Short Story. The Enthusiast. (Enneagram 7)

“Stop that.”
Theo let the barest crack of a smile slip, ignoring his wife’s plea.
“Please stop dancing like that.”
Theo smiled wider at the exasperation in her voice, shimmying even harder than before. “You know you like it,” he teased.
They were alone in the mirrored elevator, a late-night ride down from their suite.
“I don’t,” Pam said, trying hard not to smile. “I really don’t.”
“Liar,” Theo said as his hips began to get in on the action. “You love my dancing. My hips are the truth.”
Pam rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t help the smile that followed. “Your hips may have been the truth when we were first married, darling, but now they’re just noisy.”
“Rebuttal,” Theo said, raising his chin in imitation of her lawyer friends, before proceeding to salsa his way around her.
“Sustained,” Pam conceded, smiling wide. “And quite convincing.”
“Thank you, counselor,” he said, clearly amused with himself as he gave her a peck on the cheek.
Just then, the elevator doors opened to the lobby. Florescent lights decorated the open floor, the same light jazz music playing over their speakers. There were hardly any people around as they walked out of the lobby. It was late to go out for dinner. Late to go out at all, but Theo was determined to celebrate.
“Craig, my good man,” Theo said, clapping the valet on the shoulder. “Let me ask you a quick question… am I old?”
Craig’s eyes widened, obviously surprised by the question. Behind Theo, Pam nodded vigorously, attempting to give him the right answer.
“Older than me,” Craig said carefully, plastering on a polite smile.
“Fair enough,” Theo conceded jovially as Craig ran to retrieve their car.
Pam grabbed Theo’s hand while they waited. “You shouldn’t ask strangers those types of questions,” she said, her eyebrows raised in reproach.
“Craig is hardly a stranger, and asking uncomfortable questions is the only way to get to know people,” Theo said matter-of-factly.
“Now who’s the liar?” Pam said, nudging Theo playfully.
Theo shrugged, unabashed. “Well, it’s definitely the most interesting way to get to know someone.”
Pam rolled her eyes for the tenth time that evening, but Theo didn’t mind. He knew it was a sign of her love. It meant he was doing right by his job as her husband. And he took his job very seriously.
Craig avoided Theo as he exited their car, afraid eye contact might draw more questions.
“Thank you, Craig,” Pam said, embarrassed about Theo’s effect on the poor boy.
“Thanks, Craig!” Theo echoed before climbing in the car, a big smile on his face.
As soon as Pam closed her door, they took off.
“So where are we going?” Pam asked once she had settled in.
Theo eyed her, not wanting to ruin the surprise. “Somewhere super nice,” he said with a wink.
“You made reservations?”
“Well it is our anniversary,” Theo said, arching an eyebrow. “It seemed the thing to do.”
“Well, the day after our anniversary, technically,” Pam corrected, her voice guilt-laden.
Theo shrugged. “I wasn’t going there.”
“I know. But, again, I’m really sorry, honey,” Pam said, laying a hand on Theo’s arm.
“I totally understand,” Theo said with a smile, but not quite able to bring himself to look her in the eyes. “Work is unpredictable. I know you would have rescheduled if you could.”
Pam nodded, the smile slipping off her face. After a while, she tried again. “So where did you make the reservations?”
Theo glanced away from the road, offering an olive branch in the form of eye contact. “Guess.”
Pam snorted, squeezing his arm. “I’d rather not.”
“Come on, guess!”
Pam let out a sigh, not quite feeling the phone buzzing in her lap. “You can’t make me.”
Theo pouted his lips as he pulled to a stop sign, pulling out his A-plus pouty face, but it went unnoticed.
“Darn it all,” Pam said, digging into the purse in her lap.
It was Theo’s turn to sigh as pulled forward. “Work?”
Pam didn’t answer, only just having found her phone.
“Honey?” He said just as her phone began to buzz again.
“It’s work,” she said, already in the process of answering. “Hello?”
Theo purse his lips, his good mood dissipating into the stale air. He knew what was coming. His wife would be stolen by work. Another evening alone.
“Are you sure?” She asked the phone.
Theo took a series of deep breaths, daring to hope for the night he planned. For a night with his beloved, without responsibilities, without work.
“Okay,” Pam said, her voice resigned.
At that word, Theo exhaled, daring to hope no longer.
Pam stared at her phone after hanging up. Afraid to look at her husband.
“What did they want?” He asked, deciding to rip off the duck tape.
“They need me.”
Theo bit his bottom lip. “Tonight?”
Pam didn’t answer right away. “Yeah.”
Theo nodded, resigned. “I’ll take you there,” Theo offered, taking a left turn at the stop sign, away from their reservations.
“I’m sorry.”
Theo shrugged, his shoulders heavy. “We still have car time, at least.” A silver lining he didn’t feel.
“It’s a problem with my paperwork,” Pam said, still defending her work. Always defending her work.
“I’m not fighting you on it,” Theo said, the life gone from his voice. “You have to work. I get it.” He did. He understood, but that did nothing to ease the pain.
“You look mad,” Pam said, her voice gentle. She also understood. He had a right to be mad, but knowing that did little to ease her guilt.
Theo took a deep breath, tension visibly leaving his body. “I’ll be fine,” he said, turning to look her in the eyes. “I love you.”
Pam looked back into his. “I love you too, darling.” And her guilt was eased. And his pain was eased. And by all accounts, it was a good anniversary up until that moment.
Until the crash of their car. Until a truck rammed into their driver seat. And Theo’s body was crushed. And the life left his body.
Pam screamed. At first because she was scared. And then because she realized her husband was gone. Her rock. Her meaning. Then she couldn’t stop screaming.
Not until the hospital when they put her under. “I love you,” she sobbed between screams. But he was gone. That didn’t make sense. But she could still hear his voice. And that didn’t make sense either. And yet, all the same, he responds in that moment. And he still does today.
“I love you too.”


