Draco. Chapter 40. Setting the Scene.

I fought the urge to gag on the stench of burnt flesh, unwilling to give my torturers the satisfaction.
Sarah, however, found herself retching on the ashen ground at my feet. Frank held her hair back, his face a blank slate of despair as he stared at the pile of bodies before us.
Neither of them acknowledged my presence, but I didn’t blame them. What do you say to someone when you hate them? When you love them? When you’re waiting to die with them? So I ignored them as well, keeping busy by familiarizing myself with our surroundings.
Dragons milled about all around us as the sun began to rise over the remains of their slaughter. They paid us no mind, but were our guards none the less. Ten dragons ready to tear us to pieces, and six Immortals to give the order.
Most of the Immortals had yet to bother approaching us, leaving Miguel to keep watch while they feasted through the night. It wasn’t until the sun had risen that finally saw what they feasted on.
That was the final straw as I doubled over next to Sarah, emptying my stomach along with hers.
“I owe Serenity a silver piece,” Frank muttered. “I bet her you’d break before dawn.”
I looked up, still dry heaving. “Only a silver piece?” I asked. “Huh. Conservative even unto death.”
Sarah looked up, wiping her mouth with the back of her arm. Her face was pale, her eyes unseeing as she stared at the bodies nearest to us.
I watched her for a moment, fighting the temptation to despair. “I can end things quickly for you both,” I offered Frank. “I remember your heels.”
“No,” Sarah snapped before Frank could respond.
“They’re going to torture you,” I said, softening my voice. “They’ll torture us in front of you. They have an eternity to break us. And, eventually, they will.”
“I won’t take the coward’s way,” Sarah said, her voice wavering. “Not like you.”
My reply died on my lips.
“I’ll kill you if you like,” Miguel said, knives spinning in his hands. “Just tell me how and I’ll make it quick. It’ll be my pleasure.”
I shot him a look as my stomach finally settled, allowing me to rise to my feet. “How merciful of you.”
Miguel frowned, his eyes distant. “It is a mercy.”
Behind him, the other Immortals were gathering, making their way toward us, their clothes soaked with blood.
“We do not deal mercy,” Frank said, helping Sarah to her feet. “Nor do we accept it.”
I shook my head at their pride, but kept my mouth shut as the others approached.
“My King and Queen,” Stephen said, his voice mockingly smooth. “Have you found your accommodations to your liking?”
Neither of us responded, my fists tightening to the point of drawing blood.
“Does the royal couple have nothing to say?” Brianna hissed, her eyes wide with disdain.
“Where’s my dragon?” Miguel interrupted, feigning boredom as he spun his knives.
“You are free to hunt, brother,” Stephen said, biting off his words. “But we will not be giving you our own.”
Miguel frowned at that, but kept his mouth shut as Stephen stared him down.
“It’s the same with all Immortals,” Brianna said a little more gently. “We are to earn our own dragons.” As she spoke, three dragons crawled up next to her, followed by four more dragons, all of which gathered around Stephen. The other three Immortals were left with one dragon each.
“It doesn’t matter how many dragons you have,” Frank said, holding his chin high in the air. “You will never be our King or Queen.”
Stephen strolled up close to Frank, measuring him with his eyes. “We never intended to rule. Only to conquer.”
“And now that we have,” Brianna said, “there’ll be peace among Immortals. We’ll finally be free to live as we see fit. To take our place over the humans as is our right.”
“You’re no better than humans,” I said, emboldened by Frank’s defiance. “You have no right to rule them. You have no claim over their lives.”
“We have every claim,” Stephen snapped. “Our right is given by our power. We give life and death as we see fit. We are gods, Drumond. But you… you’ve forfeited your right to goddom.”
Suddenly, the dragons perked up, their ears open and alert. They seemed to sense something nearby.
“If you tell us your heels, we’ll do it quickly,” Brianna offered, her lips pursed tightly. “We’ve wasted too much of our lives on you already. Years away from our homes. There’s no need to draw it out any longer.”
I looked to Sarah, but she stood firm, her face hard will resolve. I didn’t want to see her suffer, but it was her choice, and the least I could do was take on her suffering with her.
“Do what you must,” I said eventually, steeling myself against what would come next.
Brianna pulled out a knife, her lips twisting into a thin smile. “If you insist.”
Suddenly, the dragons let out a series of growls, grabbing their Immortals’ attention. “Go then,” Stephen commanded, sending three of his dragons into the sky. It seemed as though they’d caught scent of some unfortunate prey.
Most of the other dragons joined them, fighting each other for position as they began their hunt.
I watched the dragons disappear into the clouds, leaving only two behind to keep watch. Both of which were clearly agitated at their forced restraint.
Suddenly, Brianna stepped forward and stabbed me in the right eye.
The shock, as much as the pain, knocked me to my knees. Brianna kept the blade lodged in my eye, not allowing it to heal. The pain, rather than receding, only increased as my body fought to remove the blade from my head.
“I can keep it here, you know,” she whispered. “Just hold it here for years. But don’t worry, I’ll make sure you keep your other eye so you can watch.”
With my one good eye, I saw Stephen pull a sword from his sheath and step toward Sarah. But I never saw what he was going to do, as, suddenly, the ground exploded beneath us.
All nine of us Immortals were thrown to the ground as a full-sized dragon emerged from the Earth, letting out a soul-shaking roar.
Claire had returned.


