Dragon Rider, so far, so good? – A review

I am thoroughly enjoying revisiting my very first novel, Dragon Rider. Some of it is making me cringe but, overall, I’m actually really proud of what I’ve written. It’s also allowing me to see how far I’ve come with my writing.

And, if I can progress in my writing, so can you!

What I don’t like:

Cringey, cringe – I’ve noticed a few errors. For example, I have used the word took when it should have been taken (eek! That’s embarrassing).

I’ve also noticed that some of the sentences are a bit stiff and long.

I do like to connect separate sentences with commas! (I did it so you don’t have to! Do not repeat my mistake!!!).

Falkor

How I picture Falkor.

And, maybe the story is a tad confusing? That’s one of the pitfalls of writing a story; sometimes because you’re the one in charge of the plot and you know the whole story you don’t know for sure if you’re actually explaining it to the reader properly (this is where beta readers come in handy).

It needs a good edit.

What I do like:

I still love how I have set the story up. Right from the opening lines, the tone is  dark and mysterious:

“A scream exploded somewhere in the distance but broke off before it reached its terrifying conclusion.  Another life sucked dry, thought Drake, as the bitter smell of blood rolled in on the mist, along with the dead leaves and the smell of decay.  He pulled his black hood over his head and slunk back into the shadows like a black panther stalking its prey, his vivid green eyes alert, his body pumped for action.

There was movement in the alleyway opposite, a slight rustle of paper, a scraping sound.  He stopped breathing momentarily, his hands curling into tight balls at his side as he listened harder.  Had his senses failed him, were the Shadow Walkers really that close?”

Personally, I think that works but what was your impression of the beginning of the story?

Drake Blackthorn, my main character is, in my opinion, written well (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?). Willow was going to be my main character. This all changed when I began writing; Drake just kept popping out at me, almost begging me to use him as the hero. I did as I was asked and I don’t regret the decision. He’s angry, he’s distrustful of people and faeries, he’s hell-bent on revenge, stubborn, and a general pain in the ass but I love him!

Willow

This is a picture I did of Willow Ravenwood.

I like the way the story begins with a chase scene as Drake and his dragon tease the dwarves as they compete to capture Pyro, the fire-djinn, who has a massive bounty on his head. When I wrote this scene I was using action films as inspiration. Most good action films begin with some sort of chase scene, don’t they?

And, Falkor, Drake’s dragon; where have I got his name from? Does anyone recognise it? It’s from one of my favourite childhood films; A Neverending Story.

My favourite character by far though is pyro. I think, even to this day, he’s probably the best character I’ve ever written. He’s so funny and I wish I had a friendly fire-djinn just like him to keep me company.

The setting is working too. The dark brooding city of Devilsgate compared to the wondrous magic of Nowhere. I do worry about myself sometimes though when I reread some of the weird and wacky ideas I’ve come up with!

Blackthorn - Revenge of the Dragon Rider

The first cover for Dragon Rider with its old title “Revenge of the Dragon Rider” under my pen name Nikki Morgan. I don’t use the pen name anymore so I can blame her for the awful book cover. Wtf was I thinking? That cover is shockingly shit, lol!!!

I’m actually quite chuffed when I look back on what I wrote all those years ago. If anything, this has actually put a fire in my writing belly. I think I might get it edited all over again and try and improve it because, for my first attempt, I don’t think it was half bad at all.

sketch of Drake

A really bad, unfinished, drawing of Drake

But, I’m not the one that matters. What do you, dear reader, think of Dragon Rider? What do you love and, perhaps more importantly, what do you hate?

Please, let me know!

 

 

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Death’s Apprentice – Part Thirty-Four

From where Joe was lying, he could see Cerberus’ snake tail wagging wildly.

Suddenly, all fear dissolved in Joe. All that time he’d been worried about Cerberus, and after what Charon had said about him ripping him apart. He looked at Cerberus’ three heads; the lopsided mouths,the long, smelly tongues, the way he was wagging his tail. He very much doubted this dog had it in him to rip anything apart. You only had to see the look on its cute, daft face.

