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General Art Ki's Tips and Ideas for Story Development

Keyari

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Jul 13, 2011
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Ki's Story Development Tips and Ideas

Hey guys, it's me, Keyari! With the increasing activity in the Fan Works section and the large number of stories here in the Writing sub forum, I've been asked for help quite a number of times. So here I plan on helping more than just a few of you. I'll give you some of my tips and ideas for creating characters, the plot, and so on. If there's something that I didn't cover that you would like me to, feel free to post with questions and suggestions.

INDEX:
- Character Development
~Logs ~Sign-ups
~ Maps ~Roles
~Details
- Genres
- Plot
- Views
- Maps
- Detailing
- Writer's Block
- Titles
- Chapter Development





Character Development
Every story has a number of characters. To begin, you must create your main character- that can be the main protagonist, the main antagonist, or a simple bystander. Your main character will be the main focus of the reader, no matter what role. You can have multiple main characters, but start with the one you will focus on the most.
Character Maps:
Many authors use a character map to help them develop their characters. This helps the author describe the character's looks, personality, what actions the character may take, so on and so forth.
Here is an example of one, going more into the plot:
mapping2.jpg


Logs:
To keep track of every character that an author creates for a story, a character journal, or "character log" can be used. These 'log' every character's details, from appearance to role.
Detailing:
When creating characters, you will want to know as many details about each as you possibly can. Write down their exact looks, from the color of their eyes to the type of their shoes. One suggestion is that you sketch out your character as a drawing, even if you don't have the talent. This keeps a clear visual of what your character looks like.
Roles:
During the character development stage, you need to classify what you want each character to do. The roles of important characters are influenced by the genre of the story.
Story Sign-ups:
Within these days on Zelda Dungeon, more and more writers are using story sign-ups to allow others to create characters to fit in their story. This isn't a bad thing at all; in fact, it increases the variety of different characters. If you are planning to use sign-ups for your story, you will want to get as much information as you can about the characters others are giving you. Here is an example of a detailed sign-up sheet, allowing for plentiful details about each character:

Name: (First and Last)
Gender: (Self- explanatory)
Age: (You choose the age range you want. i.e. 8-20 years)\
Race: (Make sure to specify what races there is available.)

Hair color/Style: (Self- explanatory)
Eye color: (Self- explanatory)
Skin Color: (Optional)
Clothes: (Depends on the Genre. Make sure to specify this within your post)

Personality: (Self- explanatory)
Weapons: (Depends on what you want in the story)
Instrument: (Optional)
Role: (What the character will be doing in your story. Specify what roles are available.)
Other: (For anything else they want you to know about their character.)

Additional Character Information:
Protagonist: The heroic character that tries to stop the antagonist from their evil doing
Antagonist: The villainous character who causes disruption in normal life in order to obtain something, usually power, that causes the protagonist to come out of their normal daily circumstances to stop them.

Genres
Action, Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction... These are some of the many types of genres. Genre influences many parts of the story- the plot, characters, setting, etc.
How Genre affects Plot:
Romance: A very common genre, often mixed with other types of genres. During romance stories, the protagonist falls in love with another main character (Not always a protagonist), when the antagonist appears. The antagonist becomes involved and causes the protagonist's relationship to become difficult, thus the plot.

Action/Adventure: The action and adventure genre is often mixed with the romance genre. This genre is more popular with a younger audience, specifically teen/pre-teen. This genre has the antagonist cause trouble of some sort that causes the protagonist to stop their normal lifestyle and journey out to diminish the evil.

Mystery: This genre is becoming less and less popular these days, but is still a good read. The antagonist in these stories commits some type of crime, covering up most of the evidence so that the protagonist goes on a small quest for the answers.

Science Fiction: With predictions of an apocalypse caused by robots in the media, science fiction is becoming a genre increasing in popularity. Androids, Robots, and humans all concur in these stories. Often, a human (who ends up being the antagonist, often) creates a robotic system with abilities to do good, but ends up becoming evil, thus causing the real protagonist to come up and stop them.

Fantasy: This genre is very similar to Action/Adventure. Instead of technology being a focus, like the Science-Fiction stories, these revolve around magical elements that include magical powers, weapons, etc. These are huge these days, especially here on Zelda Dungeon.

How Genre Affects the Setting:
Romance: More romantically themed settings are used in these stories. Some examples are at a beach, the sunset, moonlit forests, fireplaces, candlelit dinners, and so on. More love-like colors like red, pink, and soft blues add into this genre.

Action/Adventure: These are more modern stories, taking place in real life times. Firearms and weapons are extremely important not only to the genre, but to the story's characters as well, for because they are so common a character may find themselves in unlucky situations without a weapon, adding to the story. Modern clothing is primarily used, but older clothing; even some clothing that mixes into the Fantasy genre has been seen.

Mystery: These take place often in the 1960's, using the classic old-fashioned cars, hairstyles, and crazy bright clothing.

Science Fiction: Since science fiction often takes place in computer/digital dimensions, technology is fitted into the clothes, and becomes part of it. Most of the scenes and clothing choices are very bright and futuristic.