Setting a scene.

It’s pretty simple in theory, but it takes a lot of practice to get right. Plus, as you’d imagine, most of it comes down to preference anyway… but here are the basics:

Ground the scene as fast as possible.

Your reader’s imagination usually does the majority of the heavy lifting. But if you don’t give them a starting point – something to hold onto – then you’re leaving them blind.
For this reason, most chapters tend to start out by describing the environment of the scene. But this is where subjectivity comes in…
Some people like to know the exact dimensions of the room, and how many petals are on the flowers sitting on the table, and exactly what kind of wood that table is made out of… and some people don’t.
Generally, the older your audience, the more patient they are, the more details you include. But then again… people aren’t really patient no matter how old they are. Very few people want to read three pages of descriptions before the chapter gets interesting.

Reveal information only as needed.

Sometimes you don’t want your reader to know something about the scene until the end. Sometimes you might want to wait until someone leaves before revealing they had a crossbow to their back the entire time.
But, assuming you’re not purposely hiding information, you want to describe your main character’s immediate vicinity first, and the slowly zoom out as the scene goes on.
Ex: Bodies. Then Dragons. Then Frank and Sarah. Then Miguel. Then the other Immortals.

Or if it’s important to you that your reader knows exactly where your character is in the city, start on the whole and then zoom in.
Ex: Describe part of town. (Harbor district) Then the street. (Dark alley) Then the wall your character is leaning on. (White stone covered in dirt) Then what the character looks like/whatever they need to know about what’s going on in that alley/etc.

However you do it, it’s impossible to describe everything about everything, especially all at once.

Describe the tip of the iceberg and why someone is sitting on it. Imagination will do the rest.


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.

Draco. Chapter 32. Active Voice.