Cerberus was a dog like Lola, just a very big version of a dog, well, a very big version of a dog that had three heads. But what did two extra heads matter? Dogs were dogs, no matter how many heads they had. And, even with three heads, Joe knew he preferred Cerberus to almost all humans.

As Joe was the local dog whisper, he knew he’d got this covered.

‘There’s a good…’ He had a sneaky look under the dog, ‘there’s a good boy!’ Joe ran his hand under the jaw of the middle head. It was soft and wet under his fingers.

The dog began to purr, almost like a cat. ‘Oh, good boy! Do you want to play?’ He stretched his arm out and grabbed a stick. He threw it for the dog.

Cerberus bounded after it.

The stick hadn’t gone far, so Joe quickly stood up and waited for the dog to come back. Which it did a second later, holding the stick in its huge, drooling, middle mouth. The first and last head also had a small bite on the stick.

‘Drop,’ said Joe.

Cerberus’ heads loosed the stick and it landed on the floor in front of him.

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy,’ said Joe, stroking the side of Cerberus’ middle head. ‘Do you want me to throw it again?’

Joe bent down to pick it back up. He was still bent over, hand clamped on the stick when the dog yelped.

So You Wanna Be a Writer? Four things you need to have in Act Three of your novel.

As I told you in my previous post, five reasons why the three-act structure is for you (see it here), Act Three corresponds with the end of your novel. This is where the story must come to a satisfactory conclusion. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy one but it must bring the reader satisfaction.

But what do you need in Act Three? Here are four things that are essential:

The protagonist rises up from her lowest point:

By the end of Act two, our hero is at her lowest point. In act three we must see her rise up again and prepare to meet the enemy one last time. This is pre-battle; a time to collect weapons, gain new knowledge and recover from the major event of act two. It’s usually a calmer time in the story and allows the audience to take stock of the story so far. It allows us to see how far the hero has come but also, how far she still has to travel.

Also, note that the villain is now at its strongest.

woman standing on road
Photo by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com

Climax:

This is where the battle reaches its dramatic conclusion. The climax is not the ordeal, the major plot point of act two which saw our hero at her lowest point. This is a new battle. A battle to the death. This is the point where the over-arching conflict gets resolved.

If there’s a villain, she dies here or, at least, is defeated.

Resolution:

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.

battle board game castle challenge
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Transformation of the main character:

The hero has to change in some way to make the story satisfying. The writer must show that the hero has learned the lessons presented to her during the course of the story. They have to be shown to have overcome the obstacles thrown at them. They have to have achieved most, if not all of their goals, and they need to show the reader they have acquired new knowledge.

There should be an opportunity for the hero to revisit her old life in some way so that this transformation can be seen.

In summary, act three needs to show that everything the hero has gone through has led to this point and a change in her character. This is achieved through the drama of the novel and illustrated through the pre-climax, climax and resolution of the novel.

What do you think? Is there anything else you would include?

 

So, You Wanna be a Writer? Five things you need in Act Two of your novel.

In the post, Five reasons why the three-act structure is for you (see it here), I explained that act two corresponds with the middle of your novel.

Act Two is where the hero takes action. Here are five key ingredients that the middle of your story needs:

One – Challenges that the hero must face

The hero can’t have it easy. There have to be lots of obstacles put in their way because, if there wasn’t, what would be the point of reading it? It would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it?

The challenges don’t have to be life and death scenarios. It’s best if there are plenty of highs and lows to the second act. Usually, the challenges facing the hero at the beginning of the second act begin to test character but don’t have serious consequences. That’s not to say they aren’t difficult, just that they don’t have a life or death outcome. Slowly the tension builds in act two so that by the end of act two the hero is at his lowest point.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Two – A world that is different from the ordinary world of Act One

The ordinary world of act one is where we meet the hero and where the hero is inactive. The special world –  in which the hero enters after the triggering event at the end of act one – must challenge the hero. It must be different and allow the hero to be tested and, in turn, change.

Don’t forget that the hero isn’t used to this new special world. They have to learn new rules.

Three – Be aware of the theme of your story

As I explained in my post, five things you need to do in act one of your story, your novel will need a theme that runs through the whole of it.

There will be an underlying theme or 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”. It gives the story cohesion.

