Allie. Chapter 36. Effective Characters.

“We leave tonight,” said Serenity as her dragons emerged from the cracked soil. “We need to get there before nightfall.”
“Why fight?” Allie asked, stroking Claire’s neck. “Frank already said they likely have more than four dragons.”
“Six or more is my guess,” Frank said with a grimace.
“Exactly,” Allie said. “Versus our five. If you know they have us outnumbered, why ride out to meet them? Shouldn’t we run or something? Or at least come up with a plan.”
“Running will only put my people at danger,” Serenity said, her voice strangely calm. “We will fight, and we will win. They might have more dragons, but we have an advantage they can never match.”
Allie scoffed as she watched Serenity’s dragons inexplicably digging at the ground in the front of them, creating a large hole.
“We’ve encountered the other Immortals before,” Frank said. “They’re young. Not like us.”
Allie threw her hands in the air. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Serenity sighed, watching her dragons continue to dig. “Do you know your dragon’s weakness?”
Allie glanced at Claire, trying to read the answer from her thoughts. Nothing.
“I thought not,” Serenity said, letting out an imperceptible sigh of relief. “Few know their own dragon’s weaknesses, let alone the weaknesses of others. But for those of us who have lived long enough…”
“You know their dragon’s weaknesses?” Allie asked.
“As do I,” Frank said, frowning at the growing hole in the Earth. “At one point or another, Serenity has Claimed nearly every dragon to exist.”
“I know every dragon by sight,” Serenity said. “Once I know who exactly we’re dealing with, I can take them down one by one.”
“What if you don’t get the chance?” Allie asked, growing more and more curious about the hole. Serenity’s dragons grew smaller as they dug deeper into the hole, finally beginning to slow their pace. “Knowing how to kill them won’t do you any good if they overpower you before you can do anything about it. You’re only one person.”
“I’m more than a person,” Serenity corrected her sternly. “And we are four.”
Allie frowned. “Four?”
“You, me, Frank, and Miguel,” Serenity answered, never taking her eyes away from the hole.
Suddenly, a cry could be heard from the hole, the sound of it smothered by the Earth. Slowly, the cries became louder as the dragons finished digging, leaping out of the hole one by one.
Finally, a hand reached from the hole, its body following behind.
“Miguel?” Allie gasped, frozen as she watched him collapse onto the ground.
“We couldn’t figure out his heel,” Serenity explained, shrugging.
“Lying about it seemed kinder,” Frank said, frowning at the pile of a man in front of them.
Miguel laid on the ground for quite some time, giving into several coughing fits before finally pulling himself up enough to sit upright. After a moment, he looked to Allie. “Did you convince them to save me?”
“I didn’t even know you were down there,” Allie answered honestly.
Miguel grunted, looking at Serenity. “Time off for good behavior, then?”
“You bit my ear off when I put you in there,” Serenity said, her nose scrunched in disgust.
“You grew a new one just fine,” Miguel said, cracking his neck.
“You’re going to help us,” Frank said before Serenity could reply.
“Because we’ll set you free,” Serenity said. “And if we succeed, I’ll let you Claim a dragon.”
Miguel perked up at that, a smile creeping onto his face. “My original offer, eh? What do I have to do?”
“Fight,” Frank answered, offering his hand to help Miguel to his feet.
“Perfect,” Miguel said, taking Frank’s hand. “Who are we fighting?”
“Immortals,” Serenity said, glancing back and forth between Miguel and Allie. “We’re going to fly out there, spring their trap, and be ready to fight for our lives. Once I see the dragons, I’ll tell you what their heels are.”
“What kind of heels are we talking about?” Miguel asked, wiping off his clothes. “And where can I get my hands on some knives?”
“Their heels usually have to do with different locations of their body,” Serenity said warily. “A knife through the right scale. Fire in their eyes. It varies. But if we can weaken even one enough to Claim it from them, we’ll have turned the odds in our favor.”
“Shouldn’t we wait? Go over their potential weaknesses in detail before doing anything rash?” Allie asked, her heart racing at the prospect of what was to come. If she turned on them, or pulled out of the fight, Serenity and Frank would be finished. She didn’t want to be responsible for that.
“The longer we wait, the more time they have to hurt my people. We’re taking the fight to them.”
“Welp,” Miguel said. “It looks like I’ll be needing those knives then. When are we leaving?”
“Right now,” Serenity said, a thin smile spreading on her face. “I hope you got enough rest down there.”


