A story to tell: Teen author shares experience at Eden Park
Sean Fay Wolfe, teen author of the fan fiction title “Quest for Justice, a Minecraft Novel” (Elementia Chronicles, Volume 1), had the students at Eden Park Elementary School in the palm of his hand last week as he spoke about his journey from 14-year-old fan of the game to 17-year-old author of a fiction series of three action adventure books set in the world of the video game Minecraft.
Fay Wolfe’s first book in the series was originally created using Createspace, a self-publishing format, but has since been picked up by HarperCollins Publishing. The publishing house will release all three books, starting in July for the first, and following with the second book in October 2015 and the third in January 2016.
“When I first tell people that I wrote a story set in the world of Minecraft, their first question is always, ‘Why?’” Fay Wolfe said. “But let’s have a show of hand here as to how many of you like Minecraft.”
Nearly every hand in the room filled with upper-grade elementary students flew into the air, and Fay Wolfe had their rapt attention.
“I really like Minecraft. There’s so much you can do. A couple of years ago, I was on Minecraft constantly, non-stop,” Fay Wolfe said. “The game is just as much fun to play by yourself as it is to play with other people using multi-player servers. I like to play it with my friends and with hundreds and thousands of people playing together on the servers in online survival worlds. I realized though, as I was playing with other people, that people playing together encounter problems. Most problems are little and annoying, but I started thinking about other problems that could possibly take a Minecraft server and render it useless so that people can’t use it any more. I tried to think of what types of problems those could be.”
Fay Wolfe brought the discussion to the topic of resources.
“Every resource has its purpose. There might be diamonds, gold, stone, dirt, wood or water,” he said. “But I started to wonder what would happen if people who played the game were grouped together in their cities and their cities got so big that they used up all of the resources until there were no more and people who were the older, original players who had helped to found the cities decided that there could be no more new players and wanted the newer players to leave the cities. That wouldn’t be fun, would it? If someone gets you to leave, if you’re no longer welcome, that’s a problem, right?”
He told the students that considering such a problem led him to his idea for his first book.
“That single biggest problem that Minecraft could have became the seed in my head for my story,” he said. “It was the conflict, the issue of the story, and created an epic quest, a journey across the world of Minecraft for my characters.”
Fay Wolfe explained more about his writing process and how he created his three main characters.
“Without players, this would not be a good story. I started to think about who my main character should be, what should their traits be,” he said. “They should be brave, talented and care for their friends. I decided to name my first character Stan, and he’s a new player. He does all the questing. ‘The Elementia Chronicles’ is his story. Then I came up with his sidekick, Charlie. He’s a good guy, but he’s different than Stan. He’s smarter, and he has more common sense than Stan. He’s kind of a coward though, he’s a scaredy-cat. Together, they help each other and balance out each others weaknesses.”
Before introducing his third character, Fay Wolfe asked how many girls in the audience liked Minecraft. Dozens of hands went up.
“I realized that a lot of girls play Minecraft, too, and my main characters so far were just boys. So, they ran into Kat. They had a rocky start, but before long, the three of them travel together and the trio becomes good friends. Kat is wild, crazy, sarcastic, and she’s better at fighting than both of them put together from the start,” he said. “That was everything I needed to start my story. They encounter other characters along the way, but those were my three main characters. I was putting a lot of it together in my head, asking myself what would happen in this situation or that situation, how would my characters react?”
Fay Wolfe was in the ninth grade when he began to write his story.
“I was 14 years old and I was in love with the game. It was awesome, and I’d just started playing. But in the 10th grade I kind of forgot about my story and I took a little break. I’m a normal kid and I had other things going on besides Minecraft. I have homework, and chores and extracurricular activities, just like you. I couldn’t devote my whole life to Minecraft,” he said. “Then, in the winter of my 10th-grade year, I found the half-finished version of my Minecraft story. I showed it to my mother and my younger brother and they both liked it, and they told me to go right back upstairs and finish it so that they could find out how it ended.”
Fay Wolfe emphasized that his book is fan fiction, not endorsed by the creators of the game itself, just set in the world of the game. He talked about the publishing process.
“I finished the book when I was 16, but publishing isn’t easy. I used Createspace, a self-publishing site, which means I published it on my own, without the help of an outside publishing company. I went around Rhode Island promoting the book, and before I knew it, it got noticed by HarperCollins. They’re about the same size as Scholastic Books,” he said. “So now, starting in July, they’ll be publishing and distributing my book and it’ll be distributed all over the country, all over the world, and in all different languages.”
He gave the students advice on how to get started writing their own books, encouraging them to use what they know and enjoy – such as arts and crafts or other hobbies – as topics. He asked the students to raise their hands if they had a hobby they enjoyed, and got a resounding response.
“Regardless whether or not anyone else also likes to do the hobby you like to do, your experiences and knowledge are unique to you,” he said. “Your hobbies are a good place to come up with your own story.”
He used the arts and crafts hobby as a story starter and mapped out for the students how to build a storyline around it.
“You can take all of the knowledge that you have about arts and crafts, whether it’s painting and brushstrokes, things that you know about because art is your hobby, and use that knowledge in your story. It makes it a richer experience for your readers because you know what you’re talking about, and it makes you more credible to your reader. The very best stories come from real life, from people who have built up their knowledge through experience,” he said.
Fay Wolfe told the students how to turn their idea for a story into a finished published product.
“The process is a lot like school,” he said. “You have a first draft and then you edit it and fix it, and then you have other people read it, just like when you do peer editing at school. Then you fix that draft and then you show it to your teacher, and she makes you fix it again. That’s what publishing is like. If everyone just submitted just their first draft though, the books wouldn’t be nearly as good.”
Fay Wolfe explained that his first draft was over 400 pages long and he edited it himself multiple times before it was published. Once HarperCollins took on the publishing, he had a new editor who gave him more recommended fixes and changes before the new edition comes out.
“It’s not all bad, though. If you’re willing to do the work and if you’re serious about it, there will be people willing to help you. You will have support from your parents, your teachers, and if you have a publishing company, you’ll have a whole team of people there to help you,” he said.
He emphasized that anyone in the room had the potential to accomplish what he had accomplished.
“If you have an idea for a story and you’re willing to put the work in, you could do this, too, if you really want to,” he said. “Publishing is much more accessible through self-publishing, and self-publishing is much more accepted than it used to be, making it all easier than ever. Even with social media, with the Internet, it’s easier to get the word out about what you’re doing.”
Fay Wolfe left the students with one last powerful and encouraging reminder.
“I was a normal kid,” he said. “I had a story to tell about something I really loved, and any of you can do the same thing.”
For more information about Fay Wolfe’s book series, or to pre-order his book, visit sfaywolfe.com.