Allie. Chapter 41. Resolution.

Allie threw herself off of Claire as soon as they emerged from the Earth, gasping for air as she slammed against the ground.
It took her precious seconds to regain her composure, wiping the dirt from her eyes as she pushed herself to her feet.
Claire had already grabbed hold of Stephen with one of her claws by the time Allie spotted Serenity lying on the now upheaved ground.
Allie darted toward her just as two dragons emerged from the rubble, growing to their full size to match Claire. Allie prayed they wouldn’t pay her any attention. Even with the majority of the dragons missing, she’d be lucky to make it out of here alive.
Suddenly she spotted the other Immortals sprawled about near Serenity, each obviously dazed and slowly making their way to their feet.
Brianna was the first up, standing just in time for Allie to tackle her back to the ground.
“Serenity!” Allie yelled as she grappled with Brianna, trying to pin back her arms to keep her from getting up. “Frank! Get up, we gotta go!”
Brianna cursed, finally shaking out of her stupor as she fought to free herself.
Eventually, the other Immortals got to their feet. Four Immortals, including Miguel, faced Frank, Draco, and Serenity.
Miguel hesitated for the briefest of moments as the others rushed toward Brianna and Allie.
Brianna had almost broken out of Allie grasp when Claire suddenly plummeted back into the Earth with Stephen in her claws. The ground shook with such ferocity that the others were knocked back off of their feet.
Claire was immediately followed by the two other dragons, each diving underground in pursuit.
Allie used the distraction to slip Brianna into a choke-hold, throwing all of her limited body weight into the move in an attempt to knock her unconscious.
Brianna thrashed against her arms as the others climbed back to their feet, but Allie held tight, slowly choking the air out of her lungs.
Suddenly, Miguel was standing over them, holding a knife to Allie’s head. “Time to let go, darling.”
Allie spared a glance for the knife at her temple, but kept her hold tight.
The others watched them, the other three Immortals taking their place around Miguel as Frank, Draco, and Serenity faced them.
“Allie, it’s over,” Serenity said, her voice flat. “There’s no need to get yourself killed over us.”
“Oh it’s too late for that,” Miguel said with a smile. “But how you die… that remains to be seen.”
Allie’s arm trembled as they spoke, though Brianna’s resistance was weakening by the moment, her face turning a slight tinge of blue.
“We outnumber you here,” Miguel continued. “And it’s a matter of time before we catch your dragon, which I intend to re-Claim by the way. Make this easy on yourself, girl. I promise to end it quickly.”
Suddenly, Frank leaped at Miguel. “Run, Allie!” He yelled as he attempted to tackle Miguel to the ground.
Miguel pulled his knife away from Allie’s temple long enough to spin around Frank’s reach. In the space of a breath, he sliced his knives across Frank’s calves, toppling him to the ground.
But before Miguel could reset, Draco was on top of him, putting Miguel in a hold. Cursing, Miguel tried to slice Draco open with his knives, but Draco’s hold was too firm.
The other Immortals ignored Draco and Allie, focusing instead on a crippled Frank and Serenity. One of the men grabbed Frank before he could recover from Miguel’s attack, pinning him to the ground, leaving three Immortals to deal with Serenity.
Brianna finally went limp in Allie’s arms as the three Immortals pressed in upon Serenity. “Claire!” Allie yelled, rolling Brianna to the side. “Any time now!”
