Category Archives: 2) How to Write a Short/Long Story

Writer’s Resources – A list of useful sites for writers

Writer’s Resources
By Ben Marroquin
StoryMask.com

Just thought I’d post some resource websites that I find helpful when I’m writing. (Last updated on 10-3-06)

1) Need help coming up with character names? Try Baby Names Garden and Baby Names World

2) If you need help coming up with last names for your characters you may want to use Search For Ancestors Surnames Origin

3) (Just Added 10-3-02) Just found some real fun name generators over at Paperback Writer and Serendipity. They have name generators for Places (Streets, Taverns, Towns, and Cities), Realms, and Planets. You can even choose English, German, and Pseudo-Elizabethan sounding name generators. Go on over and give it a try.

4) Need inspiration for your story? Then try viewing some art and photos from: Fred Miranda Galleries and Deviant Art and Elfwood

Quick Note: When using the FredMiranda.com site, you can browse the galleries by simply clicking on the hosting button on the top right of the site. You’ll be shown random set of thumbnail pics. If you like one, simply click on the pic to be taken to that photographers gallery. Or hit the refresh button on your browser to be shown a new random set of thumbnail pics.

5) Need help coming up with story ideas? I wrote an article listing five methods I use to create ideas for my stories. It’s a quick read and gives some examples. You can read it at Writing Step 1: Story Ideas. I also came across an interesting and fun article that may inspire you to write at 35 Reasons.

6) This tip was provided by Jim Stitzel of Flashes of Speculation: Wikipedia is also a good place for some quick and dirty research. It’s not something I’d ever use as the final, authoritative source, but it is a good place to get started.

7) Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable comprises over 18,000 entries that reveal the etymologies, trace the origins and otherwise catalog “words with a tale to tell.”

8) Dictionary.com is a great online dictionary that offers a very useful Thesaurus.

9) The following is a list of Articles that focus on writing errors: Ten Common Writing Mistakes Your Spell Checker Won’t Find, The Standard Deviations of Writing, and Some Common Mistakes.

10) Seth Godin has written a solid article that you may want to read titled Advice for authors. Also, if you’re into writing fan fiction, then you may want to read Rewriting the Rules of Fiction.

There you go. This is the list of resource sites I use when writing stories. If you know of any sites or articles that would be of use to writers, feel free to post them through the comment box 🙂

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Writing Step 5: Destination

Writing Step 5: Destination
Written by: Ben Marroquin
StoryMask.com

The destination of a story is the ending. Before you begin writing you should write down the ending. Why? This way you’ll know where your story is going. There is nothing worse than spending time writing a story and not knowing how to end it. Think of it like going someplace in a car. When you know your destination you know there are roads that will get you there. When you don’t know your destination you’ll spend hours driving around and end up lost, out of gas, or heading back to where you came from.

Below is a segment of an article written by Holly Lisle:

If your first reaction is, “What am I going to do with an ending when I have only the foggiest idea of my beginning, and none whatsoever of my middle?” don’t worry. You aren’t going to do a completely written-out chapter. All you’re going to do is figure out a basic landing pad for your story.

In my case, I’ll make the following decisions:
* Cadence will live (the survival of the main character is not always a given in my books, and eventually Cadence will make an irreversibly fatal mistake – but not this book)
* She will find what she’s been sent to find
* It will not be what she was led to expect, and this surprise will nearly cost her her life, and will prove fatal to at least one person the reader has come to know (though not necessarily to like)
* She will have her reckoning with the man who used her
* Maybe she will get her papers – that I’ll decide later.

Okay – next part of your workshop. Go back to your original entry and figure out in general terms how you want the story to end. Try to answer the following questions:
* Does your protagonist succeed or fail in gaining the objective you gave him in your opener?
* Does your story come to an emotionally satisfying conclusion?
* Can you see yourself going through anywhere from ten pages to seven hundred and being happy to see the story end this way?

I highly recommend reading the whole article at: http://www.hollylisle.com/fm/Workshops/plot-outline.html


Writing Step 4: Creating Your Characters

Writing Step 4: Creating Your Characters
Written by: Ben Marroquin
StoryMask.com

Every story needs good, strange, unique, and interesting characters. Your characters can be human, robotic, animalistic, spirits, magical, monstrous; they can even be toys or whatever your mind thinks up. You should know the following about your characters:

Name: Names can be symbolic and/or easy to pronounce. You should definitely use names you like. For articles on naming characters visit http://teenwriting.about.com/od/characternames/ Need help in finding a name for your characters then visit http://www.babynames.com/

Physical Appearance: Is the character short or tall? Old or Young? Fat or thin? Athletic or Bookish? Red hair or blonde or brunette? Number of eyes, arms, legs, limbs, etc…? Eye color, style of clothes, etc… Write a brief overview of what each of your main characters look like.

