Death’s Apprentice – Part 45

‘How much longer?’

‘Not far,’ said Hel as she skipped through the trees like a ballerina on speed.

Not far? Not far? It felt like they’d been walking through this shitty forest for days! Joe didn’t know how long he could go on for. His stomach felt like it was eating itself and his legs didn’t feel as if they belonged to him anymore. And his mood? His mood was maybe not a good thing to discuss.

‘Here we are, look!’ Hel screeched to a halt, raised her small hand and pointed at something that Joe couldn’t see yet.

He moved closer to the little girl and looked out of the trees into a small clearing. There was what looked like a small log cabin surrounded by a small kitchen garden full to the brim with herbs and vegetables. Grey smoke twisted out of the chimney and drifted into the eternally twilit sky.

‘Stay here!’ she ordered, before she raced off towards the cabin, her hounds swiftly following.

Except for Hades.

Hades seemed to have developed a connection with Joe. The huge dog stood next to him, his muscles taut, his eyes alert and…

God, what was that smell?

Joe looked at Hades. Hades looked at his bottom then looked at Joe, his head slowly getting lower and lower.

‘Hades, have you…?’

Hades’ head dropped even further.

It was at that moment that Joe decided he like Hades a lot. He watched as Hel skipped off towards the cabin and he wondered whether she’d allow the dog to go with him back to up there, “real life”, or whatever it was. Because if this was the Underworld (and it definitely was as far as he could tell) and this was “real”, then what was up there? What did he call it? The upper world? But, Joe mused, it was more like a big downer, especially living with his mom and shitdad.

Maybe, IF he ever got back to up there, he’d have to consider alternative living arrangements now he was working.

He shrugged as if in conversation with himself. What did any of that matter? He’d deal with that if he ever got out of here alive.

Alive? Wasn’t that ironic as he was in the Underworld?

There was a long howl that seemed to echo around the forest. Hades’ ears pricked up. He threw his head back and gave his response – a long sorrowful howl that sent a shiver down Joe’s back. When he’d finished his cry, he nudged Joe’s leg and began to stroll off towards the cabin.

So, you wanna be a writer? Theme.

Theme?

What is this theme you are talking about Angela, and why do I need it in my novel?

Very good question!

A theme is:

“an underlying….message to your story. This is an idea that runs through the whole of the novel. The message could be, for example, “crime doesn’t pay,” or “love conquers all”.

(Taken from my post So, you wanna be a writer? Five things you need to do in Act One of your story.)

But, why do I need a theme?

Because it will make your story flow and will bring cohesion to your narrative.

It’s the mission statement of your novel.

You don’t have to explicitly tell the reader your theme but it will inform your writing and thus be implied.

My first ever novel, Dragon Rider, had the message that Revenge is self-destructive.

From the beginning of the novel. I state my case;

“It is said that a man with revenge in his heart should dig two graves; one for his enemy and one for himself.  Perhaps this is true, but I’m not ready to take to my grave.  Not yet.

I ask you; what do you do if there is no justice?  If the law itself is rotten and corrupt.  What then?  Should we let those who do wrong get away with it, turn the other cheek to their crimes?”

And then, at the end of the novel, I state;

“All I know is that now I have my revenge. Fenrik is destroyed and for that I am grateful. But I will never be healed. The hatred, the need for revenge has kept me alive for far too long and now it pulses through my veins like my lifeblood.”

Revenge as a self-destructive force runs as a theme throughout the novel.

The theme is a universal idea that transcends cultural barriers.

If the Plot is the what of the story, and the characters of the novel are who, the theme of the story is why.

So, how do I create a theme?

It starts with you. You have to decide what message you want to convey in your story. Do you want to say something about love, for example? And what would that be? Love conquers all? Love makes us fools?

But, don’t preach!

Nothing will put a reader off more than preaching at them about something you believe in. The theme should be subtle and hidden within the lines of text but not too hidden that it isn’t conveyed to the reader. They should be able to detect the theme lying just below the surface.

If you’re a plotter, plot your novel (even if it’s just the bare bones), consider your character’s motivations, the conflict in your story and then brainstorm ideas for your theme.

If you’re a pantser, again, consider the conflict in your story, your character’s motivations and begin to piece together the message you are trying to convey. The skeleton of your theme will probably be in your writing already, waiting to be discovered. Once you find it, you can edit your work to make the theme and your writing more cohesive.

And remember, the theme can be conveyed through a character’s actions, speech and thoughts, and the symbolic use of the environment (In Bones, I use the weather as an indicator of the tone of the scene. Maybe a bit cliche but, I don’t care, I like it :)).