You must keep this in mind as you write act two, making sure the theme is a thread that runs through the whole of your story. If you don’t, the story won’t gel properly and won’t have the cohesion it should have.

Four – avoid a saggy middle

There is a danger in act two that your writing will fall flat and become boring if the action isn’t dynamic. The hero must face challenges but they can’t all be easy. There has to be highs and lows and, as the story continues, the tension needs to rise until the hero is at his lowest point at the end of act two.

Remember that the second act is just as important as the beginning and end. Take time over it and don’t rush. Also make sure that the message of the story, for example, Revenge is self-destructive, runs through the entire length of the novel.

Keep your focus, keep the writing tight and make sure you don’t meander. There has to be a momentum, a reason why the character has to keep on going, no matter the cost.

Five – Make sure you include a crisis

At the end of act two, the hero has to be at his lowest point. He has to face a crisis. This is a plot point which throws the hero into act three.

The crisis can be the hero facing his greatest fears, the end of a relationship, or he can be near to death as he is brought to his knees by whatever hostile force is facing him.

The crisis is the main event of the second act. It is the point to which everything in the story leads before it emerges the other side allowing for the hero to change.

 

Is there anything else you’d add to this list?

So, you wanna be a writer? Five things you need to do in Act One of your story.

Have you been reading Dragon Rider? If so, what do you think?

I love that book. It was my first novel. The first one I actually finished writing anyway. And although I can see many mistakes and things I would probably do differently, I’m still very proud of it.

So, one of the reasons I put it on my blog is so that we can tear it apart and see what we can learn from it. Today, I’m going to talk about the first act of the three-act story structure using Dragon Rider as a foundation.

If you want to read it, parts one to seven of Dragon Rider are in the first act of the novel. Don’t worry though, you can still gain loads of information from this article without reading it. So, here goes:

Five things you need to do in Act One of your story:

One – Set Up The Ordinary World

In my previous post, five reasons why the three-act structure is for you (see it here), I gave a rundown of all the parts of writing a story with three acts.

Act one is 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. Basically, act one is setting the story up for the action that follows in acts two and three.

One of the first things you need to do in act one is to set up the ordinary world (as Christopher Vogler puts it), the place where the story begins. The ordinary world is the place where our hero is inactive. It has to be different from the special world the hero crosses into. It has to be in contrast to that special world. This allows for character and story development.

So in Dragon Rider, Drake is in Devilsgate rounding up criminals for the bounty money. He’s surviving day-to-day just waiting for the opportunity to get his revenge on the man who murdered his father. He’s working on his own.

Two – There has to be a Call to Adventure

The hero has to be presented with a challenge, a quest, a reason why she must act. This is a trigger point and there’s usually a trigger point towards the end of act one that throws the hero into act two. The trigger point moves the story along.

woman standing on road
Photo by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com

This is often accompanied by the hero’s refusal of the call to adventure. The refusal can be an internal one where the hero expresses reluctance to go on the quest because of fear. Sometimes the refusal doesn’t come from the hero herself but can be expressed by another character.

In Dragon Rider, Drake, our hero, is asked by an old acquaintance, Willow, to help them find a magical book for a friend. In return, that friend will protect Willow and The Lost Souls (the group of orphans she lives with) from the purge. Drake is unsure and expresses his reluctance to help but agrees to meet the friend, Funestus Black.

When Drake meets Funestus Black, he expresses his reluctance to go on the quest again. Drake finally accepts the quest when he learns that the book they need to find is also being hunted by the very man who murdered his father.

Drake has no choice but to go on the quest; it is now beyond his control.

Three – You must set up the character of the hero

 The first act must set the character of the hero up effectively. We have to see our character; the flaws, the weaknesses, her desires and what drives her. This is because our character needs to be changed by the quest she endures. We need to be able to see the difference in character at the end of the story. We need to be able to see the contrast between the character presented to us in the ordinary world to the one at the end of act three.

Of course, in tragedy, the protagonist doesn’t change at the end of the story and this is why it’s a tragedy. The main character remains unchanged but we still need to set the character up effectively so that we, as the reader, can see that they haven’t changed.

