Story, not premise: 2000AD writing guidelines

These are great writing tips, applicable – with a bit of adaptation- to any medium.

Future Shocks are self-contained, four page science-fiction short stories with a twist ending. That means you only have four pages to establish your situation and protagonist, develop the situation through dramatic conflict, and then resolve it with an unexpected twist ending.

“Dramatic conflict” doesn’t just mean obvious, battling-the-bad-guys conflict. It can be internal or emotional, wrestling with inner doubts or demons. But remember, all drama comes from conflict – so if there’s no conflict in your story, there’s no drama.

As for the twist ending, the real trick is to come up with an ending which a) isn’t wholly predictable, and b) has a point. A degree of dramatic irony generally works wonders here, and is what separates a real story from (as Homer Simpson would put it), “just a bunch of stuff that happens”.

You must know the answers to these questions about your story:
Who is the protagonist?
What does he/she want?
What does he/she do to get it?
What’s preventing him/her from getting it?

Story is paramount. That means you must come up with a compelling idea and dramatise it. Remember, an idea is not a story! “What if a prisoner discovered he was trapped in virtual reality?” is not a story, it’s a premise. The ability to turn an idea into a dramatically compelling, original and surprising story with a beginning, middle and end is what writing is all about.

The reader must want to know – what happens next?

Never use two words (or panels) where one will do. Condense it down, keep it moving. Keep the reader intrigued, surprised, and wondering what’s going to happen next. Less is more. Boil your barrel of weak beer down into a shot-glass full of rocket fuel!

Learning to cut and re-write your own material is vital. Write it, then pick it to pieces. What works? What doesn’t work? Where does it drag, what needs tightening up? Is it too linear and predictable? Then you go back and re-write.

Finally, watch your spelling and grammar! … If you can’t spell or form a proper sentence, you can’t expect to be employed as a writer

200AD – Art and Writing Submissions Guidelines

2000AD is a lot of fun and well worth checking out.

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