Fantasy: Fantasy stories typically take place in separate worlds other than Earth. Many of them have places similar to the medieval ages- Dark forests, castles, villages, etc. Medieval weapons like swords and bows are also very common. Using types of magic's are very popular. Many races are introduced in these stories, from elves, to your own type of creature. The clothes are also based off of the medieval times, but come in many varieties.





The Plot
A lot of the plot elements were explained in earlier sections, but I'll go more in depth. For the plot, you need to ask yourself what makes certain characters so significant. Ask yourself what the problem is that the antagonist has caused to bring the protagonist to come out of his/her way to fix it. Once you have specified this, you can begin sequencing out scenes in the order of your choice.




Point of View
There are many points of view for you to choose from. This will be how the reader sees your story, from the Narrator's eyes, 1st person, etc.

Narrator- When the author tells the story. An example:
"Now Tekara is a clever girl, fast and silent, never letting herself be seen."
1st Person- Told by the main character's view. An example:

"I looked down the hallway. Darkness leaked out from the windows, leaving me with cold chills. I looked to Eli. He looked at me and smiled, his teeth showing as a light in the pitch."
Tenses:
As well as point of view, the tense also plays an important part. There is three tenses to choose from, Past, Present, and Future.

Past- Told as if the events had already happened, like a storyteller. Example:

"The days had been dark and full of misery. No one had ever dared to stop the darkness... Not until she appeared that one day, so long ago..."
Present- The events being described as if they were happening at this very moment. Example:

"I scream as the dagger impales my arm. Clenching my teeth, I grab the handle and thrust the blade out of my arm. Tears stream down my face and my vision blurs. The world around me fades and I see no more."
Future- Usually used as a cliffhanger ending to a chapter or story, the events being predicted by the person. Example:

"I looked up at my captor, and the thoughts whizzed through my mind. He's going to die."



Maps
In many cases, it is useful to have a detailed map for both the audience and the author. The map can include small sketches of important characters and a map of the land of which the story takes place. Fantasy stories are known for the use of maps in the front of their books. This helps some audience members visualize the story better and have a better idea of where things take place. An example would be the maps in the front of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.




Detailing
I find detailing as one of the most common deductions from stories. Most people need to improve upon how much they detail things. Usually people add either too much or too little detail. Here are some important tips for better detailing:

~ DO NOT LIST your details.
I'll use my character, Tekara, as an example.

Bad Example-

"Tekara walked into the room. She had on a blue tunic, tan pants, brown leather boots, dark brown hair, emerald green eyes, and a pendant."
The listing of the details adds unneeded drab to the story and causes it to become dull and boring. Instead try this:

"Tekara walked silently into the fire-lit room. She was wearing her usual blue tunic and tan shorts. As Eli looked at her, the fire reflected from her emerald green eyes, causing them to sparkle. As he looked down, he saw the pendant of green stone resting upon her neck. Her brown leather boots scuffed the dirt floor."
This piece adds more story elements as well as keeping the details nice and spread. It keeps a flow to the story that makes you want to continue. It introduces two characters properly.

~DESCRIBE the setting!
Bad Example:

"Tekara and Eli walked into the dark forest. They soon approached...."
This begins to tell a bit about their surroundings, but it cuts off immediately, leaving the reader with little to visualize. Try this instead:

"Tekara and Eli stood at the edge of the dark and dreary forest. Crows sat atop the trees, their eyes piercing the land below. Unseen creatures moved about it the shadows. Tekara gulped, and fear spread within her. Eli placed a hand on her shoulder and courage instantly sprouted inside her. They quickly entered the forest, cautiously, unintelligible of what they might confront."
This also adds to the story and allows more personality to drive the characters. The audience can now visualize more of the setting.

~Another thing to consider, is your word choice. When you go back to edit your story, look at the weaker words and try to replace them with stronger ones. Use a thesaurus if you are in need of one.




Writer's Block
We all hate it. This is when the author is unable to or feels unable to continue on with their story. They feel as if they have no further motivation to keep them going. But luckily, writer's block can be avoided, if you take necessary action:

~Schedule out some time each day from your other daily activities to write.

~Listen to advice from others. Feedback is amazing on this website and plenty of people are willing to help you. We also have some decent critics. (*Cough* Ganondork *Cough*)

~Listen to comments from others. If you know you have others that want to read more of your story, it keeps you motivated to try and meet those goals.



Titles
I must admit, one of the challenges of creating a new story is coming up with a decent title. Here are a few strategies:

~One word Titles: These are very popular these days. Look through what you've written and find one word that ties the whole story together. Use a thesaurus if you need more selection.

~Find an important quote from your story that tells the plot's main idea, without revealing too much information.

~Using titles including the main character's name:
- "Legend of..."
- "Tales of..."
- Adventure(s) of..."
- Memoirs of..."
- Just using the main character's name and then a subtitle describing the plot.

And so on. You can use anything of significance; such as a time period, place, person, etc.

