My Most Popular Post

I love the stats that WordPress provides.  I like tracking how many visits I get per day, what search terms bring people to my blog, and what topics seem to be of interest.

There is one trend that I keep seeing, though, and that is my most visited post.  There are two that seem to get a lot of traffic, but one of the two is consistently at the top.  “What do dragons eat?” is almost always the most visited per week, and the same topic is frequently listed as a common search term.

Of course, my post is about making decisions about what the dragons in my book eat, not about dragons in general.  As a fictional species (or set of species, depending on your story) dragons can eat just about anything their author wants them to eat.  In the movie How to Train Your Dragon, the dragons enjoy fish but detest eels.  In Dragon Pendant, my dragons have similar eating habits to big cats or birds of prey.  With their typically sharp teeth, most assume dragons eat meat of some form, but that doesn’t preclude a creative author from developing a race of herbivorous dragons.

Even though I’m not a dragon expert (and unless you count people who collect the various cultural traditions about dragons, there really aren’t any experts) I’ll continue to enjoy seeing my post about deciding on dragon food habits at the top of my weekly visits list.

Other bloggers: do you have one or two posts that frequently get more attention than others?

Staring at the Sky

The sky igrief great place to look for inspiration.

There are clouds that can take on different shapes.  There are birds, soaring high or flitting low.  There may be airplanes or helicopters.  And your imagination can add even more.

In your mind’s eye, the sky could be filled with hot air balloons.  It could be populated with pterosaurs or dragons.  Try spending a few moments looking up.  See what you can see, imagine yourself there, and discover what sparks.

Finding the Right Balance

I am struggling to find the right balance in a section of Dragon.  Be forewarned, I am giving away some spoilers for Dragon in this post.  If you want to wait and be surprised, don’t read it.  (To be fair, they are early spoilers and don’t give away anything major.)

The main character of the book is a dragon, but she was born in human form to human parents.  Her grandfather was a dragon who took human form and married a human woman, and his daughter was human but carried the ability to have dragon offspring.

In order to write this story, I had to figure out the science and genetics that would make this possible.  I am a science nerd, after all, and I had to understand it in order to be comfortable writing it.  Therefore, I have a full working knowledge of dragon genetics (at least as they relate to my fictional world) and the realities of inter-species breeding.

Most of my readers won’t want or need the same level of knowledge that I have, but this brings us to my dilemma.  I got conflicting reports from two of my First Readers.  One, who does not have a science background, said that the explanation that I currently have in the book was sufficient and not confusing for her.  The other, who is a science person like me, wanted more information.  The “it involves advanced genetics that I don’t understand” explanation that one character gives the other wasn’t enough for her.  And honestly, if I were reading the book, I’d need more than that to get past the disbelief I would have in the situation.

I am planning to write an excerpt from a fake scientific paper detailing the genetics at length, which will be included as an appendix to the book, but I fear that for the science-minded among my readers, there needs to be more explanation within the story itself.  I’m just not sure how to find the right balance to accomodate both the science nerds and the non-scientists who might read the book.

Epic Dragon Fight!

For the last week I’ve been complaining (here and in real life) about the “stupid dragon fight” that was all that remained of writing Dragon.  Even with my beanie baby stand-ins, I was having trouble with the physical action.

Thanks to a visit from my sister, the battle is done!

She’s a great choreographer and actress who’s not afraid to act silly in a swimming pool.  Taking advantage of her knowledge of physical movement, her mental GOTE sheets (an acting thing), and an hour in the water, we managed to come up with some really neat physical action for the climax of Dragon as well as motivation for the antagonist.  Her lack of knowledge of how magic works in the world of the book also helped with perspective, since the character who is giving us a view of the fight is not a magic user.

Now I have one more helpful act to credit to my sister when it comes to my writing!

The Sister Speaks Up

An interesting thing happens when I give a character a voice: sometimes they use it.

I’ve mentioned before that I write in third-person subjective voice, meaning that we know everything that is going on from one character’s point of view.  In Dragon I was more attentive to this, even using terms and names that were appropriate in the non-dialog part of the story.  For example, the dragons in my book refer to themselves as Khai.  When the main character is scolded for calling herself a dragon (it’s considered close to a derogatory term), I quit using the word dragon in any scene that was from her perspective.

For the big fight scene that I am still writing, I wanted to use “dragon” again.  This meant picking a character who would use that word, and the main character’s (human) sister seemed like a good choice.  We hadn’t seen her point of view much at all in the story, so I hadn’t really gotten into her personality much.  Surprise, surprise: once I started watching the fight through her eyes, she spoke up.  She’s added an interesting twist to the fight scene along with the possibility of her own short story, sequel-style.

I really should learn to keep my characters in line.

Fake Science

My creativity is often easily distracted.  After the discussion with one of my First Readers about writing a fake genetics research paper, guess what I started thinking about?  Yup, the made-up science paper.

I’ve decided it will be an appendix of the novel.  Instead of the whole paper, I’m creating an excerpt.  The topic of interest (human/dragon offspring) does not have enough data to produce an entire paper; it will be a side discussion in a paper about dragon hybridization instead.  Here’s the title of the fake paper: “Genetic analysis of the lack of hybridization in interracial crosses of Khai” by Spencer O’Neal, Ph.D. (Columbia University).  The journal containing said paper has yet to be decided.  (Khai is what the dragons are called in my novel, in case you were confused.)

Having a science background, I am capable of coming up with sentences like the following off the top of my head (this one is based on a discussion with a friend).  “Pine (1987) postulated that a Khai/human cross could lead to multiple generations of heterozygous individuals with a human phenotype and the potential to produce Khai offspring.”

That’s right, I said heterozygous.  🙂  There are science nerds out there (including one of my First Readers) who will appreciate the fake paper very much, and my brain is having fun creating it.