What themes can you think of? How have you conveyed these themes to the reader? What worked? What didn’t?

Let me know!

 

 

 

Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-Seven

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twelve Continued

Dreams

The journey continued in silence as they passed through the Forest of Suffering with its thickets of sword-like brambles that writhed across the path like slimy wyrms and the gnarled fingers of the trees that reached up to the sun-less sky like snakes on the head of the Medusa.  Every now and again, a terrifying scream would rip through the silence of the forest, interrupting, for the briefest second, the elephant-like snores of Pyro and the intermittent rumble of his farts.

Drake’s mood was worsening with every second that passed as the coach rocked to and fro wafting the vile smell around.  How he would like to play his Zephyr and knock them all unconscious, maybe then he could finally get some peace.  But then, Pyro would still smell, he always did.

Light flooded the carriage as they emerged from the pulsating shadows of the forest.  A vast lake lay in front of them, its deep and un-naturally still water surrounded by weeping willows, their elegant branches drooping sorrowfully onto its glass-like surface.

Charon directed the coach over the long crumbling stone bridge that ran over the lake, its surface scarred with a spider’s web of deep cracks and crevices.  The wheels bounced up and down over the bumpy surface, jolting Pyro awake.

‘So,’ yawned Pyro loudly, ‘What have I missed?’  The djinn let out another blast of smelly wind.  ‘Oh, sorry,’ he said, slapping his chops and scratching at his belly.

Drake remained silent but his green eyes bored into Pyro.

‘How long have we been travelling?’ exhaled Willow, her face looking pale from holding her breath.

‘I don’t think-’

‘No, you don’t think, do you?  That’s the problem!’ snapped Drake.

‘You know Blackthorn, I’m not really feeling the love at the moment,’ replied Pyro, ‘I think you’re a bit tense, need to chill a bit.  If you don’t you’ll only end up having indigestion or worse.  Trust me, I know what I’m talking about-‘

‘Tense?’ said Drake, his hands clamped onto his legs as he tried to stop himself from exploding.  ‘Tense?  Maybe that’s because you wind me up Pyro.  I don’t like you!’

‘Oh,’ said the djinn, his bottom lip curling under, ‘if you’re going to be like that.’

‘Drake!’ said Willow, ‘You’ve hurt his feelings.’

‘It’s okay,’ said Pyro.  He turned to Drake, pulling his shoulders back.  ‘Why bring me here then?  I never asked to come.’

‘Because,’ hissed Drake, ‘you’re working for the man I hate, the man who ordered the death of my father-‘

‘Drake, you don’t know that,’ interrupted Willow, ‘not even Pyro knows who got him to steal the Hand of Glory-’

‘You’re working for him Pyro, and I want to know the minute he summons you again.’  Drake looked out of the window, ‘I hate him,’ he spat, ‘and I hate you.’

Suddenly the carriage ground to a halt, smacking Willow’s and Pyro’s head off the back of their seats.

Drake bolted upright in his seat, all hostilities momentarily forgotten.  For the moment anyway.  ‘Are we at the Fortress?’

‘No, I don’t think so,’ said Willow wiping the sleeve of her hoodie over the wet glass, ‘The Fortress is still miles away, we haven’t even crossed the bridge yet but…oh-’

Charon appeared at the carriage door, his white face screwed up in disgust.  He took out the handkerchief from his top pocket with a flourish and placed it on the silver handle of the door before slowly opening it.

‘Problem?’ asked Drake.

Charon took a deep breath and tried not to retch as he spoke.  ‘Yes, a very big problem.  I am sick of hearing you three arguing.  It’s worse than listening to the Harpies’ screeching!  And what,’ he said, his voice so high now that it was more of a whisper, ‘is that smell?’

Pyro smiled meekly and shrugged.

‘I’m warning you, I will abandon you,’ said Charon, close to hyperventilating as he heard Pyro release even more wind, ‘in the Forest.’  He paused to retch again as the smell wafted towards him before he slammed the door shut and then spun around and returned to the front of the carriage.

‘You can’t do that!’ shouted Willow, ‘the Underworld Act, remember?’

Charon gave a warning hiss.

‘What’s his problem?’ asked Pyro.  There was a long silence and then Pyro let rip again.  ‘Oops, sorry, don’t know what’s wrong with me.’

Drake took a deep breath and counted to ten.  ‘For Heaven’s sake Pyro, do you have to?’ he said through gritted teeth, ‘Can’t you control yourself for just two minutes?’