Chapter Development
When you are about to start the actual writing process, you need to keep in mind how you want to lay out your story. Most stories are written with chapters, with the exception of 'one-shots'.

Prologues and Epilogues
Many stories use prologues, as well as epilogues. The prologue introduces the story, gives some background, and introduces characters.
Often, authors will use the prologue to introduce a character that will not be seen for some time. The character may describe part of the plot, without revealing much. Then the first chapter is written with the main character, and the chapters continue on until the two have met, and a conflict in the plot is resolved.
Another use of prologues is to introduce the main character(s), their lifestyle. To do this well is difficult, when you are trying to keep the storyline flowing and well detailed.
As for epilogues, authors use these to close the story to an end. In some cases, the last normal chapter starts to tie up the story, and then the epilogue introduces a plot twist that sets up a sequel.

Chapter Length
The length of your chapters is another thing to look into, before and during the actual writing process. Chapters that are too long can make the story seem to drag over, and makes the story feel like a pain to read. Shorter chapters can make the story seem to go to quick, and that you're just hanging onto the story. Prologues and epilogues, however, are often either shorter or longer than normal chapters. So try to keep your chapters right in the middle.




Additional Tips
~Use Spell Check, constantly. Even then, recheck your work to make sure that you have everything correct.

~If you ever need help, ask! Many people are willing to help you, so don't be afraid.

~Have other people help you edit your writing. They may see errors that you never saw.





Character Map photo courtesy of: http://www.ric.edu/astal/litstrategies/mapping2.gif
 

Ghosi

Schmetterling
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Oct 4, 2010
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Thanks for the thread Keyari! Now I know where to start if I get to write my story down. :)
 

Master Sword13

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This is very good, Keyari! I want to thank you for all of the info, I'll do my best to include all of it in the future of XII and other stories!
 

Lord Gobli

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Although I myself know most of what you've already posted, I still have to give it to, Keyari. :) Well done, I loved your ideas and how well you organized it. I am sure it will help many of those who run in to trouble when writing.
 

Raindrop14

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E-Arth
Thanks Ki for posting this.^^ I think it will really help me and others with writing.:nod: This actually makes me want to write the next chapter to my story.:D
 

Ventus

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I do have questions, although I'm not sure this is the proper area to pose them.

Take a protagonist, for example. Is it necessary for that character to develop? To go through personality phases? Do they have to have multi-faceted dynamics to every sphere attached to them to be considered even decent?

Going along with that, what is considered "out of character" exactly? I've seen slips of a villain trying to protect a hero and that was deemed OoC?
 

Azure Sage

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Take a protagonist, for example. Is it necessary for that character to develop? To go through personality phases? Do they have to have multi-faceted dynamics to every sphere attached to them to be considered even decent?
I would say they don't have to develop in EVERY area. But for a character to gradually develop over time is a good thing, and it can really add depth to your story and to the character in question. For example, they could think a certain way, but over time, after going through several experiences, they begin to think a different way.
Going along with that, what is considered "out of character" exactly? I've seen slips of a villain trying to protect a hero and that was deemed OoC?
It depends. If that villain has legitimate reason and a good set-up for it, it can be done well. I'm guilty of sort of failing on the set-up in this area, so I know that it's necessary to provide a decent set-up for their change. "Out of character" is when, for example, a mean, cold-hearted character goes out of his way to help someone else with no legitimate reason or set-up or explanation for that action.

Also, what is "OoC"? :?
 
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Curmudgeon

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grumpy
You want your characters to change and adapt based on the circumstances that are thrust upon them via the plot. Characters that change are more interesting and dynamic than one who acts predictably from beginning to end. The history of fiction is build upon the foundations of many a moral and existential quandary.
 

Herman Cain

you touch her butt and she moves away
Joined
Nov 12, 2010
I do have questions, although I'm not sure this is the proper area to pose them.

Take a protagonist, for example. Is it necessary for that character to develop? To go through personality phases? Do they have to have multi-faceted dynamics to every sphere attached to them to be considered even decent?

Going along with that, what is considered "out of character" exactly? I've seen slips of a villain trying to protect a hero and that was deemed OoC?
Late reply here, but I'm just going to go off of what Curmudgeon and Azure said. Character development is huge, especially in a protagonist. The protagonist should be a dynamic character, while less important ones can remain static. The big part to character development is to give them a crippling flaw. The Greeks loved to use hubris - overconfidence, arrogance, etc. - as a tragic flaw, and there are many flaws that can be explored. If faced with this flaw, the character needs to adapt to the situation, and either emerge victorious, or fail miserably.

Failing doesn't necessarily mean death, though. It can simply be defeat, and leaving the character broken physically, emotionally, or spiritually. These low moments are how your character grows. If they are riding high for the entirety of the story, then they are no better than the average Mary-Sue.

And out of character is a very difficult situation. This is usually seen in fan fictions in which the author decides to throw caution to the wind and make a character act in a way that they were not created to do. This can include going from a cold-hearted villain to a warm anti-hero within the span of 500 words. It's a bit tougher to spot when dealing with original work, but sometimes it's very much in your face.
 

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