“How do you know what she’s saying?” Patty asked as she stroked Jade’s neck.
I let out a yawn as I pulled bones out of what was left of a grizzly. Lemon had found her meal the night before. “I just do.”
“But how?” She asked, her eyebrows scrunched together.
“I listen,” I said, shrugging. “She communicates through sound and gestures just like we do.”
“But she doesn’t talk…” Patty said quizzically. “…Right?”
I let out a chuckle. “No, she doesn’t talk. But she doesn’t need to.”
Finally finished cleaning the food, I ripped off a piece of meat and handed it to Patty. “Now eat up before we leave. It’ll be a while before we stop again.”
“Where are we going?” Patty asked, smelling the meat before ripping into it with her teeth.
“A city,” I said in-between bites. “To find my dragon.”
“But you already have a dragon,” she said, her cheeks full of food.
“This one is special. Her name is Claire.”
“Why?” She asked as she took another colossal bite of bear meat.
I pulled my next bite away from my face, sighing. “Do you ever run out of questions?”
Patty frowned, looking down at her feet as she took another bite.
Suddenly feeling ashamed, I let out another sigh. “She was my first dragon,” I said eventually. “I named her after my daughter.”
Patty looked up, her eyes wide. “You have a daughter?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “She was stillborn… we didn’t know at the time.”
“Didn’t know what?” She asked.
“That Immortals can’t have children,” I said, my voice close to cracking. “They never make it past the birth.”
Patty stopped chewing. “Do you know why my mom named me Patty?” She said after a while.
I shook my head, not trusting myself to speak.
“My older brother died before I was born,” she said, her eyes distant. “His name was Patrick.”
“She wanted to honor your brother’s memory,” I said, nodding in appreciation.
Patty went quiet for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. “She told me we had to keep moving forward. That it was okay to remember and be sad, as long as we kept moving.”
“You mom would be proud of you,” I said.
“Your daughter would be proud of you too,” she said, taking another bite of meat.
Torn between laughter and tears, I found myself nodding, amazed at the little girl’s maturity.
“So what happened to your wife?” She asked suddenly.
“She’s alive,” I said warily.
“Duh,” Patty said, waving around a clean bone. “She’s Immortal, but where is she?”
“We… had different reactions to Claire’s death.”
Patty stared at me, waiting for me to continue.
“We should go,” I said, standing as I mentally prompted Jade and Lemon to prepare for flight.
“Do you miss her?” She asked, standing with me.
I chewed on my lip, unsure how honest I should be. “Yes,” I said eventually, “I miss her. Now let me show you how to hold my waist so you don’t fall off of Lemon.”
“I’m going with Jade,” she said matter-of-factly.
“It’s too dangerous to fly by yourself,” I said.
“I’m flying with Jade. She wants me to go with her,” she said, throwing her arms around the purring lion.
Defeated, I threw my hands in the air. “Fine, then let me show you how to hold onto her,” I said as I mentally scolded Jade for encouraging Patty’s reckless behavior.
When I was finally convinced that she had a good enough hold of Jade, I mounted Lemon, whose strength had increased significantly after eating.
“Stay close,” I said out loud for Patty’s benefit. “Shout if you need us to stop.”
Patty nodded, her face scrunched in determination.
“Alright,” I said. “We’re out of here.”
As we launched into the air, I caught Patty glancing backward at her old home with a tear in her eye. And with that tear, my hatred for Miguel’s actions grew.
I kept Lemon at a slow pace for Jade’s sake, but it wasn’t long before we emerged from the mountains.
I found myself constantly checking over my shoulder, worried that at some point I’d look and find Patty missing, but she was always there, confident as she flew through the air.
Still, I couldn’t help but keep an eye out. And it was during one of these checks that I noticed something strange behind us.
Instinctively, I pulled Lemon up, turning to watch the cloudy sky behind us. Jade pulled up next to Lemon, sensing my worry.
“Do we need to stop?” Patty shouted.
Then I saw them again, cutting their way through the clouds in a wave of white scales. A weyr of dragons.
“Run!” I yelled, mentally forcing Jade to fly below the clouds.
“Wha—” Patty cried, her voice cutting off as Jade plummeted away from us.
I counted five dragons as Lemon sped in the opposite direction as Jade and Patty.
The dragons immediately changed course, angling to entrap us.
As soon as we surfaced above the clouds, we shot back the way we came, flying toward the mountains.
The other five emerged from the clouds having over-shot us, forced to change direction, but I knew the clouds wouldn’t obscure us for long. Their senses were too good for that.
Desperate, we plummeted back through the clouds and toward the ground.
But the other dragons were too fast, intercepting us before we could reach the grassy surface.
By the time we reached the field, they had managed to peel me off of Lemon, encaged by their claws while the other four dragons wrestled Lemon into submission.
And as soon as they were in control, they began to carry us back toward the mountains.
“Keep her safe, Jade,” I whispered, hoping she would be smart enough to listen.


