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 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 39. The Climb.

Allie’s heart raced, her thoughts scattered despite re-playing the scene in her mind. Even now she found herself trembling, all too aware of what Claire could do if she was set free. She would never look at a dragon the same way again.
Hundreds murdered right in front of her and she did nothing. Even with a dragon, she was helpless. All she could do was run. Fly back to the city in fear, leaving her only friends behind to die.
Serenity. Allie expected Serenity to die. She needed to be stopped, but Allie still didn’t know how she felt about it. Frank though. Frank was a good man, and she left him. And Draco. Even now, Allie could feel Claire’s pain from leaving him behind. Surely, he was a good man as well.
Allie closed her eyes as Claire sped through the clouds layering the night sky. Faces fought their way into her mind. Shean. Patty. Frank. Serenity. Even Miguel.
One by one, she forced them out, refusing to think about those she had abandoned. There was nothing for her back there. She was a street-dweller. A slave. And she was still slave, back where she started, only now with a murderous pet. She would have preferred pigs.
And where could she hide with a dragon? Not in the city. That thought forced her eyes back open. She couldn’t hide like she wanted. Not with Claire.
Claire issued a warning, a growl vibrating through her chest, but Allie paid her no mind, lost in her thoughts.
Allie had given up. And Claire deserved to be free. Suddenly, without warning or thought, Allie threw herself off of Claire and into the night sky.
Clouds and wind obscured her senses, replaced by fear and regret. She could feel her body turning, her eyes frozen open with terror. This wouldn’t be an end for her. Only pain.
She could feel Claire coming after her. Sense her concern, but she knew her dragon wouldn’t reach her in time. She was a coward about to be in a lot of pain.
Then her body lurched to a stop as pain flared through her back.
It took a moment for her mind to catch up, processing the field of grass mere feet below her. At first she thought Claire had caught her, but she was proven wrong as Claire suddenly flew around her, growling with concern.
Allie tried to twist around to see who caught her, but was unable to get a good look.
Slowly, her savior let her to the ground.
“Now why did you go and do that?” Patty said, sliding off of Jade. “Are you that bad of a rider?”
“Nah,” Shean replied, stumbling as he attempted to swing off of Jade. “I reckon she fell asleep. The Queen of snores can fall asleep anytime anywhere.”
Allie’s mouth dropped open, trembling with shock. Relief warred with shame within her that her friends were alive to witness her cowardice. “Shean? Patty? How?”
Shean ignored her question, wrapping her in a hug instead.
“Jade sensed them coming,” Patty said, keeping a respectful distance. “She recognized them from before when they took Draco.”
“The little lady convinced me to go with them,” Shean said, his voice lighthearted despite the heaviness off his eyes. “We were in the middle of an argument about what to do next when we saw you flying overhead.”
“What happened?” Patty asked, her teeth grinding with nerves. “Did we lose?”
Allie hesitated, unsure of how to answer.
“I don’t think she’d be running if they’d won, little one,” Shean said, grimacing. “I told you it was too late to go back. Our only option is to start again in the city.”
“Is Draco still alive?” Patty asked, her voice stiffening with resolve.
Allie nodded. “Last I saw, but Shean is right. There’s nothing we can do. They have near a dozen dragons now, and Draco could already be dead for all we know. We lost.”
“And you helped them,” Patty said, shaking.
Shean looked to Allie, frowning with doubt.
“Not…,” she stuttered. “I mean, I didn’t… mean to.”
Patty bit her lip, visibly retraining herself.
“They forced you?” Shean asked, all of his forced joviality gone.
Allie looked to Patty who refused to meet her gaze. “Yes, but it’s my fault all the same.”
Shean let out a sigh, exhaustion plain on his face as he turned to Patty. “It doesn’t matter why anymore. Only that it can’t be changed. We have to move on. Go to the city. All of us.”
“I refuse to leave,” Patty said, suddenly looking at Allie with a fire in her eyes. “I have to go back.”
“Draco might already be dead,” Allie said, feeling defeated.
“He’s not dead,” Patty said, gesturing toward her lion. “Jade is his Claimed. I’ll know when he dies.”
“There’s nothing you can do,” Allie said. “You’re one lion against a dozen dragons.”
“I can fight,” Patty growled. “And I will. With or without your help.”
Allie looked to Shean who shrugged.
“I’d prefer to keep you both alive,” he said. “My chances of succeeding are slimmer back there, but I’ll follow if need be.”
Then they both looked to Allie. She knew it was helpless. That they would be going back to their graves. But if there was even the slightest chance she could make a difference before her life was done, she wanted to take it.
“Okay,” she said finally. “But we’re going to need a really, really good plan.”