‘Oh, excuse me for breathing, have a go at the djinn why don’t you.  I’m not feeling myself at the moment, I think I’m coming down with Low Altitude sickness or something-‘

‘What?’

‘Well, it’s being underground, it’s not natural for a djinn to be so constricted and I bet there’s iron down here, no wonder my digestive system is all to pot!’

‘Pyro,’ said Drake, his teeth still tightly clamped together, ‘You’re a demon, demons are used to being underground -‘

‘I AM NOT A DEMON!’ screeched Pyro, his face blazing orange.

‘Actually Pyro, I think you’ll find djinns are a type of demon,’ interjected Willow.

‘Oh, what is this?  Gang up on Pyro day?  Are you trying to tell me what I am?  Do you think I have a personality disorder?’

‘No, but-’

‘I’m not a demon, end of,’ said Pyro folding his arms across his chest.

The coach screeched to a stop again.  Charon sprinted to the side of the carriage and wrenched the door open.  ‘OUT!’  he screeched.  ‘I’ve had enough,’ he said flinging his arms in the air, ‘of you arguing and I cannot stand that smell any longer!  Get out!’

Drake, Willow and Pyro just stared at Charon.

‘GET OUT, GET OUT!’ shouted Charon.  ‘I am not paid enough for this!  GET OUT!’

‘But you can’t,’ said Willow, ‘The-’

‘Underworld Act,’ interrupted Charon, ’I know, I’m sick of you telling me.  But, if I may draw your attention to Section 10, sub-section 5 c, Exclusions and Exceptions, it clearly states that I can throw you out of the carriage if my life is endangered or threatened.’

Willow laughed, ’Threatened?’

‘That smell,’ said Charon, his hand clamped over his nose, ’is in danger of suffocating me.  Now, GET OUT!’

Willow took the scroll out of her bag and unfurled it.  ’Game over.  He’s right.’

Charon stepped aside and motioned for them to get out quickly.

Death’s Apprentice – Part 44

‘A witch, hey?’ Joe was talking more to himself than to Hel.

‘Why? Is that a problem?’ Hel’s eyes were narrowed into suspicious slits.

‘No, of course not,’ he replied, ‘it’s just…well, I’ve never met a witch before, so…’ He shrugged.

‘You haven’t?’

‘No.’

‘Oh, well, there’s a first time for everything. Come on.’ Hel turned to leave.

‘It’s just…it’s a bit…you know…’

‘What?’ She asked twisting her head to look at him.

‘Well, fairy tale-y.’

‘What’s fairy tale-y?’

‘They’re stories adults tell to shut kids up. And they always have wicked witches lurking in forests.’

‘Well, not every witch is wicked, but every forest does have a witch.’

Joe very much doubted that.

‘Is this witch evil?’ he asked, suddenly worried about being turned into a frog or being burned alive in a cauldron. The way his luck was going at the moment, he knew anything was possible.’

‘I dunno…’ and with that, Hel skipped off into the trees.

So, you wanna be a writer? The Eight-Point Arc.

The Eight-Point Arc

The eight-point arc? What the f*$k is that? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you. And, I can see you’re very happy about that 🙂

In my post, So, you wanna be a writer? What is a plot? I explained that a plot is:

“a sequence of events that are connected to one another through causality. Causality is the relationship between cause and effect; when one event makes something else happen, and that event, in turn, makes something else happen.

Plot is the what of the story (the characters being who, the theme is why).”

The eight-point arc is one way of organizing the plot and, as the name suggests, has eight parts.

These are:

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3. The Quest
  4. Surprise
  5. Critical Choice
  6. Climax
  7. Reversal
  8. Resolution

Yeah, yeah, Angela, but what the actual f*%k does that mean?

It’s really simple.

Stasis

This is the beginning part of your novel, the part before the triggering event of the story, the state of equilibrium or inactivity. As I stated in my post So, you wanna be a writer? Five things you need to do in Act One of your story, its:

“basically the beginning of the story, the part where the hero is inactive or, to use the posh word, in stasis. Stasis means a period of inactivity or equilibrium. Our hero is inactive, going about her business as she usually would until she is called into action when a triggering event happens.”

But, what is a triggering event?

Trigger

The triggering event is something beyond the control of our hero which, in the end, causes our hero to act. It doesn’t have to be huge, or necessarily bad. It doesn’t even have to be recognised as the triggering event at the time but it must set the story in motion. The triggering event causes the story to move forward. The first step if you like in the plot.