This week we’re going to zoom in a bit onto the prose of a story.
You can have an amazing idea for a story and structure your plot perfectly, but it’s the prose that determines whether or not your story is “good.”

A note: this is pretty much only the case in novels. I would consider the “prose” of a screenplay to be the actors and actresses. If the actresses and actresses don’t deliver on the screenplay, then it’s not a good movie. Same for the prose of your novel.

There are many aspects of prose to be aware of: dialogue, descriptors, actions, emotions, reactions, motivations, subtle, efficiency, etc.
I’ve touched on dialogue and emotions already, though there’s much more to be said. But we still need to go over one of the biggest rules:

Active voice over Passive voice

To put it simply, active voice is when a woman throws a hammer. Passive voice is when a hammer got thrown by a woman.

Active is when the subject acts on an object. It puts the reader in the driver’s seat. We (living vicariously through the character) are performing the action. Not only that, but it makes the sentences much easier to read, because we don’t have to work hard in order to figure out what happened.

Passive voice pulls the reader out of the story and forces them to effectively read the sentence twice in order to understand what happened.

Now, “a hammer was thrown by a woman” is so obviously awkward that you might be thinking “duh, I would never write that.” But we slip into passive voice all of the time, especially if the sentence is longer, more complicated, or you find yourself in a poetic mood.
If you go back through your writing and look for it, I bet you will find a bunch of passive sentences that need re-writing.
With enough time, you’ll eventually learn to write in active voice the first time around, but until then, you will need to look for active voice in your revisions.

On a final note, you will still need to be vigilant of repetitive sentence structures. It’s better to include passive voice:
“The man slammed the door behind him just as the door was hit by a hammer.”

Than change it to an awkward sentence structure:
“The man slammed the door behind him. The hammer hit the door.” (Another obvious example, but you get the point)

Instead, change it to:
“The man slammed the door behind him just as the hammer hit the wall.”
I not only changed it to active, but I also changed the content so that I’m not saying door twice in one sentence.

Allie. Chapter 23. Ideas are Cheap.

Allie awoke with a start, jostled by the sudden movement of her wagon. Faint wisps of light shone through her curtains. They had let her sleep in… again.
Sleep still in her eyes, she sat up in her seat and stretched as far as she could in the confines of her space. She’d been given her own wagon with its own driver. One of the smallest wagons, sure, but a wagon nonetheless.
For a moment she just sat there, running her fingers across the grain of the wood, amazed at her circumstances. The wagon was perfect for her; the hard floor reminiscent of her time living on the streets. Only now she was safe and fed. Now she mattered.
After wiping the sleep from her eyes, she threw open the door to the moving wagon and jumped out, jogging along to keep from falling over. The wagon was moving at a leisurely pace, but it was still quite the feat having just woken up. She had fallen the first couple times she’d tried it.
“Morning, Snore Queen,” her driver said with a wry smile. “Mother requests your presence whenever you’re ready.”
Allie smiled back as she kept pace with him. “You know, not a single person has confirmed your story.”
He nodded knowingly. “That’s because they’re too afraid to offend the great Queen of snores. I, on the other hand, know that you appreciate full and utter honesty.”
“You’re right. I do favor complete honesty, which is why I don’t trust you,” she said, winking.
Shean let out a hearty laugh, his eyes twinkling down at her. “If you want to prove me a liar, then have someone else drive you while you sleep. I swear they’ll back me up.”
Allie shrugged. “Maybe,” she said playfully. “But for now I’ll allow you to continue.”
“Oh thank you so very much, Mrs. Queen,” he said, putting emphasis on the fake title he’d given her.
Allie rolled her eyes as she slowed her pace, letting the wagons pass her by until the back of the caravan had caught up to her.
“Morning, miss Allie,” Olly called out when he saw her waiting for him.
“Hi, Olly,” Allie said cheerfully as she hopped in the back with her pigs. As soon as she landed, the pigs gathered around her, snorting happily.
“Careful of the mud,” Olly yelled over his shoulder. “We just picked some up not too long ago. Don’t want to get your dress all messed up.”
“I’m not worried about a little dirt,” she said as the pigs rubbed mud all over her legs. “I lived in mud for years.”
Olly shook his head but kept his eyes forward on the rest of the caravan. “It’s still weird. An Immortal shouldn’t be living with pigs.”
“But it was okay when I wasn’t an Immortal?” Allie asked indignantly.
“No,” Olly said uncomfortably. “It’s just weird is all.”
Allie let it go, focusing on her pigs instead, cooing at them as they tussled between themselves to be close to her. Feeling whimsical, she eventually sang them a song, making up the words as she went. Halfway through, Olly joined in with her, harmonizing beautifully.
“I knew you could sing,” Allie said afterward.
Olly shrugged. “Not as good as you.”

