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How to Write a Storytelling Starter

by precious_katuch14


The Storytelling Competition may be one of the most difficult contests on Neopets, and not only because you are expected to turn in writing worthy of a trophy, a handful of Neopoints and a rare item. Instead of submitting a story that is wholly yours, you must adapt to the ongoing Storytelling plot by writing what happens next, with a unique and interesting twist or development. Years ago, the STC was especially competitive, with many highly skilled storytellers always raising the bar and pushing newcomers to new heights. Though the STC is quieter nowadays, the challenge is still there, especially now that there are only five winning entries picked per week, sometimes less.

     For a long time, it was the judge who started the story, and then left it for users to continue. Today, a user now has the option to submit a starter or a beginning instead of continuing an ongoing story. They would have complete control over the story and the opportunity to set the stage and put together the plot. Plus, there’s a certain thrill in being able to start Storytelling and then sitting back to watch what other users do with your material. More often than not, the starter you just wrote will be going places you never thought it could reach. A Storytelling starter is also a good way to utilize an idea you can’t quite squeeze a full-length Neopian Times story out of, or to get in a little writing practice.

     Do you want to write your own Storytelling starter (and hopefully add a new trophy to your collection)? Look no further, grab a writing implement of your choice and get ready to begin a story that would make even The Storyteller proud!

     That’s great, but when do we even submit STC beginnings?

     Good question. The Storytelling format has not changed since the old days, and entries are still submitted through the text box on the Storytelling page. That was how it was when the judge started each story.

     If you want to submit a starter, wait until the current Storytelling Competition ends, which is usually on Friday NST, and type your work into the box. There seems to be no limit to the number of beginnings you can send, so if you have more than one idea or version, send them too.

     Sometimes the STC is irregularly updated, with no new entries posted for a few days, so in that case you must wait and see when the ending goes up and seize the opportunity then. Unfortunately, this places users in certain time zones at a disadvantage especially when the ending is published in the following week and a new Storytelling begins on the same day, leaving only a small window for starters to be submitted that can easily be missed if, say, you’re still sound asleep at the time, dreaming of your next stamp collection.

     It is currently unknown if starters submitted while the Storytelling is ongoing are accepted or at least saved for consideration once the story ends, so it’s best to submit after the conclusion.

     Now that you know the “when”, it’s time to delve into the “what”, as in “what in Neopia do I even write for a starter?” And that’s another very good question.

     Really, what do I write?

     The short answer is “anything within the rules, as stated in the handy dandy Frequently Asked Questions in the Storytelling page”, which is apparently not that short an answer after all.

     Since we’re only talking about beginnings, think of a story idea, write it the way you would normally create a complete story, but only write how it starts, and stop at a good cliffhanger or hook for someone else to continue it. Introduce a plot, but just enough of it to get other users thinking of what should happen next. Introduce one or two characters and what they’re up to when the story starts.

     If you’re stumped, look at upcoming or ongoing Neopian holidays for inspiration, as there are times when themed Storytelling beginnings are introduced for the occasion. For example, you can write a spooky starter about Edna or the Esophagor for Halloween, or a Poogle Racing story for Poogle Day.

     As for characters, you can either pick from existing site characters, or make up your own the way the previous Storytelling judge did. There’s not much in the way of characterization to be done since you’re not the only one who will be telling the story and developing the characters, but you do need to show just enough of their personality for other users to have a grasp of how to write them for the next parts. Are they angry when we first meet them? Or are they facing a moral dilemma? Maybe they were on vacation and are about to be rudely disturbed by the next Storytelling part.

     Remember that with several users eager to continue your story, your starter should have that potential to go in many possible directions. When you write your hook, write it in such a way that the next author will be able to use it as a springboard to continue the story or add an interesting new element. Don’t try to restrict it or drop hints about what you want for it as though you want to control the flow of the story; this is the part where you must let go of your idea and pass the ball on, so to speak, to someone else.

     Neopets is a gold mine of lore and inspiration, so just wandering Neopia and all the features and areas it has to offer is sure to give you an idea of what to do. Step away from your Storytelling tab for a while and do your dailies, play some games, look around the various Neopian lands, and you’re sure to find something that might make a good story.

     I assume I don’t have to mention the part where you need to check your grammar and spelling. But I will mention the part where you should read through your entry once you’ve put it together to make sure it flows consistently and has everything you need, which I mentioned a few paragraphs back – and so you can catch any pesky typos or paragraphs that you could have sworn you erased a moment ago.

     Once you’re done, you got your plot, your characters, your setting, and the sweet spot where you’ll stop and let other users continue your story, throw it all into the text box and hit the “Submit” button. Then the waiting game for your Storytelling acceptance Neomail (and your trophy and prize) begins.

     Wait, wait, it’s still not helping!

     Yeah, I get it, I get it. Sometimes inspiration is too fickle.

     For (more) inspiration, thumb back through previous Storytelling Competitions, especially those wherein the judge wrote the starter. Those have no indicated username but do have various “titles” to indicate the author like “Consternation! Uproar!” or “Going Off Course” where the username ought to be. Take note of how the starter is structured – you have the setting, the characters, the seed of a story that’s waiting to grow, and the hook for someone else to continue where you have left off which instantly draws interest and attention. More importantly, take note of the wide array of genres, moods and themes used across the years – fantasy, science fiction, drama, heroes and villains, slice of life, intrigue, magic, and more. The possibilities are endless. Well, almost endless, considering these stories all have to take place in Neopia’s universe.

     The former Storytelling judge always had a particular style of writing, but since users are now in charge of starting new Storytelling Competitions, the style and length of each starter can differ greatly, which may or may not have an impact on the direction the story takes. Because of that, there are no hard and fast rules on style or length, but a good rule of thumb for length is to watch the size of your scroll bar in the text box where you submit entries. When your scroll bar is about the size of your cursor, that’s a good length, which means you likely have enough content for a proper Storytelling starter by then. As for style, it’s your call – just keep proper grammar and spelling in mind and make sure you have everything you need for a starter.

     I did everything this article told me, but I wasn’t picked. What did I do wrong?

     With Flash gone, site events postponed and plots a thing of the past, there is less to do on Neopets compared to years long gone. More users are trying new things, which includes entering the Storytelling Competition. Even with less, ahem, competition, there are still several users who submit starters, and only one can be selected each week.

     If you don’t get your Storytelling acceptance Neomail at the beginning of the week, go back through your entry if you can, and see if you missed some grammar or spelling errors, or perhaps some inconsistencies. If that’s the case, edit your entry and try again another week, and see if you can also enter it in a week with a Neopian holiday that fits your theme.

     But if you didn’t find any errors – or if you failed to save the beginning for future reference – try to submit it again (well, as much of it as you can remember and write down) after the current Storytelling. From personal experience, I’ve had some starters that didn’t make the cut at first but were accepted one or two weeks later after a little refurbishing.

     Most importantly, don’t give up – the STC is a very tough contest to win, and even veterans have their off-days (or off-weeks).

     Writing Storytelling starters is an alternate way to participate in the competition and may be easier than continuing what other users have written, since you will have full control over what will happen, at least, for a few paragraphs. It’s also fun to see what your fellow authors try to come up with and how they end your story, which is like the icing on the cake.

     So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start a new story; we’re waiting to continue it!

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