Serenity backpedaled, not daring to look away from her predators as she scrambled across the uneven ground. The glint in their eyes looked all the more ominous under the red light of the rising sun.
Serenity steeled herself for their attack, taking a defensive stance, when, suddenly, something behind her roared.
Serenity threw herself to the ground, expecting a dragon to sweep in and grab her, but it wasn’t the roar of a dragon, but a lion.
Jade landed right on top of one of the Immortals, thrashing at her face as her riders kicked at the Immortals on either side. “Get ‘em, Jade!” Patty yelled, looking completely comfortable on top of the murderous lion.
“Patty! Shean!” Allie yelled as she wrapped her tiny arms around the neck of the Immortal wrestling Frank. “Get them out of here!”
Serenity didn’t wait for an invitation, jumping on top of Jade just as she finished incapacitating the last Immortal standing.
All that remained beside Allie were the two pairs of grappling men and an unconscious Brianna.
Just as Frank broke free of the Immortal’s grasp, the three dragons exploded from the ground. The other two were right on Claire’s tail, nipping at her with their jaws.
Allie could feel her exhaustion. Could sense their plan falling apart. She’d never be able to out-fly the other dragons, especially carrying extra weight.
“Throw him!” Allie yelled as she held on tight to the Immortal that Frank was now beating to a pulp. “Leave him here!”
Claire understood immediately, dropping Stephen in the middle of a maneuver through the clouds.
Stephen’s dragons immediately cut off from their chase, both diving to catch Stephen before he hit the ground. Their default orders were to protect their master. That came first. Always.
Even as Stephen fell through the sky in the distance, Frank knocked out the last Immortal, leaving only Miguel, who was still grappling with Draco.
“Change of plans! We’re taking everyone except for Stephen,” Allie said as she rolled to her feet. “Load them up on Jade and get ready to hop onto Claire when she comes.”
Frank gave her a look, but said nothing as he went about loading the unconscious Immortals onto Jade’s back.
“You’re not going anywhere!” Miguel hissed, holding a knife to Draco’s neck.
Even as he spoke, Claire landed beside Allie, panting as she lowered her wing for everyone to climb on.
“You’re outnumbered,” Serenity said, seeming to have regained her haughty composure. “Put you’re knife down, and I promise to end things quickly.”
Miguel hesitated just long enough for Draco to throw his elbow up into his jaw, snapping his head back.
Miguel staggered backward just as Draco spun, kicking him in his jaw once again, dropping him to his knees. And with one last punch, Miguel was out.
Frantic, Allie watched the dragons in the distance circling their master, waiting for him to awake.
“Get on!” Allie yelled, pointing to Claire.
“Why are we taking them?” Draco asked as he threw Miguel on top of Jade, completing their stack of Immortals.
“So we can end this war,” Allie said, exasperated. “Now climb on. Patty, you too, switch to Claire.”
“I’m staying with Jade,” the girl said firmly.
“The lion can’t take six people,” Allie shot back. “Get on Claire. Now.”
Sulking, Patty did as she was told. As soon as she climbed on Claire, they took off, leaving only Stephen and two of his dragons behind.


The resolution = the most important part of the story.

(Disclaimer – this chapter is not the resolution of this story, but the mere beginning of it)

The resolution tells us why the story matters. It defines the story as tragedy, comedy, good, bad, surpassing, boring, etc.
It’s not the hardest part to write (The middle) but it is the most important. So how do you write a resolution?

First off, you won’t have a satisfying ending if you don’t have a character arc.