After a while, Allie jumped the pig cart and jogged to catch up with the front of the caravan.
“You look terrible!” Shean yelled as Allie ran by. “See how honest I am?”
Allie chuckled, but didn’t give him the satisfaction of looking back, focused on making her way to the front.
Leading the entire caravan was Serenity, walking in front of her wagon with Frank at her side. As Allie approached them, a train of kids ran in front of her, their laughter echoing across the open plains.
“How did you sleep?” Serenity asked as Allie took her place by her side.
Allie shrugged. “Pretty good,” she said honestly. “I like the hard floor.”
Serenity smiled. “To each their own. Are you ready for today’s lesson?”
Allie straightened her posture, subconsciously mirroring Serenity. “Ready.”
“Look the part,” Serenity said succinctly, staring down at Allie’s dress. The entire bottom half was caked in mud, the hem dragging on the ground.
Allie blushed. “I was visiting my pigs.”
“It’s possible to visit pigs without rolling around with them,” Serenity said tersely. “And that’s a line you have to walk as a god.”
“I didn’t roll around with them,” Allie huffed, “they just rubbed off on me.”
“Exactly the point,” said Serenity. “Gods should be set apart from their subjects. We were chosen to administer justice. To do so requires a certain hardness of heart…”
“And if we spend too much time with someone,” Allie finished, “we may not have the heart to serve them justice.”
“Good…” Serenity started to say before cutting herself off. Suddenly, Serenity dropped to her knees, signaling for the rest of the caravan to stop.
Allie and Frank knelt next to her, their faces drawn on in concern.
“Mother,” Allie started to say when Serenity suddenly let out a scream.
“What’s going on?” Allie asked, looking to Frank, who merely shook his head in confusion.
“Geleo,” Serenity whispered, her voice hoarse. “Someone’s taken him.”
Frank’s eyes widened in shock, finally understanding. “The dragons are solitary hunters,” he explained to Allie. “They’re all out separately right now, hunting for food. Geleo must have run into trouble…”
Suddenly, Serenity screamed again, pounding her fist against the ground. “No! Xaniu!”
Frank sat back on his heels, stunned as Allie looked between them in confusion.
“Something happened to both of them?” She asked, feeling lost.
Eventually, Serenity rose from her knees, tear streaks staining her face. She looked as if she was teetering on the edge of sanity as she looked Allie in the eyes. “They were waiting for them,” she said. “They were hooded, unrecognizable, but they had dragons. They took Geleo and Xaniu separately.”
“Who are they?” Allie asked in a whisper.
Frank’s jaw set, his fists clenched as Serenity answered.
“Immortals,” she whispered. “We’re being hunted by Immortals.”


Ideas are cheap. There is pretty much nothing you can write that hasn’t already been written, and chances are, it’s already been written about a thousand times.