The Quest

The triggering event sets the story in motion and creates the quest for the hero. The quest, simply put, is a journey the hero goes on to reach his goal.

Is that it?

No, you have to throw in a few surprises on the way:

Surprise

As a writer, you have to throw surprises into the path of the hero. They can be pleasant surprises, such as the hero meeting an old friend, or bad surprises, like the hero finding out that that friend is working for the enemy. They can also be REALLY unpleasant surprises but whatever their nature, the best surprises in the narrative block the hero’s way and create obstacles on their road to success.

However, don’t forget plausibility when creating your surprises. They HAVE to be believable within the context of the story. Also, a predictable surprise that can be seen coming from a few miles off, is not an effective way of storytelling. The surprises have to be both unexpected AND plausible.

Critical Choice

This is an important part of the novel. There must come a point when the hero is faced with what looks like an insurmountable challenge. In order to get over this obstacle, the hero has to make a difficult decision, a critical choice. It is this point, and the choice that the hero makes, that determines their fate for the rest of the story. The hero MUST make the decision themselves and it cannot be left to chance or fate.

This is the hero making their own decisions and deciding their own fate.

Climax

The climax is the part of the story where the tension and action reach the peak of intensity. It’s the consequence of the critical decision the hero made when they faced their greatest challenge and decided their own fate with the choice or choices that they made.

However, the climax is definitely not the end of the story. It serves as a transition from the rising action of the story to the falling action of the story.

Reversal

The reversal is the result of the critical choice and the climax. It produces a shift in the status of the characters.

This is the place in the story where the hero is seen to bring together everything they’ve learnt on their journey and focus on a new goal. Essentially, it’s a shift in perspective. It can be a shift in the way the character thinks but also a shift in perspective of the reader.

The reversal is a change of direction, for example, a character who has been “bad” up to this point, turns “good”, or bad luck turns to good or vice versa. The reversal should be plausible AND probable.

Resolution

The resolution is the wrapping up of all the threads of the story. It’s a return to a place of rest and a fresh stasis where it’s obvious the hero’s character has been changed somehow.

As I said in my post, So You Wanna Be a Writer? Four things you need to have in Act Three of your novel;

“All significant loose ends should be tied up, and the tension of the story should ease after the drama of the climax. If our hero’s goal isn’t completely fulfilled in the climax, it needs to be achieved here.

The reader needs to have a satisfying conclusion to the story and everything that was promised to them over the course of the story should now be fulfilled.”

Conclusion

The eight-point arc can be an effective way of planning a story. It’s not the only way but it can be a useful tool to keep your writing on track.

What do you think of the eight-point arc? Have you used it? How did you find it?

 

Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-Six

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twelve

Dreams

Drake rubbed his aching forehead; he felt confused and so very tired, a tiredness that was seeping into his bones.  He just wanted to be alone, to go to sleep.  ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying,’ he said.

The hooded figure stepped out from the shadows, his black cloak barely making a sound as it brushed against the cobbled floor.  ‘You must do it, you must finish it,’ he said,  pointing straight at Drake with his gloved hand, a finality in his voice that made Drake nervous.

‘Why me?’ asked Drake, wrapping his arms around his chest to protect himself from the cold, but the cold was already biting into his flesh, making his body tremble.

‘Because you are my son and you WILL avenge my death.’

‘How do I do that?’ asked Drake, the sense of foreboding seizing his heart in its icy grip making it feel like a lump of ice, cold and unmoving inside of him.

‘You know what you must do,’ said the figure coldly, as he pulled back his hood letting his shaggy black hair loose around his muscular shoulders.  ’I cannot rest until my death is avenged, Drake, and you are the only one left who can do it.’

‘I can’t…I’m not strong enough-’

‘Don’t ever say that!’ said Erick Blackthorn, his green eyes blazing with fury, ’You are a Dragon Rider,‘ he said pointing at the tattoo around his right eye and then pointing at Drake’s.

Drake could feel the swirling black of his mark burning into his skin like a scalding hot brand, the Devil’s Mark, tainting him for life.

‘You must avenge my death or I will never rest.  And neither will you: I promise you that!’

‘But-‘

‘It was Fenrik Lasko who ordered my death, son.  He stood there, smoking his putrid cigars, as his demons pulled my dragon apart, limb from limb.  He was there as the dagger was plunged through my heart, as my last breath was taken.  He is the one who took me away from you.  He is the one with blood on his hands.’  Erick Blackthorn pulled the black hood over his head and stepped backwards, disappearing into the darkness.  ’Of this, you can be sure!’