Story is about character, so if there isn’t an arc, somewhere for the character to end up, then there is no story, and there is no way for you to write a satisfying ending. (There are few exceptions to this)
So the first principle to writing a good resolution, is writing a good character arc. (Which has been covered already and will be covered again in the future)
Sherlock Holmes goes from a cold calculating genius to someone who would die for his friend(s). Frodo Baggins goes from someone scared to leave their town to someone willing to go through hell and back for other people. Etc.
Have them go somewhere. (Metaphorically, sometimes represented physically) Have them accomplish something. Redeem themselves. Stand up for themselves. Whatever applies to your character arc.

Secondly, do it in the right order.

Ideally, there will be many different arcs happened in your story. All of them should resolve by the end of your story. If it’s just the first part in a series, fine, we’ll tackle how to navigate that. But everything needs to get resolved, or there will be a feeling of loss and dissatisfaction for the reader/viewer at the end.
So let’s say in a show, you have a side character in a love triangle. Another side character dealing with family problems. And then your main character trying to open restaurant. Then by the end of the show, you will need to resolve them in order of importance.
If this love triangle is least heavy/least important in the story, then you resolve that first. Then the next scene is the family problems resolving. Then you finish with the main character successfully opening the restaurant. Always go in order of importance. Go watch an episode of a show for this and you’ll see it Every. Single. Time.

Lastly, if possible, resolve them all in quick succession.

This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it helps in delivering on emotional endings. If you can resolve everything quickly after one another, the impact on your reader multiplies. Even better if everything is resolves virtually at once.
This is why you see stories resolve around one big set piece. (Let’s say a big battle) The writers will match their characters up with whoever their nemesis is. Whoever represents the obstacles they have to overcome. Then they show them winning/losing one at a time in order of importance for maximum impact.

Honestly, doing this right is a true art form that takes practice. But following these guidelines will help tremendously as you develop your own writing skill and style.

Draco. Chapter 35. Steal the Greatness.

“What good am I to you?” I growled, slumped against the cavern wall.
“You’re insurance,” Brianna said as she brushed her dragon’s scales. “In case things go wrong.”
I adjusted my posture, trying to ignore the stones jutting into my back. I wasn’t tied. There was no need for anything like that.
Four dragons and three Immortals stood between me and the cavern entrance. Even as I spoke, I found myself calculating the likelihood of escaping. It wasn’t good.
“Seems unlikely to work,” I said, keeping a close watch over Brianna. “If she knew I was here, she’d kill you all just to get to me.”
“Oh, I’m counting on it,” she said with a thin smile.
“You don’t think she would fight harder knowing she was close to her goal?” I asked. “You don’t think she’d be that much more motivated to cut you down and take your dragons? I could split her attention if you let me go. You could surprise her while she’s going after me.”
Brianna shook her head, her smile growing wider. “You would have me believe you’d volunteer? I am not so young as to be your fool.”
I straightened against the wall, holding my head high. “You may not be young, but you’re young enough. You weren’t there when Sarah and I won the war. Ten thousand Immortals. Ten thousand dragons. And only a hundred remained by the end. I will do what needs to be done.”
Brianna stopped brushing her dragon long enough to give me a searching look. “You said so yourself, Drumond. You are not who you once were. You’ve been running for the last thousand years. You would run again.”
I swallowed by retort, slumping back against the wall. She knew more about me than I’d hoped. “Better to run than to spill more blood.”
Brianna finished brushing one dragon just as another took its place under her comb. “Her blood is ours to spill,” she said eventually. “Sarah threatens our right to rule. She acts as though she is Queen. As if she is our god.”
“And you have no gods,” I finished for her.
“I am my own god,” she replied haughtily. “The Immortal blood is mine. The right to spill blood is mine.”
“You are no god,” I said, my voice tired. “Nor am I. We are humans blessed with lifetimes of suffering. Nothing more.”
Brianna set her jaw, her eyes like burning coals. “We have the blood of dragons.”
“So we are gods?” I said. “Would that not make the dragons our true gods? And yet we enslave them to our wills.”
“We have reason,” Brianna said, her teeth bared. “We were given the power to enslave dragons.”
“Given by whom?” I asked mockingly. “Gods don’t need to be given anything. And yet we were given these powers…”
“Our powers may have originally been given by dragons,” Brianna reasoned, “but they do not let us claim them. We conquered them ourselves. We made ourselves gods.”
I nodded. “So we did. But what poor gods we make.”
Brianna scoffed, turning back to her chore. “You’ve merely confirmed what I said before. You would run if you had the chance.”
“Maybe,” I sighed. “Or maybe I’d stay and fight. Maybe I’d show you the fragility of the so-called gods.”
Just then the dragons let out a simultaneous cry; a warning.
Seconds later, the other two dragons and their Immortals flew appeared through the clouds, flying through the cavern entrance.
Stephen hopped off his dragon just as it landed, walking straight toward Brianna and I at the back of the cave.
“Is our guest behaving?” He asked, smirking down at me.
“As well as could be expected,” Brianna said with a hard look. “What word of the camp?”
“They’re making plans as we speak,” he said. “We’ll know more once they make their finals touches.”
“Are they leaving any behind?” She asked.
Stephen shook his head. “From the looks of it, one way or another, they’re going to send every dragon they have at us.”
“So the camp will be unprotected,” she said, a malicious smile breaking across her face.
“Embarrassingly so,” Stephen purred, looking down at me. “Tell me, King. What is a Queen without her people?”
I met his gaze evenly. “Just a god.”