A good storyteller can take anything and make it interesting. And a bad storyteller can take anything interesting and make it bad. And if you’ve proven you’re a good writer, it doesn’t matter what the premise of your other books are, people will read it.

However, good ideas can sell your story. Because even though every story has basically already been told, if you can come up with a compelling twist to an old story, it will sell.

Example: Hunger Games.

Dystopian future where kids are forced to fight to the death for food… yeah I’ll read that. Every part of that series has already been done countless times, but the combination of fighting to the death and a dystopian future is genius.

She didn’t have to be a good writer to sell that story, because that idea is compelling. It doesn’t mean the story will be good, it just means it will sell, and companies like that. That’s how you get your foot in the door. (I will address how to come up with good ideas like that in another chapter)

So how do you write original stories? Its the age-old struggle. You want to be original, but that’s basically impossible. So it’s a very good thing that you don’t actually need to be original. You need to be authentic.

Write what you want to write, and if you’re a good writer, your story will be good. The key here is that if you are a good writer, you will be able to take old stories and concepts and make them your own. Not original, but real.

Example: This story

There’s nothing new about medieval setting with dragons. Nothing original about writing about Immortals. There are several stories out there literally named “The Immortals.” I looked it up. But I took old stories and had fun with them. I linked the Immortals to dragons. I gave them Achilles heels. I made the dragons blind underground creatures. I enabled creatures to be linked to humans and change their sizes just like pocket monsters.

I didn’t decide all of these things all at once; I just had fun with it precisely to show that you can write a good story without relying on some sort of brilliant new idea.

So just write and keep writing until you’re good at it. Then you can write anything you want.

(But if you want to know how to make a story that sells, stay tuned)

Draco. Chapter 22. Yes, But. No, And.

