what the characters are talking about and how that fits with the story. Starting with dialogue is fairly easy and a good way to introduce characters' personalities.
A story can also began with an action sequence. Think about a good action movie that begins with a car chase. You find yourself wondering who these characters are and they got in this situation, so you keep watching. You can do the same with stories (except there couldn't be a car chase in a Neopet story as there are no cars). Because I am not as strong in writing action, I don't use this method as often, but I have seen it used very well by others.
Introducing Characters: In the beginning of the story is where you'll be introducting your main character(s). With Neopet stories, like other fan fiction, you have a bit of a cheat since your readers will have a general idea how most of the characters look by simply mentioning color/species. For example, if I said a character was a Christmas Zafara, most people are immediately going to think of white fur, wings, halo, etc. While you may mention other things about the appearance such as height or whether or not they are unusual in some way, physical appearance is almost done for you. The same is true for the most part with faeries since the type of faerie give a general idea of about how they look. The only characters which do not have this luxury are owners.
However, introducing characters isn't just about physical appearance as you also have to think of their personalities. An old piece of writing advice is to show rather than tell, which is really helpful with characters. Instead of just telling us a character is vain, show it by their actions, words, thoughts, and opinions. Don't just tell the reader everything, but allow them to see for themselves by creating a full portrait of a character. While you should start this in the beginning, this part of the character is often revealed throughout the story.
Middle of the Story: From my own experience, the middle of the story can be the most difficult to write. You've written the beginning, and you know how the story ends, but that middle is something else entirely. You don't want to skip over the middle and have the story end too quickly, nor do you want to drag out the middle to bore readers before the ending.
The best way is to strive for the most natural flow of the story. Don't try to force the middle, and never add more then is necessary just because you think the story should be longer. If you find yourself stuck, then just keep writing. Skip things and go on to the end because you can always go back when editing and add more to the middle. Your biggest goal is that middle of the story should be the rising action of your plot. In the beginning you introduced the problem, and in the end you will solve it. The middle part of the story should be working towards solving it.
Conclusion: The conclusion is the ending of the story. While I argued that the beginning is the most important part, the ending can really make or break a story. The ending should be a satisfying answer to the problem and bring resolution to the plot. Make sure you didn't leave loose ends and have problems that weren't solved. Not all conclusions are perfectly happy, and it's fine to have a story end sadly - but it has to end. Leaving an open ending is frustrating, but also be wary of an ending that is just a bit too convienant. All your stories shouldn't be, "...And Queen Fyora made everything the way it was before and everyone lived happily ever after." You can leave an opening for a sequel, but make sure you've provided a proper ending for the first story.
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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 an cold cloud.
While's 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 face in frosty cloud.
Not only does the second version sound more interesting, it actually sets up the seen 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 definiton 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 has miserly gives us the idea of someone who is stingy and greedy. Word choices matter.
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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 you strength is - use it to it's 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 become I'm weaker with action means I can write stories that 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 tackles 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 and help to improve your own work.
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Not only can you add these details as part of the setting, you can also incorporate them into descriptions - such as similies and metaphors. A similie 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:
Similie: 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.
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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 a trusted friend to 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 idea to add extra details and to make sure you have balanced the action and description. Does the plot flow well or does soemthing 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.
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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.
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Other InformationOne 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 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 j ust have to have an open mind.
Well, that's all for the guide for now. I hope that it's been helpful.
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