Have you ever been impacted by a story? Have you had moments where you watch or read something happen and it’s so enthralling or powerful that it becomes burned into your mind?

Of course, our instinct is to replicate that experience. We want our stories to impact people; to blow them away. So we write something similar in our stories, and that’s fine.
But there’s a mistake that many writers make. And it’s that they don’t understand what truly makes that moment great. So, instead of replicating the important aspects of an story, they copy the parts that don’t matter.

It’s the equivalent of using hobbits in your story in order to capture some of the greatness of Lord of the Rings.
Yes, they represent the average powerless person, so using them in a story would still work on a natural level and appeal to most readers, but putting hobbits in a completely different story does nothing to replicate greatness.
The greatness of Lord of the Rings has to do with how everything in the story relates. The story is inseparable from the environment is inseparable from the characters, and it’s the work as a whole that synergies greatness.

Can you think back to a powerful fight scene? It’s not the fighting techniques you need to steal, but the context.

Impactful dialogue? Don’t copy the words, but the tension.

Characters? It’s not about their quirks or mannerisms, but their wants and needs. Their failures and triumphs.

I’ve already mentioned all of these different aspects and what to look for regarding each, but we all ultimately like different things.
It’s up to you to look at the works that inspire you and figure out what about that work makes it great.

Steal the greatness, not the hobbits.

Allie. Chapter 34. Selective Storytelling.