Tonight the role of the dragon will be played by…

As previous posts have mentioned, I am a very involved author.  I speak dialog aloud, I feel the emotions of my characters, and I even physically act things out.  When it comes to action, I need to see and feel it before I can write it.  Up until now it hasn’t been too much of a problem, since most of my characters to this point have been human.

It’s different now that I’m writing a major battle scene between two dragons.  All of the previous flight and fight action has been relatively simple; I’ve been able to extrapolate it from actual bird behavior I’ve seen.  The most complicated scene was a mock-fight between the two main characters, but even that was mostly flinging magic attacks at each other.  I didn’t include a great deal of description about the physical action.  Once I hit this big fight, though, I got stuck.  How am I going to write something that needs to be detailed and intricate and that involves something I am physically not capable of acting out?

Running through some possibilities, it dawned on me.  The answer is stand-ins.  I’m going to attempt to create the scene using two of my (small) collection of bean bag animals.  A fox and a saluki will be playing the roles of two dragons, at least for this battle.  I haven’t tried it yet, but at least I have some place to start!

Write What You Know

Our stories grow out of our experiences.

One of the most common pieces of advice to new authors is to write what you know.  Start with something familiar, so even if the process is difficult, the content provides little resistance.  Of course, what you know might be a bit larger than you think.

I have an active imagination.  Little everyday things trigger the evolution of scenes in my mind.  I’ve often found myself driving between large vehicles on a crowded highway only to spend the next two miles inventing horror-movie car accidents that are highly unlikely.  The “what if” game is almost constantly playing in my head.

It should come as no surprise that the inspiration for Dragon Pendant is an actual necklace with a pewter dragon on it.  I purchased it at the very first Renaissance Faire I attended.  In wearing the necklace (a lot) a story started developing around it.  What if a dragon could take a human shape, and part of that shape included a necklace? Why would she keep the necklace on if it gave her away?  What if someone was a dragon but didn’t know?  My imagination took me for an adventure, and now I have a novel in the works.

What I know isn’t all real; some of it is simply invented by my brain.  It’s still familiar, something I know, so it counts.  🙂  Besides, who wouldn’t want to imagine that they could really be a dragon trapped in a human body?

Comparing Dragons and Butterflies

Obviously, this post is not going to compare the actual animals.  Although that would be fun, come to think of it.  While they don’t have a lot in common, since one is a real insect and the other is a fictional reptile, there are some similarities.  Both are ectothermic, both can fly, and both occur frequently in body art.  The most important commonality, though, has to do with my novels.  They both are featured in the titles.

What I really want to compare is The Queen’s Butterflies and Dragon Pendant, my two unpublished novels.  (Yes, I have dropped “the” from the working title of Dragon Pendant.  I don’t want to go to the effort of changing the tag in every blog post so it will remain The Dragon Pendant in that context.)  As I have finally committed to working on Dragon Pendant, it might be time for some comparisons.

At eight chapters in, Dragon is running about 5 word-document pages behind Butterflies.  I don’t know what this means, other than so far Dragon is shorter.  It doesn’t mean it will end up shorter, just that the first eight chapters are shorter.  My biggest worry with Dragon is that it won’t be long enough to be considered a novel, but so far it seems to be holding its own.

The reason for this worry is complexity.  Butterflies is a fairly complex novel, with many overlapping plots and sub-plots as well as a large number of characters.  It even has a “cast list” to accompany it to help keep all the players straight at the beginning.  The many threads all come together nicely, but the complexity meant guaranteed length.  Dragon is also complex, but in a very different way.  It is a “quest” story, so the bulk of the tale revolves around one main character.  As no one has read it yet, I don’t know this for sure, but it does seem easier to keep the characters straight since we (mostly) meet them all in sequence as they meet our main character.  Plus, there are generally fewer of them.

Some other major differences between the two novels: Butterflies is set entirely in a made-up world, while Dragon is set half in this world, half in another world accessed through gates.  Butterflies has only minor magic, while Dragon has a lot.  There are no butterflies (the insects) in Butterflies, but Dragon definitely has dragons.  And Butterflies is a human-only story, while Dragon has humans, dragons, elves, and mermaids.  There may even be more non-human intelligent species in Dragon; it’s not done yet, so I can’t say for sure.

Which brings us to the final difference.  Butterflies is finished, whereas Dragon is not.  I’ve handed copies of the first 8 chapters to my new First Readers.  If they both tell me it sucks, well, I’ll be starting on something else.  If they give it the thumbs-up, I’ll definitely keep you updated on how the novel is progressing!

What do dragons eat?

It should be clear what a dragon eats – meat.  I’m basing a lot of my dragon biology on crocodilians; most large alligators don’t require a lot of food, but they are also fairly low-energy animals.  Dragons have a similar or higher activity level than humans.  This means that they would likely require more food than an alligator, but being reptilian still less than a human.

I’m thinking that my dragons will likely eat at most one meal a day, similar to a bird of prey or a big cat.  Large carnivores in the wild tend to gorge and fast, filling up on as much meat as they can hold and then using that energy for an extended period of time.  As my dragons are sentient, they are scheduling their lives and acquiring their food more consistently, so they will probably have a smaller, civilized (of a sort) meal once a day.  I’m leaning toward late morning to midday, so they can digest during the warmest time.

Dragons can’t raise their own prey (they are a bit more likely to inspire a fear response than a human) but they probably don’t want to hunt daily and raiding other people’s property is frowned upon.  Given this, there is probably a thriving trade in livestock in places where the dragons live.  This decides not only where they get their food but also what they eat – mostly purchased domestic animals, with an occasional hunt for wild game thrown in.

Now I just need to decide if they eat their meat raw or cooked.  They do have fire, after all…

Previous Older Entries