Lifestyle and Attitude: Is your character a jock or a science whiz or a beauty queen or a goth or a warrior or a farmer and so on. Is your character quick to anger or laid back. Is your character honest or a greedy thief or brave warrior or a heartless killer or worse… how does your character behave.

History: Write a brief summary about your characters past; where they’re from, what kind of family they come from, and a few big events that helped shaped them from their past.

Uniqueness/Special Abilities: What makes your character unique? Is it the way they talk, the way they dress, a physical scar or tattoo, do they see dead people, can play a musical instrument, or is it something else that no one else shares.

Goals: What is the characters goal in the story? Is it to gain world power, conquer death, go on a quest, battle evil, find treasure, and so on. Is the character willing to do anything in order to achieve their goal? Murder, steal, lie, cheat, and so on.

Here’s an article on character development:
How To Bring Characters to Life
From Niko Silvester,
Your Guide to Creative Writing for Teens.

Ideally, fictional characters should seem to have lives and existences beyond the novel or story that they appear in, but how can a writer accomplish this task? Below, you’ll find ways to make characters more real, to make them “sit up and start to breathe on their own,” as writer Jack Hodgins says.

Difficulty: N/A
Time Required: As long as it takes
Here’s How:

1. Find the right name. A character’s name can say a lot about them, whether you choose a name with symbolic meaning, or just one that has a good sound. Quite often, characters seem to arrive already named, but sometimes it can take forever to find the perfect thing to call them. The wrong name will probably irritate you, and will never seem quite right, so take the time to choose one that fits.

2. Give the character a history. Even if you never mention a character’s past in the novel or story, the fact that they have one will make the character more alive for you — and that will translate into a more realistic character for the reader. Think about where the character came from. Where did they grow up? What was their childhood like? What things have happened to them?

3. Consider physical appearance. Is your character short or tall? What colour is their hair? Their eyes? These are all details that may or may not make it onto the page, but YOU need to know them. Having a concrete look for a character gives you something to picture while you write about them. Image how hard it would be to write about someone you can’t even picture.

4. Give them a sense of style. We all make judgments of some kind about people based on what they look like. One person’s clothing may tell us they are a Goth, while another person may wear only the most expensive designer fashions. Figure out what kind of clothing and accessories your character wears and why. What does their clothing say about them and what do THEY think it says?

5. Think about tastes. What things does your character like and dislike? What are their favourite foods and colours? The things a person likes can say a lot about them; we may gain hints about their history and psychology. Again, how much of this information you will use in the piece of fiction you write will vary, but knowing your character well means you can write more effectively.

6. Find a unique manner of speaking. While you don’t want every character to have strange vocal quirks or a bizarre vocabulary, making each person speak in a subtly different way helps make each character distinct. Ideally, you should be able to tell which character is speaking without looking at the dialogue tags, but you also don’t want to exaggerate their uniqueness.

7. Think about behaviour and mannerisms. Do you have some little gesture you make when you’re nervous? Do you tilt your head or stick out the end of your tongue when you concentrate? Everyone has little quirks and mannerisms, and so should your characters. As with everything else, you don’t want to overdo it, but a unique gesture or repeated mannerism can give a character more personality.

Tips:
1. Take your time and really think about your characters.
2. Don’t overdo any of the techniques.
3. Remember that many characteristics will appear as you write; you don’t have to fully develop a character before you write about them.
4. You don’t have to use every detail that you discover/invent.
For more articles on character development visit http://teenwriting.about.com/od/characters/

Character Creation Worksheet
Created by: Ben Marroquin
StoryMask.com

My Characters
Name________________________________ Age_____ Gender________
Color of Eyes _____________ Hair _________ Skin/Fur _____________
Place of Birth ____________________ City/Town __________________
Job or Trade _________________________________________________
Clubs, Clans, or Organizations __________________________________
Physical Apperance and Style ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Attitude ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Uniqueness/Special Abilities _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Family _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
History ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Goals _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Writing Step 3: Creating Your Setting

Writing Step 3: Creating Your Setting
Written by: Ben Marroquin
StoryMask.com

Story setting refers to the location or locations in which your story takes place. Does your story take place in the city, town, mountains, island, underground, undersea, forest, space station, or on another world. Does their adventure take them through rural towns or an urban industrial city or a secret labyrinth? If it’s in the city, is it in an upscale neighborhood or the ghetto? Your setting is also influenced by the year in which the story takes place (Past, Present, or Future). Just be sure to remember that the location/setting in which your story takes place in should also affect the way in which your character and the characters he/she meets behave.