——

Seems like a good time to address The Climb. And the best way to address it is in contrast to the pit of despair.

One way to look at your plot is as a series of falls and climbs. Your character may have started the story in a pit, in which case your entire plot is about their climb out of the pit.
Or the opposite may be true, where your character is slowly falling into a pit the entire story. But, assuming your story isn’t a tragedy, at some point they need to climb back up.

This chapter is about Allie starting her climb. The entire story so far she’s been swept along. A bystander to the story. All of her decisions have been either to run or comply. This is the first time she’s decided to stand her ground for what’s right.

In most stories, the character’s turning point is when they finally take ownership of their lives. They’re structured this way because this control/power over their lives is the real fantasy. Dragons, magic, etc. represent power over your life.
Experiencing a story where the character climbs to the top and takes control of their lives allows the reader to experience a catharsis. It makes them feel like they can do the same in their lives. (Which they can)
So, until your character takes ownership over the story, your readers won’t be satisfied. Otherwise, it’s just the plot happening to your characters – exactly how many of your readers might feel in real life.

That’s not escape. That’s not inspiration. It’s just added stress.

So when your characters triumph. When they climb. Make sure it’s somehow because of their decisions, their agency.

They’re climbing a mountain. Not riding an escalator.

Draco. Chapter 38. Give Them a Face.

Ashes fell all around us, our only light emanating from the burning wagons. I wore no chains, but I was a prisoner all the same, surrounded by a ring of Immortals.
However, their attention was not on me, as all of their eyes were focused on their leaders, each awaiting their orders. Behind us, the cries of women and children echoed through the night unanswered.
My insides rotted with guilt as I listened to their pleas, but there was nothing I could do for them. I knew their fate was tied to Sarah’s decision.
I held my breath as she dismounted her dragon, daring to hope that she’d made the right decision. And then, finally, she submitted her dragons, allowing Brianna and Stephen to Claim them as their own.
When it was over, I sighed with relief. For the first time a thousand years, both Sarah and I had been stripped of our power, but it was a small price to pay for the lives of innocent people.
Within moments, that relief turned to dread in my chest as I heard the screams erupt from the crowd.
I turned to find the Immortal’s dragons ripping into the crowd, killing men and children alike. Not believing what I saw, I looked at the Immortals around me, but saw only indifference in their eyes. They weren’t killing people, they were slaughtering animals.
Sick and not thinking straight, I ran through them toward the slaughter just as their new dragons joined the horrible scene.
In every direction, people ran for their lives only to be caught in the jaws of dragons the size of houses. And yet I ran toward them, silent save for my heaving sobs.
My eyes locked onto a mother throwing her son to the side just as a claw enveloped her. “Run!” She screamed, her eyes full of terror as she disappeared forever.
The boy froze, staring at the claw as if expecting his mother to re-appear from it.
I ran straight for the boy, picking him up just as the dragon attempted to finish the job.
Its claw ripped my back, throwing us to the ground, shocking the boy out of his stupor as he let out a scream of agony.
Even as I rolled to my feet, picking the boy back up, my back healed itself.
“Quiet,” I whispered as I ran with the boy on my shoulder.
I glanced backward to find the dragon moving onto its next victim, with the next closest dragon too far away to pay them any notice.
“We’re going to make it, I promise,” I whispered again, running along the burning carts, hoping the roaring fire would hide our scent.
“Momma,” the boy cried, his face ashen and stunned.
I didn’t answer, my heart racing as I strove put distance between us and his mom. The farther we got, the more I believed my own promise.
The cries grew faint as we managed to lose ourselves in the darkness, the fire barely visible in the distance.
Then a dragon landed right in front of us.
“A true low point for the royal family,” Stephen said from atop his new dragon.
“Please,” I said, placing myself between the dragon and the boy.
Without another word, the dragon ripped through me with its teeth, and shook me in the air until I was close to passing out.
I was still in its jaws when I regained my vision, just in time to see the boy’s lifeless body lying in the dirt as we rose into the air.
I wanted to yell at Stephen. To punish the dragon. But my lungs were deflated, forced to wait until they were free to heal.
Within seconds we reached the camp, the innocent victim’s bodies already in a pile and on fire.
Stephen’s dragon landed next to the fire, joining the rest of the dragons. All save one.
After a moment, the dragon dropped me onto the ground, finally allowing my body to heal.
“Our girl did well,” Stephen said as he slid off his dragon and walked up to the lone dragon set apart from the others. “A valuable member of the team.”
“We had a deal,” Allie said, trembling atop her dragon.
“What’s done is done,” Brianna said, abreast one of her own dragons. “And you have played your part.”
“And as long as you remain a loyal teammate, you may keep your reward,” Stephen said, smiling thinly. “Your life and your dragon.”
I managed to climb to my feet, shaking with exhaustion and forced to remain still by the dragons breathing on my neck.
For the briefest of moments, I locked eyes with Allie as she considered Stephen’s words.
“Am I free to leave?” She asked, looking away from me.
“You are Immortal,” Stephen answered. “Now that we’ve won, you are free to do what you want.”
Allie looked back at me, her eyes seeming to beg for forgiveness as she turned away and launched into the sky with Claire.
“Now,” Brianna said, looking down at me. “We finally get to deal with you.”

