Hi everybody and welcome to my first workshop! I’m the founder of Naonian City Tales, and today I’m going to teach you how to write a good story. Oh, and I’m a lady, so yep, she/her pronouns. Now, let’s get on to writing… with an exquisite culinary example as our starting point!
Imagine a pizza – how many toppings would you like to put on it?
Now imagine the pizza as your main plot. And toppings as your secondary plot.
Then, what’s a plot?
PLOT – A story should have a MAIN plot. In our case, our main plot is our heroes having to prepare a show for Valentine’s day. Their main goal is to make the show as good as possible. In order to do so, they will start writing a plot based on telenovelas and music videos. Will they be able to debut on time for St. Valentine’s day?
However, our story as SUBPLOTS as well. Subplots are not compulsory and they’re the equivalent of toppings on your pizza. Add them carefully. Toppings can make a pizza tastier or can make it difficult to eat.
Make sure each subplot on the story has a solution. The story The Time Lurkers – The Spookiest Valentine (English translation NOT available…yet) has a few subplots:
- Reuniting poor Bea with her mother and brother, while avoiding her evil, floating arm-father
- Defeating the evil cowlamari Lauren and their sidekicks Sweetie and the Heartaquins (Dolcina & gli Arlecchini Cuoricini)
- Discovering how to master the power of Sheepformers and the haggis within their metallic bodies
All the subplots need to come to a conclusion before the end of the story.
Now let’s get to the characters.
Main CHARACTERS must have a personality. Why “must”? Because if a main character doesn’t have a personality, they’re a cheap-joke. It’s perfectly ok for some minor characters to have a one-note personality. However, keep that in mind – only minor characters can be monodimensional.
Characters must have more sides to their personality. They can be neurotic, happy-go-lucky, cautious, anything you like, really.
Minerva “Mindy” Hernandez is one of my characters from the Time Lurkers universe. She’s a strong Venezuelan woman with quite a temper. She’s determined to kick her and her friends’ enemies butts, but, at the same time, she goes with the flow. She has no rush when it comes to schoolwork and she’s friendly towards students. Her melacholy makes her a bit pessimistic towards her relationship with her closest relatives. Sometimes, her world’ s view crashes against that of her frienemy Sandikov.
It takes her a bit to open up to people, but when she does, she can even offer you dinner! At the same time, she likes morbid and cheesy stuff equally. She likes reading comics based on telenovelas, as well as watching them, and when she feels she got enough sugar, she starts to read thrillers and watch documentaries about serial killers. She shares her interest in crime with Sandikov, and that makes them friendlier to each other.
While Minerva may not agree with Sandikov most of the time, she has a good relationship with her colleagues Mr. Pecan and Miss Ionic. She’s as sporty as them, even though she doesn’t want to teach sports because she’s afraid she would be too harsh. Miss Ionic is cold and reserved and she used to be Minerva’s roomate back when they were both in college in the 80s. Those two women, however, share a common passion for pets, tomboyish activities, dancing and stopping evil forces.
She’s usually chill around Mr. Pecan and sees him as an equal. Minerva “Mindy” Hernandez, Mr. Pecan and Miss Ionic are shown to cooperate well, as they organise various activities for students throughout the school year. However, Minerva knows that Pecan is way too chill, and sometimes, she just cannot stand still.
Minerva is married. However, her husband (a gardener from Venezuela. He’s Native American, while Minerva is a White Latina) lives in Germany with their 12-year-old son. She had to move to Naonshire (Naonscirr’ in Italian, Naonistan in French and Russian) to teach Spanish.
Her best friend is Takao, a Nippoleonian guy. They’re basically opposites in body shapes. He’s round and short, she’s very tall. Yet, they’re like siblings. While they don’t see each other every day, they are best friends. They’re both very determined and prone to anger, and they usually fight together as a team.
Her Naonian apartment is a good look onto her personality. While she’s an athletic woman, sport is not her passion. Her apartment is actually full of books and magazines and she also spends her free time making clay figures. Her creative side is what makes her jump to things without a certain conclusion, something that Miss Ionic doesn’t do. The eagle-woman takes time to ponder and she’s a no-nonsense people. While Minerva is also someone who dislikes things that are “llenos/as de/ full of nonsense” (her words), she’s prone to drowning in sadness if things don’t go the way they should.
