Set Loose a Dragon

As I write and re-write this novel, I’m constantly drawing on the wealth of information that I earned while writing my previous novel(s).  I’m especially struck by the idea of tension, and how to use conflict and tension to build suspense and draw the reader into the story.

You see, when I first started writing, I just wrote whatever came into my mind for my characters to do.  They’d go places and do things and generally have a grand old time until the Big Baddie showed up towards the end.  I couldn’t figure out why my story felt slow and floppy, like nothing was happening.

And then I read this blog post:

Micro Tension

…and my whole life changed.

I realized that every chapter in my story should buzz with tension.  Besides just the BIG PLOT tension, there should be secondary conflicts and plot arcs, and even tertiary ones as well.  My story should be layered, full of smaller problems for my characters to face as they work towards the Big Problem of the story.

In the aforementioned blog post, the writer suggests taking basically every scene and stripping it down, looking for ways to up the stakes and up the tension.

So.  I learned all of that while editing my last novel, trying to go back and add tension and conflict into the weak parts of my story.

It’s been so great to know about tension as I write THIS novel.  For example, this past week, I was writing a scene where two characters meet in person for the first time.  Already pretty high tension, but then I was thinking: what if I added a dragon?

I was setting out to write this scene, thinking, what else could go wrong?  So I set loose a dragon.  A baby dragon stows away in the main character’s backpack, and gets loose just as the two characters are meeting.  She causes a bit of chaos, making the whole scene 100% more interesting and tension-charged.

So that’s my advice for you: if you’re feeling bored with the chapter/ scene that you’re working on, try upping the stakes.  Or creating a misunderstanding between two characters.  Or making something unexpectedly go wrong.  Or setting loose a dragon.

 

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A Little Thing I Wrote

Some days, the words just won’t be written.  The novel is hiding in a far-off land, the plot is taking the day off.  On those days, you take the elevator to the top floor of your school’s library, let go of your expectations, and simply write for fun.  Sometimes, writer’s blocks need to be written around.  Sometimes you need to remind yourself how to connect your brain to your fingers to the keyboard.  Sometimes you need to remind your fingertips how to sing their melody as they tap the rhythm of a story.

Somedays, you don’t get any noveling done, but you fall a little more in love with the power of writing.  Somedays, that’s all you need.

I’d love to now share with you a little thing I wrote: Libraries and Dragons.  It’s not really a short story – more like an essay in an imaginary world.  It hasn’t really been edited; it’s not going to win any awards.  But I love it anyways, and this little tiny piece reminded me that writing is a sort of magic that I adore.  So.  Enjoy.

One last note: the first paragraph is a note to myself.  But it’s kinda a part of the piece, so I left it there.

Alright, brain.  You’ve had your coffee, now write your words.  Forget the product, the answer, the perfection.  Write the words.  The words are the only thing you care about.  The words, the words, the words.

All libraries are living things.  Picture them dragons, if you will.  They’re not dragons – no, they’re nowhere near as polite as dragons – but picture them dragons for a minute.  They’re really quite similar if you think about it.

The largest of the dragons are the Nightmares, ancient things, all black scales and blazing eyes, huge leathery wings that haven’t tasted night air in centuries but would blanket the world in darkness if they were opened.  These dragons are like the Great Old Libraries.  The libraries that now only exist in faraway lands and are in danger of disappearing entirely.  Most people only see pictures of them on Pinterest.  But a picture can’t capture the smell of thousands of souls, aging away together for centuries until their stories are all intertwined.

The next in size are your Sea Dragons – not really dragons, per say.  (Although never try telling a Sea Serpent that she’s not a real dragon; it will be the last thing you say.)  These represent your – uh – electronic libraries.  Provided for you by deities such as the great River-God Amazon.  Do they count as real libraries?  Can a book still be a book if it’s pixels instead of paper?  Can a dragon still be a dragon if she doesn’t breathe fire?

The next largest in size are the Green Giants.  It’s said that they like to impersonate hills, curling up for years on end, covering themselves in dirt blankets, letting green grass feel at home on top of their already emerald scales.  These are the noble dragons, quick to come to the aid of needy kingdoms, quicker still to deliver justice to those who betray their trust.  These are like College Libraries.  They come in many shapes and sizes, but most are light-filled and shiny, always being renovated and repaired, full of bustling students and sleepy sunshine.  If you’re not careful with them, they’ll suck you away and you’ll never be seen again.

Then you’ve your Common Dragons – your Public Libraries.  They come in all shapes, sizes, textures, and colors, each full of their own magic.  First there’s the fast-growing White Dragon, which is full size in six months, and eats only vegetation.  These are the shiny new public libraries, such as you’ll find in any suburbia: spacious and brimming, with smiling librarians and fast wi-fi.  Second, you have the Blue Gypsies – these smaller dragons are known for speaking in verse and giving directions (usually in rhyming couplets) to those who have lost their way.  These are represented by those quaint, compact little libraries you’ll find in small towns. Candles of light and knowledge for the weary traveler come home.

Finally, we come to the Hound Dragons, named for their small size and dog-like trainability.  These are the most popular species to keep as pets, as they are quite happy to nest indoors, and also will follow humans with unwavering devotion if they are treated fairly.  The males are deep purple and the females are scarlet, and they have clever faces, bright eyes, and nimble talons.  Their smaller wings are only practical for short-distance flying, and they prefer climbing, hoping, and bounding with short bursts of flight, unmistakably like large grasshoppers.  These dragons are like Home Libraries.  Some are quite small, some are more impressive; some are old, and some are filled with crisp new spines.  Like the Hound Dragons, home libraries tend to reflect the nature of their owners, and one can learn a great deal about what sort of house one is in simply by examining either the dragon or the library.  If a house is missing one or both, it is recommended that you exit the premises as soon as possible, as the home may be prone to Nargle infestation.

There you have it: hopefully this discussion will help you in the future, either when dealing with the winged beasts or the book-filled creatures.