Here’s an article relating to setting:

Writing the Five Senses
From Niko Silvester,

Description in Creative Writing

Description is important in creative writing. We use it in fiction and non-fiction to set the scene, describe our characters and much more. In poetry, the right descriptive words can make the difference between an okay poem and an excellent one. One thing that some writers forget, though, is that description and details can be more than just visual.

Why Sensory Detail is Important

Information about what things we might encounter with our senses is vital in creative writing. This kind of detail is what brings a scene alive for the reader. Imagine reading a story in which nothing is said about what a setting or character looks like. Reading creates a picture in the reader’s mind, and it’s difficult to visualize something when we don’t know what we’re meant to be seeing.

Remembering to Use All Five Senses

So far I’ve talked mostly about seeing and visualizing–that is, using visual detail. 

When we think of detail, we tend to imagine first what a thing or place looks like. Your reader needs that information, too. But remember that we have five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. All of these can come into a description, and each makes the thing you are describing seem more real to the reader. Consider the following examples:

Example One

I stepped into the room and looked around. The yellow paint was peeling off the walls in strips and bubbles, exposing the greyish wall beneath. The battered, deep brown wood floors were stained in several places with rust-coloured smears. They looked like old blood. Dust webs floated in the air, attached to the ceiling and fixtures somewhere in the shadows above my head. There was another door on the other side of the room, cracked open a few inches, but I couldn’t see what was beyond it.

How easy is it to visualize this room? Probably not too difficult. There are enough details that you can imagine what the room looks like; perhaps you’ve seen a similar room in real life and can fill in some of the missing details yourself. Notice, though, that the only detail I’ve given in this example is visual. You can see the room, but that’s all. Reading this passage and imagining it in your head is rather like watching television with the sound turned off, or like looking at the scene through a window.

Example Two

I stepped into the room and coughed at the musty, mildewy smell that felt like it was already clogging my throat. I looked around. The yellow paint was peeling off the walls in strips and bubbles, exposing the greyish wall beneath. The battered, deep brown wood floors creaked as I stepped farther in. There were stains in several places on the wood, rust-coloured smears that smelled metallic when I bent to look more closely at them. They looked like old blood. Dust webs floated in the air, stirred by the faint breeze I could feel coming in the door behind me. They were attached to the ceiling and fixtures somewhere in the shadows above my head. Save for the groans of the floorboards beneath my feet, there was no sound. It was like the air smothered sounds and choked the breeze. I saw another door on the other side of the room, cracked open a few inches, but I couldn’t see what was beyond it, or hear if anyone was there. I felt another faint stir of air, this time from that second door, and there was the strong smell of mice.

This passage is much longer (it could probably be edited down some). Notice how I have added details of smell, touch, and sound. I could even have had my character breathe through her mouth to add taste to the rest of the detail. Now there is enough detail to imagine you’re actually in the room, instead of just looking at it. Can you see how Example Two is much more immersive than Example One?

As In All Things, Moderation

As with pretty much any aspect of writing, moderation is necessary with description. You don’t want to overload your reader with too much detail. If you spend all your time describing things, your reader is going to wonder whether or not anything actually happens. You can avoid this overload in several ways. First of all, consider what it is you are describing. If it is something that is not really central to the story or poem, you can mention only a few details (or perhaps only a single, unique detail). If, on the other hand, you are talking about a vital scene or a central character, more detail is necessary.

Another way to avoid over doing the detail is to not deliver it all at once. Instead of pausing to give a complete description of a person or place, only give the really important detail right away, and intersperse the rest with action, dialogue, your character’s thoughts or other elements. In fact, when you are dealing with characters, it is often best to reveal them to the reader over the whole length of the story or poem.

However you use your detail, just remember that most people have five senses and we use them all the time, even if we are not aware of it. 

For more articles on setting visit http://teenwriting.about.com/od/usecreatesetting/


Writing Step 2: Developing Your Plot

Writing Step 2: Developing Your Plot
Written by: Ben Marroquin
StoryMask.com

What is a plot? According to dictionary.com it’s: The pattern of events or main story in a narrative or drama. The plot is like an outline of the events that take place in a story. It takes us from point A to point B to point C and so on in the story… all the way into its eventual conclusion. It is the sequence of events that occur in your story. Are you still unsure what a plot is? Visit http://www.learner.org/exhibits/literature/read/plot1.html or http://teenwriting.about.com/od/plotting/

What I like to do is take my one sentence idea and expand it into a summary paragraph of my story. Example:

My Idea: Strange powers awaken in a young girl.