Allie flew in front of Patty, leading her to the caravan. With the wind whistling in her ears, it was impossible for them to have a conversation, let alone a tricky one.
The closer they got to the caravan, the more Allie regretted approaching Patty at all. If a battle broke out while Patty and her lion were still around, it would be one more life on Allie’s hands.
Allie glanced backward several times only to find Patty stone-faced and focused, her eyes flitting back and forth in anticipation.
Before long, the caravan came into view.
“We need to stop here,” Allie yelled over the wind, pulling Claire to a halt.
Patty pulled Jade to a stop just in time to avoid a collision. “Why’d you stop?”
Allie bit her lip, looping back at the caravan in consternation. As she looked, multiple figures rose into the air, apparently flying over to met them.
“I need you to go along with whatever I say,” Allie said quickly, watching the dragons approach.
“What do you mean?” Patty asked, furrowing her eyebrows.
“I mean we could both be in danger if you don’t corroborate my story,” Allie said.
Patty tilted her head in confusion. “Corroborate?”
“Agree with,” Allie said impatiently. “I need you to agree with me. I can explain more later.”
Patty frowned, tensing up once she noticed the dragons growing larger as they approached. “I don’t trust you.”
Allie looked back and forth between the dragons and Patty. “Do you know Draco?” She asked, taking a risk.
Patty froze, her eyes flaring with recognition.
“I can see you do,” Allie continued. “If you don’t trust me right now, a lot of people may be hurt by the same people who took Draco.”
“How do you know him?” Patty asked, her voice less certain than before.
Allie looked back to find four dragons nearly on top of them with Serenity riding the lead. Claire tensed up underneath Allie’s legs, wary of Serenity.
“Later,” she whispered as she turned to meet Serenity’s convoy.
“Welcome back, Allie,” Serenity said, half-shouting to be heard over the flapping of so many wings. “We feared the worst. You were gone for half a day.”
“I flew too far,” Allie said, tilting her voice to sound ashamed. “But I saw rebel Immortals tearing up the ground and flying back to their base.”
“Really?” Serenity said, her voice unreadable. “And found a girl in the process?”
“Yes, mother. She saw them too while on her way down from the mountains. That’s where their base is. Somewhere in the mountains. And I think I could find it again.”
“Do you?” Serenity in the same tone, her face a mask. “Well why don’t we talk about this some more when you’re both more comfortable? Allie, you can lead the way back for the this poor girl.”
“Name’s Patty,” Patty said, her lips pursed.
“Show Patty the way then,” Serenity amended with a smirk.
With a nod, Allie led the way back to the caravan, a wyer of dragons surrounding them.
They flew over the front of the line, casting shadows on the people milling about their carts. Frank smiled at the sight of Allie, clearly relived as he waved to her.
Allie waved back, letting Claire dip low enough to scrape the top of the wagons.
“Meet me at the front once you’ve had a chance to eat,” Serenity said, dropping down with all of her dragons next to Frank.
“I will,” Allie said as she took off to lead Patty to her wagon.
Patty flew above Allie, watching the countless people of the caravan with wary eyes.
Two-thirds of the way through, they landed beside Allie’s wagon, both Claire and Jade decreasing to the size of pets.
“Welcome back, Princess,” Shean said as he pulled the hat off his head and gave Allie an exaggerated bow. “You caused a bit of commotion today, ya know.”
“Did I?” Allie asked, petting Claire for a job well done.
“And who do we have here?” He asked, ignoring her question. “An even smaller princess no doubt!”
Patty didn’t reply, holding on tight to Jade as she scrutinized Shean.
“A mute princess then?” He continued.
“Just a girl in need of some rest,” Allie said, opening her wagon door. “She’ll share my cart.”
“Ha! Not if she wants to sleep,” Shean said, slapping his knee. “Can you sleep through earthquakes, little princess?”
“Patty,” Patty said, frowning. “My name is Patty, and I don’t need a fancy cart to sleep in.”
“Well you have one,” Allie said, gesturing to the door. “You can stay here until I come back. I need to talk to a couple of people.”
Patty took a step back, her fingers clutched tight around Jade’s fur.
“You have to trust me,” Allie said gently. “And your lion can join you.”
Patty hesitated before finally nodding, carrying Jade with her onto the cart.
“I’ll be right back,” Allie said just before closing the door.
“Keep close watch over her.”
“Anything for the princess,” said Shean, a smirk on his face.
Allie rolled her eyes as she began the trek toward the front of the caravan, giving Claire a much needed break. She used the time to run through the plan in her head, trying to make sure she had everything straight.
“I said what I needed to,” she whispered, walking around a cluster of children playing with a broken wheal. “I’ve done my part.”
She found Serenity and Frank in a deep conversation the front of the caravan, standing apart from everyone else.
“Sharing my news?” Allie asked as she walked up, her heart racing with nerves.
“Quite,” Serenity acknowledged. “How many dragons did you see?”
Allie stuttered at the direct question. “Four.”
Serenity stared her down, her eyes hard. “I see, and where in the mountains did you see them?”
“They were flying over a forest,” Allie said more confidently. “I think they were in a cave nearby.”
“Likely story,” Serenity said, glancing toward a hard-faced Frank.
Allie’s heart was near exploding as she realized they didn’t believe her. She was on her last straw.
“Where’s Miguel?” Allie asked, realizing he was nowhere to be found.
“Dead,” Frank said, gesturing to a mound of dirt a ways away from he caravan. “Turns out his heel was snake venom.”
“Allie,” Serenity said, her voice hard. “I’m sorry, but I think the rebels let you see them.”
Allie froze. “What?”
“We think the Immortals are trying to draw us into a trap,” Frank explained. “So if they let you see four dragons, that means they likely have at least two more than that. We’re outnumbered.”
Allie let out a sigh of relief. They didn’t suspect her. “So what do we do?”
Serenity frowned, her eyebrows scrunched in thought. “We spring their trap.”


Selective storytelling.

It’s an essential skill that I’ve mentioned a couple of times in previous chapters, but bears in-depth analysis.
One of my biggest hurdles when I began writing was knowing what to include in my story. How much of the environment do I describe? How much movement should I include? Etc.
The specifics are difficult to nail down, and, ultimately, are subjective. But there is a helpful rule of thumb:

If it’s not the story, don’t write it.