Anger ripped through Drake like a fiery tornado, shattering the ice that had crippled his heart.  ’I will, I’ll do it!’ he roared after his father.  ’I promise you I will finish it, even if it’s with my last breath!’

Drake could hear other voices emerging from the darkness, intruding whispers pulling him back from the shadows.  He could make out Willow and Pyro’s voices clearly now as he was yanked from his dreams.  He groaned silently inwards as everything came flooding back to him…Funestus, The Emerald Key, The Valley of Death…Willow…Pyro.  The enormity of it all choked him, rendered him silent, so he kept his eyes clamped shut and listened instead, as he tried to push it away and make-believe, if only for a while, that none of it was happening.

But, as they travelled onwards, the anger, re-ignited in his dreams, burned brightly inside him.  He only wanted to avenge his father’s death, how the hell had he managed to end up here?

Drake shifted in his seat; he’d got a pain in his bottom from the stiff, spring-less, seats and a throbbing head from the incessant prattling of Willow and Pyro.  ‘When are you two going to shut up?’  he snapped, as Pyro asked Willow, for what seemed like the millionth time, to show him the spell to change her nail varnish colour.  What he wouldn’t do for two minutes of quiet.

‘You awake?’ asked Willow, sarcastically.

‘Yep.’  Unfortunately.

‘Your attitudes stinks,’ said Pyro, ‘I think you should be encouraging your friend in her experiments with magick, it‘s not her fault she hasn‘t been trained.’

‘What?’  Oh, he couldn’t be bothered with them.  He slumped back into his chair, the red leather squeaking beneath him as his bottom slipped down the seat.  He huffed and stared out of the misted window.

Willow jumped around in her seat to face Drake.  She held out her hands to show him her bright purple nails.  ‘What do you think?’ she said, wiggling her fingers at him, ‘I think it’s the most delicious shade of purple I’ve ever seen.  In fact, it’s so good that I’ve turned a whole bottle of my old stuff into it.  I’ve called it Purple Passion.’

Drake shrugged, still gazing out of the window.  ‘That’ll really help us find The Emerald Key, won’t it?’ he snapped, ‘You could do that before.’

‘You really don’t know how to play nicely do you?’ said Pyro.

‘What is it with you two?  How come you’ve become best friends all of a sudden?’

‘I like to make the best out of a bad situation,’ said Pyro, ‘I mean, you dragged me here but-’

‘You’re a djinn, Pyro, you get dragged around all the time-’

‘Oh, it’s like that is it?’

‘Like what?’ asked Drake looking at Willow.

Willow shrugged, ‘Don’t get me involved, I happen to like him-’

She liked him?  A djinn that was into setting fire to things?  A djinn that worked for Fenrik?  Drake opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again.  He really couldn’t deal with them now; he was too tired, his whole body felt heavy, like it was shutting down.  He slumped back into his seat and covered his eyes with his hand.

Death’s Apprentice – Part 43

‘Mmmm, let me think,’ said Hel, her right hand stroking her chin.

‘It’s okay,’ said Joe, ‘I can wait.’ He almost added, I’m used to being hungry, but didn’t because what was the point? No one cared.

And, he was used to it if he was really honest. It was part of the package when you lived in the Bones’ household.

Not that they were dirt poor, not like his mate Limey. Limey’s parents were both chronically ill and on benefits and when they got put on to Universal Credit there were a few times that their benefit money was stopped. No benefits meant no money. No money meant no food and no heating. It sucked.

No, Joe’s mom worked and although they weren’t rolling in money, they weren’t on Limey’s scale either. Problem was, Joe’s shitdad prefered beer and weed and the bookies to feeding his stepkid. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Right?

Wrong.

It had just given Joe a load of rather unhealthy coping skills.

Hades rubbed his head against Joe’s leg making him jump. His heart twanged again as he thought of Lola.

‘Good boy,’ he said, running his hands through the dog’s rough fur. The dog began to purr loudly and started to lean on Joe nearly making him fall over.

‘Careful Hades,’ said Hel and the dog shifted its position. ‘Okay, I’ve got it. There’s a witch that lives in these woods -‘

‘A witch?’ Even Joe could hear the scepticism in his own voice. ‘Really? Come on now. Stop pulling my leg!’

Hel stared at him, her face contorted with confusion. ‘I’m not touching your leg.’

‘I know. It’s just a saying…’ Nope, he could see from the look on her face that she wasn’t getting it. ‘It doesn’t matter. So, this witch…how far is it? Is she dead?’

‘No, she’s very much alive,’ said Hel.