——

Give them faces.

There’s this thing writers do that you may have noticed. Before someone dies or goes through something traumatic, they give that person “screen time.” They take just a moment or two to make us care before putting them through the trauma.
It doesn’t matter that we only met them 1 scene ago, we’re still sad when that person dies.

Someone’s going to die? Have them do or say something endearing the scene before.
I wrote about the elements of how to create compelling characters early on in these chapters. Basically, the writers just slip those elements in right before the character leaves the story.

Ex: Basically every show ever when an episode starts with something sad happening to a stranger:
Oh you silly dad driving and singing along to a Rhianna song… oh no! Car jacked by the villain?? We’re so sad for you… until the next scene when we forget you exist.

And that’s what I did here with the mother and the boy. I don’t even give them names, but it (hopefully) makes the horror of what’s happening more real.
Now, really, you should give every character in your story a “face.” You don’t have to wait until the last minute, but if they’re not important, then last minute works well so it’s fresh in your reader’s mind.

Thanks for reading! See you next week.

Allie. Chapter 37. The Pit of Despair.

“Stay close!” Serenity shouted over the rushing wind as they approached the mountains.
All five dragons drifted closer, slowing down so Serenity’s commands could be more easily heard over the flapping of their wings.
Shaking with nerves, Allie found herself stroking Claire’s scales to calm herself. She didn’t want anyone to die, but there was nothing she could do to stop this fight.
She was about to either be a victor or victim, and she was free to choose which. If she was a victor, she could advocate for mercy. All she had to do was pull out when the fight began. A voice inside of her was near shouting that she didn’t belong here. It would be all too easy to hold back.
Her other option was to run. She could take Claire and leave the rest to their fate. They all deserved what was to come… except maybe for Frank. And Draco for all she knew. But they weren’t her responsibility.
“I don’t see anything,” Frank said, scanning the mountainside.
“The dragons don’t sense anything either,” Serenity said, her voice suspicious.
“Looks like they may have run off,” Miguel said, picking his teeth with a knife.
“No, they wanted us here,” Allie said, prompting Claire forward toward the tree line.
“How do you know?” Miguel asked.
Allie didn’t answer as they flew over the trees and into a layer of fog.
“Pull up,” Serenity commanded.
The rest of the dragons listened, climbing above the fog, but not Allie. Her heart raced as she let Claire lead the way to the cave. With every breath, she tensed, preparing to be attacked, but the attack never came.
“Maybe they did run,” she whispered.
“Allie, pull up!” Frank yelled. “They’re not here!”
Ignoring their yells, Allie urged Claire onward. Eventually, they emerged from the fog and dove straight into the cave. It was empty.
“There’s no way they changed their minds,” Allie said, trying to wrap her mind around their absence.
Baffled, they shot back out through the fog, climbing above it to join the others.
“I think we found their cave,” Allie said warily. “Claire picked up the scent of dragons, but they’ve left it behind.”
“We need to go back,” Serenity barked, her face paling.
“We’re not going to try and track them down?” Miguel asked, frowning. “I still get a dragon, right?”
“There’s only one reason they’d want us here if not to fight,” Serenity said, gritting her teeth. “Let’s go!”
Suddenly, they took off toward the caravan, flying back twice as fast as they came. The wind whistled in their ears, but there was no more need of communication. Something told Allie that if Serenity was right, the fight was already over.
Serenity was the first one to see the smoke rising through the air; a beacon marking their caravan.
Then the flames became visible, the entire line of carts on fire.
“No!” Serenity cried, diving toward the flames.
Allie’s chest felt hollow as she realized what the Immortals had done.
“Mother!” Frank shouted, pointing to the other side of the flames.
As they flew closer, a crowd of people appeared beyond the flames. Hundreds of people corralled into a circle, surrounded by six dragons.
Serenity hesitated in the air, signaling for the rest of them to pause as well.
All of her people watched as she hovered next to the flames. All six dragons were tense, each with a rider and poised to strike at the crowd.