Now, I just made up that phrase, so allow me to explain…

Let’s say your story is about a woman protecting her children from a house invader.
You likely wouldn’t begin your story five years before the person invaded her house, because that’s five years before the actual story takes place.
What’s the exception to this? When it directly affects the plot of the story.
So if the invader turned out to be someone the mother wronged five years ago, then it’s a valid reason to start the story five years before.
However, you obviously wouldn’t want to include everything that happened in those five years, because it just straight up doesn’t matter. So you would need to find a way to include the information that matters while excluding the information that doesn’t.

Ultimately, it’s that simple: write what matters, leave out what doesn’t.
But the trick is determining what matters.

Environments matter.
Plots matter.
Characters really matter.
But the real question is what matters to you.

What do you care about? Is it the magic system you made up? Your fabricated race? Your intricate plot?
Figure out what matters to you, and include it in your story.

(Hint: If character, environment, and plot aren’t included in your list, then no one will read your story, so as long as you’re cool with that…)

And this applies not just to the overall narrative of a story, but at the smallest scale as well.
Don’t start your chapter with someone waking up unless the story necessitates it. Same with ending a chapter with them going to sleep. Along with literally anything else someone does in a average day. Only if it matters.

But here’s where it gets super-subjective:
You can make anything. The smallest, most boring thing… and make it matter.
You could write write an entire trilogy about a man slicing an apple and make it impactful. And someone else could describe the same action with one sentence.
You determine what matters in your story. You can hide meaning everywhere. You can describe the simplest of actions in order to explore your environment, hide clues to your plot, or show the nature of your character.
As long as you make it count. As long as it’s the story. Write it.

Allie. Chapter 31. Understanding & Satisfaction.

Allie turned Claire around, anxious to get back to the caravan and warn Serenity that they were surrounded.
They could fly over the canyon with their dragons, of course, but the caravan itself was stuck until they could create a solid enough pass for the wagons to cross through. That would take precious days; days in which they would be surrounded by the enemy.
Claire flew through the clouds, diving low enough that Allie could barely make out the caravan in the distance when something suddenly slammed into her from behind.
Allie was thrown off her dragon, the force of the attack ripping her grip free of Claire’s wing.
As she plummeted through the air, she saw Claire being dragged down by two other dragons, their roars drowning out Claire’s cry.
Suddenly, Allie slammed against something hard, her vision blackening for an instant as her lungs struggled to pump oxygen to her brain.
Then she was flying back through the air, caught in the claws of a third dragon.
Allie struggled to break free as the dragon carried her toward Claire, who had been captured just as thoroughly as her.
Together they were dragged away from the caravan, their cries lost in the wind.
Before long, Allie’s vision became clouded as the dragons flew them above the clouds. Attempting to track the distance they were traveling by the velocity of the wind, she guessed they had traveled a number of miles away before the dragons began their descent.
When they finally dove below the clouds there was no way for her to determine which direction they had flown. The only landmark she could see was a range of mountains in the distance.
Soon enough, it became obvious that the range was their destination.
Are you okay? Allie thought, hoping Claire could interpret the message.
Claire whimpered in response, impressing on my mind an image of her fighting back.
Don’t, Allie thought. Not yet.
The dragons flew dangerously low as they approached the range, diving underneath the layer of fog and into the forest.
Allie’s feet nearly dragged across the forest floor as the dragons flew them through a clearing and into a cave cut into one of the mountains.
As the dragons entered the cave, they grew smaller, forcing Claire to grow smaller with them. By the time they finally landed on the smooth granite floor, they had become the same size as Allie.
“Welcome,” someone said, their voice echoing throughout the cave. “We’ve been waiting some time for you.”
Allie attempted to stand up straight once her dragon finally released her, but she collapsed to the ground, her legs like jelly.
“Why did you take me?” She asked, searching the darkness for the voice that spoke.
Suddenly, five people stepped out from the darkness, each with torches in hand. There were three men and two women, all of them young, their faces smooth in the light of their flames. The contours of dragons played in the light behind them.
“To give you a proper choice,” one of the women said, stepping forward.
Allie climbed back to her feet. Her legs shook, but she managed to keep her balance this time as she looked back at the five Immortals before her. “Choice between what?”
“Freedom and death,” the woman replied, her voice gentle.
Allie frowned in confusion. “Freedom.”
The woman smiled. “You know not what you say. You have already chosen to follow death. Now you must learn what it means to follow freedom.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Allie said as her legs regained their strength.
“You have chosen to follow Serenity,” the woman said. “The side of rules and death. We are her enemies; the Immortals of freedom and life. Serenity wishes to rule both humans and Immortals as our judge, but we do not recognize her authority.”
“And whose authority do you recognize?” Allie asked.
“We rule as we see fit,” one of the men replied, raising his torch. “We are gods to rule humans as we see fit. We answer to no one but each other. And for it, Serenity and her followers mean to deal us death.”
“And you are her follower,” the woman continued. “But you are also an Immortal, and deserve the chance to choose rightly.”
Allie’s heart beat faster. “What will you do to me if I choose Serenity?”
The woman frowned. “We will take your dragon and deliver your dead body to Serenity.”
“And if I choose you?” Allie asked.
“You would keep your dragon, and we would allow you to rule as you see fit,” the woman said. “However, we would first require you to help us kill Serenity, for there is no true freedom while she lives.”
“I thought you were about life,” Allie said. “Not death.”
“We’re about our own freedom,” the man said. “Our own life. She threatens both.”
Allie looked back at Claire’s whimpering form, still held by the jaws of a pair of dragons. She didn’t know what to think. The more she saw of both sides, the more uneasy she felt.
“You seem more hesitant than we expected,” the woman said, her voice questioning. “We know you ran from her in the city. Your choice should be easy.”
“I don’t want to kill her,” Allie said. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“It is she who hurts us,” the man said, his voice quivering with anger. “She must be stopped.”
“It’s her or us,” the woman insisted. “You must choose.”
Allie thought about all of the people in the caravan. All of the friends she was just beginning to make. The Immortals had more dragons than Serenity, especially now that Claire had been captured.
Serenity was a murderer, and the more Allie thought about it, the more she agreed that Serenity needed to be stopped, but she knew that people were going to get hurt if it came to an all-out fight.
“I’ll help you,” Allie said eventually, curling her hands into fists. “But only if we do it my way. We kill Serenity, and only Serenity. No one else.”
The woman looked to the others, each nodding in turn. “Done.”