My throat was on fire, my skin burnt as we finally approached the foothills of the mountain range.
I could sense Jade’s resolve stiffening as we walked side by side. There was still sadness within. And hurt, but it was hidden alongside past pain long-forgotten, weathered over and callused. It was time.
I imaged flight to Jade, posing it as a question. In response, Jade stretched out her wings, prepared to take us the rest of the way to the mountain town. Our mourning period was finished by necessity. We needed food and water.
I climbed on her back as she grew in size, ensuring stability on takeoff, and seconds later we were gone, flying over the hills and into the mountain range.
A layer of fog still engulfed the mountains, though it wasn’t as thick as when they flew through it before. Night quickly approached as we wound our way through, the lack of light becoming more dangerous with each passing moment.
It was only through Jade’s keen senses that we managed to find the little mountain town from before.
As soon as Jade sensed the town, she began her descent through the fog. I was still blind as we touched town outside of the town. For some reason the fog seemed thicker here, and darker.
Alarms went off in my mind as I slid off Jade’s back. Mentally, I told her to stay hidden as I crept closer to the town, feeling my way across the cracked ground.
Slowly, the outline of the town homes room shape, appearing through what I now identified as smoke, not fog.
Suddenly in the thick of the smoke, I tore off my shirt and wrapped it around my face, protecting my nose and mouth as I approached the homes.
Once close enough to see the whole picture, my heart quickened with fury. Every house in the town lay in ruin, the foundations burned to ashes. Embers were still lit amongst the rubble, smoke mingling with the fog.
Suddenly frantic, I searched about for the bodies of the townspeople, hoping beyond hope that they were alive despite the complete stillness of the scene.
In the first of the twelve homes, I found two bodies, neither of them whole. I carried them out of the house anyway, laying them in a row in the center of the town.
In the second house, I found one adult and one child. Aching, I laid them with the others and moved on to the next.
In the fifth home, I found Esme, who had taken us in the night before. Her face was half burnt, but it was clearly her. As soon as I recognized her, I dropped to my knees, shaking with despair, but my sense of duty prevailed.
Sobbing, I carried her out to the others, distracting myself with the task of caring for the dead. Questions threatened to overtake me as I carried out body after body.
A part of me didn’t understand why Miguel had done this. But another part of me knew. I’d known for a long time now. In this World, evil wins and suffering prevails. But what I had done to deserve an eternity of this, I didn’t know.
Then I checked the tenth home, prepared to carry more dead bodies to the center of town when I heard something from the inner room.
Startled to attention, I carefully picked my way around the rubble, searching for the source of the noise. What I found was another body of a woman, moving despite the horrible wounds across her back.
Scarcely daring to hope, I carefully turned her on her back, checking for vitals. There were none, but underneath her lay a child. A little girl sobbing as quietly as she dared, her eyes shut tight.
At the sight of the girl, I let out an involuntary sob, overcome with relief and sorrow. Without saying a word, I gently picked her up, holding her in my arms.
It wasn’t until I’d lifted her off the ground that she finally opened her eyes, looking down at the woman at my feet.
“Mommy,” she whimpered, stretching her arms toward her dead mother.
“I’ll come back for her, okay?” I said, trying to stifle my sobs. “Let’s just get you somewhere safe first.”
The girl shut her eyes once more despite stretching out her arms even farther, continuing to cry out for her mom.
I let my tears fall as I carried the girl through her broken home. The girl knew. She knew her mom was gone, but she called out anyway, crying to be held by her one last time. I knew what that was like.
As we emerged from her home, the moonlight illuminated the girls’ ashen face, half-cleared by her tears.
Mentally, I called Jade to me and asked her to watch over the girl as I darted back inside the house to get her mom. Moments later I reappeared with her mother and laid her at the girls’ feet.
The girl never stopped crying as she threw herself on top of her mother, hugging her with all the force she could muster.
Torn, I left them there to finish gathering the bodies. Not a single other person was alive. All told, I counted twenty-six bodies. Eighteen adults and eight kids, all dead at the hands of my dragon.
Limp with devastation, I eventually sat beside the girl and her mother, watching the girl empty herself of tears.
Hunger. Thirst. All feeling was distant from me in that moment, but my survival instincts were too strong to ignore. Reluctantly, I sent Jade to search for food as I sat beside the girl, gently laying a hand on her shoulder.
We stayed there the entire night. Some of the time we were silent. Other times we both cried until we couldn’t anymore.
By the time Jade returned, the girl had slipped into shock, wearing blank expressions as she ate and drank what was offered her. And then we slept.


Yes, but…

No, and…

Two huge concepts to learn regarding plots. We’ve explored a couple of ways to go about plotting a story, and we’ll definitely explore more as we move forward, but it’s important to first understand the core of a plot in of itself.

Stories are about struggle. They’re about how human beings respond to struggle; about heartbreak and redemption.

Every other aspect of storytelling is in service of this concept of the human struggle. So the question is posed: how do we create compelling tension (struggle) in our story?

Yes, but…

No, and…

Stories are often structured as: make a plan, execute that plan. That’s great and dandy, but if that’s all it is, your story is in trouble. This has to do with expectation vs. delivery, entertainments value, etc. concepts we’ve already discussed.

So here is a good way to make sure that formulaic method of plan vs. Execution provided good and meaningful tension:

Either use “Yes, but” or “No, and”

I want to get free of this prison…

YES, I can be free of this prison, BUT I have to give up my dragon

I want to keep my dragon…

NO, AND I’m going to be left behind and indirectly get almost everyone in this town killed

This is how you make sure your story always has tension. It’s making sure your character has to make difficult decisions and provide for us a meaningful story experience.

“Yes, and” is too easy. (Yes, I get to go free and I get my dragon back! Hurray!)

“No, but” is, you guessed it, still too easy. (No, you don’t get your dragon back, but here’s a free ice cream sundae on the house – not how the World usually works)

So what I’m saying is that when you’re plotting your story, but your character through the wringer.

More suffering = more redemption = more compelling