We still have several chapters left in this story, but now is when things get interesting. Tension is building and there are about to be a lot of important moments for each of the characters.

So, naturally, now is a good time to take a step back and look at the arcs of the characters and the story as whole.

I’ve written about plot structures and the importance of character-driven story, staying true to characters, and how to make them compelling, but there’s one principle that ties everything together really nicely:

Your plot should be driven by the decisions of your characters.

That seems like an obvious rule, but it’s easy for many writers, myself included, to fall into the trap of making the main characters bystanders. They get swept up in somebody else’s plans and become pawns in their own story.

It’s okay for this to happen in the beginning of the story. Things are still setting up and your character may not be ready to stand up for themselves, etc. But when things start mattering. When tension is building. It’s the decisions of your characters that will define your story.

I’m not going to give too much away, but if dragons fighting each other decided the ending to this story, that would be a terrible ending. We don’t care (much) about the dragons themselves. We care about Allie, Draco, Frank, Patty, Serenity, etc. And it’s their decisions that will define this story.

So, especially at the end, don’t let your characters be bystanders.

Make us hate them or love them.

Because if they don’t affect their world, they sure as heck won’t affect us.


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 33. Tense.

Claire refused to sit still, flexing her wings in frustration.
“It’s okay, girl,” Allie whispered, running her fingers across the scales on Claire’s neck. “They’re not going to hurt us.”
“Not if you’re true to your word,” said Brianna as she stared at the clouds brushing against the mouth of the cave.
The Immortals had been in the middle of formally introducing themselves when their dragons interrupted, catching the scent of a stray. Only one dragon remained behind. The others had yet to return from their hunt.
“If you so much as think about betraying us, we’ll know,” Stephen added, his eyes hard with warning. “We have eyes everywhere.”
“I’ve given my word,” Allie said, not bothering to look up from Claire. Because I had no other choice, she thought.
And yet, she wasn’t entirely sure that was why she agreed. She genuinely believed Serenity needed to be stopped, but who was she to decide? She was a slave. She knew nothing of the world.
Even now as an Immortal, she didn’t truly have any power. Serenity, and now these Immortals. She had been forced into serving both. And she would keep serving as long as it meant survival.
“They’re back,” Brianna announced evenly, still watching the clouds.
Seconds later, a storm of dragons emerged from the clouds, wings filling the cavern like thunder. One held a man in its claws while the other three held a whimpering dragon captive.
As soon as they landed, Claire started shaking, her entire body convulsing in concern for the man the dragons had captured. Images of the man cycled through her brain, every instinct telling Claire to run to him, but Allie commanded her to stay.
“Draco,” Stephen said, a satisfied smile spreading across his lips. “I’m surprised you let yourself get caught so easily.”
Allie managed to stop herself from audibly gasping at Draco’s name. She knew him as Serenity’s husband. Claire’s old master.
Draco collapsed to the cavern floor as the dragon released him. He remained on the floor for almost a full minute before finally climbing to his feet.
“You know as well as I that he spent the last year in captivity,” Brianna chided. “Perhaps he liked it.”
The other Immortals chuckled at that.
“Does this change the plan?” One of them asked.
Both Brianna and Stephen glanced at Allie.
“You found Claire,” Draco said, smiling at the sight of his dragon. “What happened to Miguel?”
“Your wife has him,” Allie said, drawing Draco’s gaze for the first time. He gave her a quizzical look.
“A new addition to your crew?” He asked, looking to the other Immortals.
“Something like that,” Brianna said. “And she brought your dragon with her.”
Draco frowned. “I’ve stayed out of your way for near a thousand years,” he growled. “You know I have no desire for power. You can take Lemon if you like, but then I’ll take Claire and be on my way.”
“Claire isn’t going anywhere,” Stephen said with a grin. “She’s part of the plan.”
“You know, I’ve heard rumors as to your heel,” Brianna said.
“Rumors only,” Draco said. “I have no heel.”
“So they say,” Stephen admitted, “but everyone has a weakness, King Drumond. And I believe Serenity knows yours.”
“She does,” Allie said. “I’ve heard her say as much.”