My Plot: A girl is born with apple green cat-like eyes. One day she receives the sight and realizes that not all is as it appears. Other beings, creatures, and things walk among us. They soon realize that she is one of the gifted; they chase her down but soon realize that she has other gifts as well. Gifts that can hurt them. She wounds one of them badly and it threatens her: “No one will help you. Do you know why?… It’s because you’re one of a kind so nobody will believe dear child, they’ll think your crazy and they’ll lock you away. Do you know where they’ll lock you away?…. I didn’t think so. They’ll lock you away in the Nut House and our kind owns the Nut House.” She soon finds a mentor and they decide that the creatures must be coming from the Asylum where there final confrontation takes place.

I wrote this plot without worrying about grammar or spelling because I didn’t want it to stop the flow of creativity I had going. Besides, I can always go back later and fix those simple mistakes. My main focus was on getting the ideas of my plot out of my head and onto paper as quickly as possible before I could forget any of it. This example plot is basically an outline of the story which I’m going to write. I usually add more events and details but this example gives you a basic idea of what I’m talking about. I highly recommend you check out those websites listed above for more in-depth information on plots.


Writing Step 1: Story Ideas

Writing Step 1: Story Ideas
Written by: Ben Marroquin
StoryMask.com

Your short story should begin from one idea that can be written and explained within a simple sentence. This idea will be the foundation of your story and/or graphic novel. Here are some examples:

A group of teenagers must survive the night at an old campground.

A kid learns that stealing is wrong.

A teenager finds a powerful robotic suit and must decide what to use it for.

A kid learns that picking Truth is better than Dare.

A kid learns that some names should never be repeated in the dark in front of a mirror.

It is a good idea to come up with 5 story ideas before you begin writing your plot. Right now you may be asking yourself “How am I supposed to come up with my story ideas?” It’s easier than you think. Here are some of the ways I come up with my story ideas:

Dreams: I have strange and vivid dreams. I’m able to recall good sized chunks of these dreams and use them as the source of some of my short stories. Stories like Red Button Eyes, World Builders, and The Janitor’s Keys. The best part about getting your ideas from dreams is that most of the time they are very unique and personal.

Pictures: I love going online and visiting websites that have art and photos created by people from around the world. It nurtures the imagination and allows me to see the world through different eyes, increasing my creativity. I use these pictures to inspire my settings (the locations in which my stories take place) and creature designs. I don’t steal other peoples pictures or creatures which they’ve created (and which are therefore protected by copyrights) but simply use them as inspirations to creating my own. For example, a picture from an artist combined two animals together to make one which inspired me to combine a spider and a rat (which I call a scrat) for a novel I’m currently working on.

Urban Legends: Many of today’s movies can be traced back to urban legends. For instance say candyman or beetlejuice three times and these beings are supposed to appear for the caller. Does this remind you of a very popular urban legend about a woman covered in red named Mary? You can do the same. Take a popular urban legend and make enough changes to make it your own new story. Change the way the creature or cucuy looks, where the story takes place (rural town, urban city, blue desert, within dreams etc…), how to stop it, and so forth and you’ve got yourself a story.

Newspapers: Two Men Caught Stealing Dynamite, Car Crash Kills Driver, Police Raids Club… these are just a few of the headlines that were found in various newspapers, each of which can be used as an idea for a short story. Simply change the names of those involved, the setting, and even the reason behind the “crimes.” Examples: A) Idea: Two Men Caught Stealing Dynamite. Quick Plot: Livestock and people are disappearing from an old rural town. Strange tracks are the only clues as too the mystery. Two men discover strange creatures living in the old mines, rush back to town in the middle of night, and break into the building where dynamite is stored. The local police, warned by the silent alarm, capture the two men and haul them off to jail. B) Idea: Car Crash Kills Driver. Quick Plot: A teenage street racer finds himself in the race of his life; being chased down the rural back roads by a speed demon. Guess he shouldn’t have bet and sworn that he was the fastest driver in the world. C) Idea: Police Raise Clubs. Quick Plot: People have been acting strange, even crazy lately. One of those people, in a moment of clarity, informs the police about the last place he visited, a club. People go in but don’t come out the same. The police raid the strange old dark club that’s shrouded in mystery.

Very Old Fairy Tales: Use one of your favorite old fairy tale as the basis of your story just change the characters, the settings, the time the story takes place in and how the story ends. Why old fairy tales? New stories are protected by copyrights making it illegal to copy. So how long do copyrights last? Generally speaking, for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. It is for this reason that I recommend using old fairy tales and changing them adding your own writing style and personality.