Article 101: Writing Neopian Times Articles
Articles are what you often find in your local, real-life newspaper, although Neopets articles typically tend to be feature articles. Features are based on facts, like news; or may present a certain opinion the writer has, like editorials (in real-life newspaper terms, I don't mean the editorial of the Neopian Times). However, a feature is more laid-back; you're free to present your topic however you want, entertaining readers as well as informing. Features usually stick to the inverted hourglass format -- you hook your reader with an engaging introduction, follow through with the body of your article, and conclude by going back to where you started. But that's just a recommendation, as the Neopian Times is more lenient with article format than the average broadsheet (which is good; man, that inverted pyramid thing haunts me from my campus journalism days).
Any article can be taken in a comedic or serious way, it depends on you. Don't feel pressured to be funny if you're not. It is very possible to write a serious, but nonetheless engaging article. When in doubt, read through everything (a few times), or ask someone else to read it. Don't ramble on and on and on, but figure out how you can ramble without turning your article into a very effective lullaby. Breaking your work down into sections can help, especially when you're writing a guide or a news article.
Articles are always based on facts and common knowledge of your chosen topic, even if your work is mostly opinion (you will need fact to back your opinion up). You can't write a game guide about a game you're terrible at, can you? Unless of course, that IS what you want to write about. Just as there are different types of news articles, feature articles and the like, you will find different shapes, sizes (1,000 words or more) and styles of articles in the Times. We'll focus on the more common types here.
Considering how long the NT has been around, you're bound to run into all sorts of articles.
If you're good with a game or a certain feature of the site (e.g. customisation or guild maintenance), you can write an article that can help others out. One thing you must keep in mind though is that your guide should be easy enough for the average Neopian to understand. If you use terms, slang or acronyms that others may not recognize, you might need to paraphrase or provide definitions. A guide can either be humorous or serious, and it doesn't necessarily have to be that helpful -- it can even be a completely comedic bundle of laughs that serve mostly to amuse instead of help, like a how-not-to article.
The downside to creating a guide is that many games and other things around the site already have guides published in the NT. You might want to search first and see what others have done so you don't end up reiterating too much, or rather, sounding like a copycat. If you do find other guides that have already tackled your idea, don't fret -- simply try to find a newer approach or see what the previous articles didn't cover.
If you want to cite (link back to) someone's article, you may do so with permission from the author, or mention them in your author's notes.
Feeling creative but not up to a story or a comic? Neopia has an extensive cast of characters, and not all of them are as well-known as, say, Queen Fyora or Jeran. As much as possible, try to find characters who don't get as much love and think of how they live, their idiosyncrasies and why readers should find out more about them. The best places to find characters are in collectable cards and the Games Room. If you must interview an exceedingly eminent character like Dr. Sloth, you will have to make your article stand out even more from all the others.
If I had a destructive ray gun for every interview I give you puny Neopians...
Some characters don't have much of a back story, but others do. Make sure to do your research first so you don't get any facts wrong. But because not everything is provided, this is where you can be really creative. Also, don't limit yourself to simple dialogues. You could add a little randomness into the mix -- did you accidentally step on his/her precious petpet's tail on your way to their house?
As much as possible, make the character's personality consistent throughout the article. This is why I highly suggest putting yourself into his/her shoes, since technically, you'll be answering your own questions.
An interview is typically written in script format, as you might have guessed/observed/whatever, which makes things easier for you and your readers.
There's always something going on in Neopia. New worlds are being discovered, new species of Neopets and petpets pop out of nowhere, and all sorts of site features are introduced, revamped and deleted every now and then. If you're a reporter who loves being on the scene and in the know, this kind of article might just be one for you.
A real-life news article provides all the vital information about the report in the first paragraph, which is called the lead. It tells you what the article is all about and why you should keep on reading. If you have no time to read, the lead gives you the story in a nutshell. It also has the angle, which is like the reason why the news is worth poring over and wasting a few minutes of your life on.
Before I bore you to death with the vestiges of campus journalism expertise I still retain, let me just tell you one thing -- leads and angles are recommended, but not required. Of course, having an angle will help you hook your readers and reel them in. As for a lead...well, it's up to you if you want to sound professional and formal, but in the Neopian Times, a simple introduction will do. Stick your angle -- whatever you think will catch your readers' fancy -- somewhere in there and hold on for the ride.
This may well be the kind of article that requires the most research and nosing about in Neopia. You must be able to find anything and everything interesting and significant to make your article as informative as possible. But don't just list everything down to the weather patterns and populations like a huge info dump, please. That's just boring, uncreative, hard to digest, and downright terrible.
Researching can be fun though, especially if you love what you're going to write about!
You may approach this as a field reporter (for example, if you're exploring a new world, you could make it as if you're in that very place right now, poking shopkeepers, interviewing passers-by and chasing after fangirl-able characters), or use whatever gimmick you can think of to jazz up your news.
Ah, yes, the list articles... they're the top 10, best 10, worst 10, coolest items, most useless junk, etc. More often than not, they entertain more than inform, and when they do inform, they inform readers of the author's opinions -- what s/he believes are the top/bottom [insert number here] [insert whatever item or object or concept you can think of here].
You still need some research for this one, because the ranking will come from you (unless you survey certain Neopians and present your results, but that's additional work). Then all you have to do is give reasons for your ranking, if any, and/or why you've included something or someone in your list.
Sounds easy, right? It is, but the downside is that you will have to find a really, really creative idea and present it as uniquely as possible if you want to write this kind of article. There are a great deal of list articles in the NT right now, after all.
I couldn't think of another name to call these, so there.
These are, of course, also based on fact. However, the bulk of an opinion article goes to -- you guessed it -- the view of an author concerning a Neopian issue. But unlike real-life editorials, which can get right down to the nitty-gritty of politics, religion and more grisly topics, these are much lighter; after all, Neopian issues are comparatively lighter (it's so much easier to discuss the perfect battle set or fostering pets than poverty and political dynasties, right?), fewer and less trouble.
You, the author, will take one side of a subject and persuade readers why you're right. Of course, you will need to back it up with sufficient evidence. However, don't go too far -- don't impose your opinions too much. You're only presenting your side of the story, but in the end, it's all up to the readers whether they'll take what you said seriously, or with a grain of salt. This is an article, not a debate of epic proportions.
Present your topic clearly and concisely. Before you give your say, you can mention a few counterarguments first -- but if you do, be sure to debunk them as well, strengthening your stand. When you finish, it's good to wrap up by looking back at your topic and declaring once and for all your view on the situation.
Of course, your topic can be completely ludicrous if sheer entertainment is what you're going for.
Final Words and Last-Minute Tips
No matter what kind of article you're hoping to write for the NT, you must remember the general guidelines of any and every submission; such as proper spelling and grammar, and sticking to the rules and guidelines. And most of all, be creative! Make your article worth reading, and just have fun! Contributing to the NT is one way to hone your writing skills -- it definitely helped me during those days on our school paper.
This article was written by: Kat