Draco frowned, analyzing her before responding. “You have no need of Claire. You have enough dragons.”
“But Claire belongs to Allie,” Brianna replied, walking toward Lemon. “And now your dragon belongs to me.” Ans with that, she placed her hand on Lemon’s head and claimed her.
“You call me King, but I have not ruled in a thousand years,” Draco growled. “I am no use to you. Give me Claire and leave me be.”
Stephen faced Draco, sizing him with his eyes. “You may go, Allie,” he said without looking away from Draco.
Allie hesitated, looking to the other Immortals.
“The plan hasn’t changed,” Brianna said. “Bring Serenity and we can end this cleanly.”
Allie nodded, locking eyes with Draco one last time before climbing on top of Claire. She could feel Claire’s agony as they launched out of the cave, flying through the clouds toward the caravan.
“There’s nothing I can do,” Allie whispered, feeling torn, but her words did nothing to assuage the pain.
Allie’s mind lingered on Draco as the land passed beneath them. They were leagues away from the caravan, but distance is no great hindrance for dragons.
Allie was so lost in thought, that she nearly fell off of Claire when the dragon suddenly stopped in mid-air.
“What was that for?” Allie asked, searching the clouds in alarm, but she saw nothing but clouds.
Claire imaged something below that Allie couldn’t make out before plummeting toward the ground, breaking through the clouds.
Confused, Allie let her fly, searching for whatever it was that was causing her strange behavior. And then she saw them; a little girl riding a lion.
Claire projected another image. Another picture of the girl, except she was with her mother. And of the lion, but with Draco.
As Claire plunged toward them, the lion sped up, running for its life, but it was no match for the dragon’s speed.
Quickly overtaking them, Claire landed right in front of the lion, lowering her neck in submission, revealing Allie.
The lion leaped into the air, attempting to fly in the opposite direction as Allie wavered her arms. “Wait! We’re not going to hurt you!”
The little girl hesitated, pulling the lion to a halt. “Who are you?”
Allie hopped off of Claire, hoping to set the girl at ease, thought eh girl stayed on top of the lion. “I’m Allie. I’m from a caravan not far off. Who are you?”
The girl frowned for a moment, obviously unsure as to whether or not to be truthful. “Patty,” she said eventually. “I’m just a nomad. I don’t have anything worth stealing.”
“I’m not looking to steal anything,” Allie said. “I just wanted to see if you needed help.”
“I’m fine,” Patty said, her eyes filled with distrust.
“We have food at the caravan,” Allie said, watching Patty suspiciously. Her gut told her Patty knew about Draco.
“Don’t need food,” Patty said dismissively.
“Really?” Allie said. “What about protection?”
Patty stiffened, glancing back the way they came. “Don’t need that either.”
Allie couldn’t help but laugh at that. “I’ll tell you what,” she said, relenting. “We’re both heading toward my caravan anyway. How about we ride there together? Just in case?”
Allie could see Patty working to come up with a good reason to refuse, but, eventually, she nodded. “Sounds fine,” she said.
Allie smiled. “Good. It won’t be much farther now.”


We’re going to stay zoomed in on prose this week and compare past, present, and future tense.
Let’s work our way backward:
The use of future tense is really rare, and when it is, it’s used sparingly, because the use of future tense pulls the reader out of the story.

The ball will fall down the steps. The boy will follow it one step and a time, sliding on his belly.

When you read that, you’re not in a story. You’re predicting it. And when you’re predicting it, you can’t get lost in it.
So when you write a story, it’s usually in past or present tense. Both, in theory, make sense, and really, you can use either one, but readers are conditioned to expect past tense.

Present tense:
The ball is falling down the steps. The boy is following it one step at a time, sliding on his belly.

Perfectly acceptable, and the reader can potentially get lost in the story, but it will take time for them to adjust first.
I’m half-way through a novel right now that uses present tense, and it still throws me off every once and a while, but for the most part, I’ve grown used to it and it’s perfectly fine.
But most of the time, you use past tense.

Past tense:
The ball fell down the stairs. The boy followed it one step at a time, sliding on his belly.

This is natural to us, and the most engrossing tense. (For whatever reason) This doesn’t mean you have to use it, but I do highly encourage trying this first.
However, in the end, write how you want to write. Just make sure you’re consistent.

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.