“Wait for my signal,” Serenity said glancing back at Frank and Allie.
“Do you know their weaknesses?” Miguel asked with calculating eyes.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Serenity replied as she prompted her dragon to land.
As they landed, all four of them staid on their dragons.
Suddenly, two Immortals broke from the circle, leaving their dragons behind.
“Queen Sarah,” Stephen shouted as he sauntered over with his partner. “It’s been too long.”
“Stephen. Brianna.” Serenity said, biting off their names in acknowledgment.
“I don’t think she’s pleased to see us,” Brianna said sweetly.”
“What do you want with me?” Serenity asked, not even remotely hiding her disdain.
“We know you still fancy yourself a Queen,” Brianna replied, her voice turning into a snarl. “You gather followers and pretend as if we are yours to rule.”
“You are mine to rule,” Serenity snapped.
Stephen chuckled, shaking his head. “Then today is the last day of your rule. Hand your dragons over to be Claimed, and we won’t hurt your people.”
“You’re a fool,” Serenity spat.
“But are you a Queen?” Stephen challenged. “Will you sacrifice the life of hundreds for the sake of your pets?”
“Is it too late to switch sides?” Miguel asked as he slid off his dragon’s back.
“You may stand with the rest of Serenity’s people,” Brianna said, pointing him to the crowd surrounded by dragons. “Your fate will be determined by the Queen’s decision.”
Serenity watched Miguel leave without expression, her face a mask of indifference.
“What’ll it be, Mother Sarah?” Brianna asked. “Will your people die today?”
For a moment, Serenity sat on her dragon in silence. Then, finally, she slid to the ground, gesturing for Frank and Allie to do the same. “I choose my people.”
Then Serenity’s dragons walked forward, two of them submitting themselves to Stephen and two to Brianna, Claimed one by one.
“Claire too, Allie,” Serenity said, her voice suddenly devoid of all life.
“The girl can keep hers,” Stephen said, his voice thick with victory. “She earned it.”
Then, without warning, all ten of their dragons let out a feral roar and tore into Serenity’s people.
Allie didn’t know what was happening until it was too late, their screams paralyzing her with fear. She chose wrong. They had all chosen wrong.

———

The pit of despair. I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s an essential element in plotting. It’s when everything looks the bleakest, and there’s no obvious way out.
The pit is the beginning of the end of your story, and the worse your character’s situation at the pit, the more satisfying their triumph. If you’re too easy on them, the end will feel cheap and unearned. And if you’re too hard on them… well you can’t really.


The pit should be caused by your character’s decisions, either directly or indirectly, and, if possible, be the final challenge to their beliefs.
Why? Because everything after needs to be the climb. You need to get your character to a place where they’re ready to dig themselves out of the pit and triumph in the end.
Yes, they’re allowed to have help, but it has to be them, and primarily them, that wins the day. Otherwise, they’re merely spectators in their own story and they shouldn’t have been main characters in the first place.


This being the case, it should go without saying that you should not have a deus ex machina. Which literally means God from machine, but really means something powerful that comes in and saves the day. It happens often, and it’s not satisfying.


Ex: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (the movie)

When the ghost army comes in a wrecks shop. There was foreshadowing, but not much, and, honestly, it was just too powerful. However, it is somewhat forgivable because it’s not the actual climax of the movie anyway, so… whatever.


Ex of doing it right: Lord of the Rings: Two Towers.

Gandolf shows up with a human army and saves the day. We were constantly reminded that all they had to do was last until the third day, and they did. We knew help was on the way, and even if we forgot for a second, we remembered when the time came.


All this to say: make the pit as dark as you possibly can… as long as you have a legitimate way to triumph over it. Don’t back yourself into a corner to the point that you have to do something crazy or weak-sauce to win.
But, in the end, if you do back yourself into a corner… you can always fix it in edit.
So what I’m really trying to say is do the pit right = do the plot right.