When we discussed foreshadowing and payoffs in an earlier chapter, I talked about the rule of three; you must set something up twice before it can be knocked down.
This week, however, we’re covering a slightly different aspect of payoffs: Understanding = satisfaction
Now let’s first look at the prevalence of satisfaction. One could easily define a story as a series of cathartic moments. A chronological (usually) series of events that build tension for the expressed purpose of releasing said tension… or Satisfaction.
You introduce a character so the reader can become attached and care about what happens to them. And you give the reader context such as environment and supporting cast so they will better understand the events that happen to them.
Everything can be viewed through the lens of understanding for the sake of satisfaction. (or whatever lesson you may be attempting to impart)
So it is important to understand how to deliver on that satisfaction. To make those payoff moments as poignant as they can be. And you do this by delivering on understanding = satisfaction.

Let me give an example:

Let’s say your character is walking through the forest at night. Your character knows nothing about this forest and neither does your reader. He or she is scared, but makes their way through, eventually unscathed. It’s not until afterward that your reader finds out that the forest is full of blood-thirsty werewolves that regularly kill humans.
Result: You reader is mildly concerned, but when the character makes it through, their reaction is to be mildly relieved and to question whether it was silly or not to be worried.
However, if your reader knows that the forest is super dangerous beforehand, there will be a significantly increased reaction both when the character originally walks through and when they come out the other side.

Your reader needs enough of the facts beforehand that when it’s time for things to come to a climax, tension is built and released based on the events around the character, not explanations afterward or even during.

The events of this chapter were set into motion because I decided the reader needed to witness and learn about the Immortals attacking Serenity in order to appreciate what comes next in the story.
This exposure to the other side allows the reader to begin forming ideas in their head about how the story will come to a head.
We now understand, to some degree, all three sides of this potential conflict. Draco, Serenity, and the Immortals of freedom.
This, combined with everything else we know about this world, allows the reader to appreciate what comes next without confusion or distraction because they understand the context and consequences.
Understanding = Satisfaction.