Last but certainly not least, she has a very notable quirk. She peppers her dialogues with Spanish words and she has an unique catchphrase (“lleno/a/os/as de nonsense” à “full of nonsense”). She also tends to laugh LOUDLY, and how!
If you also draw your characters, make sure they can be recognised simply by looking at their silhouettes. Use shape language whenever possible and make their silhouettes readable. If you’re going for a cartoony look, base your characters on simple shapes. Do not overstuff them with details. They’re not a Thanksgiving’s turkey. (By the way, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Europe, it was just an example).
Now let’s talk about EVUUUULZ CHARACTERS. Oh, so edgy! Well, let’s talk about evil characters. Evil characters need a MOTIVATION. Why are they evil? Who drove them to madness or to the simple quest of power?
In my story, Sweetie and the Heartaquins want to conquer time and space by eating living creatures’ hearts. Why? Because they found out they’re the disciples of the People of Dieser Tao and they want to rule the word with Theseus the cowlamari. However, as evil as those five “children” are, they’re manipulated by a greater evil force. Icarus Pindarich, the man who first saw Theseus the Cowlamari and their friends Squicows while he was stuck in an elevator back in the early 70s.
Now, what NOT to do in a story?
One simply MUST NOT USE the “all just a dream” card. It’s THE WORST THING ANYONE COULD DO WITH A STORY! It’s the biggest a-pull ever! It’s cheap and it amounts to nothing. Fictional stories are ALWAYS real, they’re just set in a different dimension. Period. Dreams are good in small doses and when they do not screw up the main plot. So do NOT use that plot device, unless for a small part of the plot (either at the beginning when the character wakes up from a dream or in the middle when they fall asleep and then they get up/someone wakes them up).
Do not pull plot devices (also known as “Deus Ex Machina”) out of a hat! Deus Ex Machina are known for appearing out of nowhere when the plot needs them most. If you need your characters to get out of trouble with a tool or with someone’s help, make sure that tool/person appears earlier in the story – it’s called FORESHADOWING.
Be SURE you’re consistent with your world building as well. If your story is set in a realistic world (or our world for that matter), stick to that. No talking animals, no weird creatures. On the other hand, if your story is set in a fictional world, make all the weird rules you like, but make sure you stick to them!
As for INSIDE JOKES, I’ll show you what I think it’s the wrong way to use them and what I think it’s the right way to use them.
WRONG WAY: I know a person who likes turtles. They were born on April 30th but you don’t know that, oh dear reader. Then the characters in the story find a turtle plushie in a store downtown. One of the character buys it because she just happens to be born on April 30th, so she has to like turtles, of course! Because that turtle-loving person happens to be born on the same day as her! If it sounds stupid to you, it’s because it is. And it’s also auto-referential.
RIGHT WAY to build an inside-joke. Make sure it starts from a relatable experience you and your friends, or your friends and theirs, or your acquaitances, or even your pet hamster (anyone, really), had. Or even something based on pop-culture or things any human being experience at least once in their life. So, make two or more of your characters share that INSIDE-JOKE. I’m sure most of you haveve a friend who likes to goof off. Now, imagine being with said friend and meeting someone they don’t know. But you do. Then, you introduce your friends to each other. They shake hands and then your silly friend shakes hands with you: “Nice to meet you, X!” “Oh, what a pleasure!” you reply, laughing at their joke. And they laugh too.
Anyway, I know how not to write an inside joke, because I wrote a very autoreferential one back in 2012 and even my closest friends and family realised it was a bit too much.
Lastly, make sure your story brings something new to the table. Whether it’s a new concept, a rarely-seen location or a collection of your experiences told as a fictional tale, make the reader feel what you’re writing.
Remember to write at least every day. Even when you don’t feel like it. Just write a little bit. You’ll see that a little progress every day adds up to big results.
Have fun and see you on the next workshop here on www.naoniancitytales.com