Act one must raise questions about our hero; can he put aside his pride to help? Can she learn to overcome her flaws to achieve the goal?

Four – Set up the tone of the story

Right from the get-go, the reader needs to know what type of story it is. Is the story a fantasy? Is it a comedy? Is it dark? Or is it light-hearted?

person standing near lake
Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky on Pexels.com

The beginning of Dragon Rider is set up to be dark and mysterious. We meet our hero, Drake, skulking in the shadows, waiting to meet an informant. It begins like so;

“A scream exploded somewhere in the distance but broke off before it reached its terrifying conclusion.  Another life sucked dry, thought Drake, as the bitter smell of blood rolled in on the mist, along with the dead leaves and the smell of decay.  He pulled his black hood over his head and slunk back into the shadows like a black panther stalking its prey, his vivid green eyes alert, his body pumped for action.

There was movement in the alleyway opposite, a slight rustle of paper, a scraping sound.  He stopped breathing momentarily, his hands curling into tight balls at his side as he listened harder.  Had his senses failed him, were the Shadow Walkers really that close?”

It was deliberately written to be dark and tense and to show the tone of the whole of the story.

Five – It’s good to set up the theme of the story

There will be an underlying theme or 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”. It gives the story cohesion.

Dragon Rider is set up from the very first page to be about revenge;

“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?”

Dragon Rider is about revenge. The message of Dragon Rider? Revenge is self-destructive;

“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.”

I hope this helps when you’re beginning to write act one of your novel.

Is there anything else you’d include?

 

 

 

 

So you wanna be a writer? Five Reasons Why The Three Act Structure is For You

Okay, today’s post is going to focus on The Three Act Structure and why it’s great for everyone, especially newbies.

Reason One – It’s Simple!

The Three Act Structure is probably the simplest way of plotting a story. There are other ways to plot stories but sometimes the different methods can get a little complicated.

Every story has a beginning, middle and end and it doesn’t take a scientist to work out that each of the three acts corresponds to one of these parts in the story.

Act One is the beginning of the story, the place where we meet our hero; an introduction. The technical term for this is stasis. Stasis means a period of inactivity or equilibrium. Our hero is inactive, going about his business as he usually would until he is called into action when a triggering event happens. Basically, act one is setting the story up for the action that follows in acts two and three.

woman standing on road
Photo by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com

Act Two is the middle of the story, the quest, the action of the story. Our hero crosses the threshold and sets off on his quest. Sometimes, this is called the confrontation part of the story.

Act Three is the resolution, that is, all the consequences that follow the action of act two. The hero is now in a new world and must learn how to live in it.

So, in basic terms:

Act One is the beginning: The hero deciding to act on a goal.

Act Two is the middle: The hero takes action.

Act Three is the end: The hero must face up to the consequences of that action.

Or, even more simply put;

Act One: The hero decides to act.

Act Two: The action itself.

Act Three: The consequences of that action.

Reason Two: It’s a great guide especially for newbies!

The three-act structure can be broken down further, like this:

Act One:

Stage One – The set up

Stage Two – New Situation

Act Two:

Stage Three – Progress

Stage Four – Complications and Higher Stakes

Act Three:

Stage Five – Final Push

Stage Six – The Aftermath

You don’t need to break your story down into these extra sections if you don’t want to, but if you’re struggling to find ideas for what to write next you could use this as a guide.

For example, in act two we need the hero to make some progress but he can’t get everything his own way. There have to be obstacles in his path which gradually become harder to overcome. There are highs and lows but by the end of act two things should be more intense. Even though our hero has made good progress there will be complications and higher stakes so, by the end of act two, the hero should be at his lowest point.

The three-act structure can keep your story on track.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Reason Three: It’s Flexible!

Because it’s so simple, it’s very flexible. It can be used as a guide for many different mediums. Want to write a screenplay? You can use the three-act structure. Want to write a novel but don’t know where to start? Use the three-act structure.

black ball point pen with brown spiral notebook
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Reason Four: It’s a great place to start!

Because it’s so simple and flexible, it’s a great place to start learning how to structure a story. There are other ways of structuring but one can often become lost when researching these because they have so many different parts to understand. These days the three-act structure is often seen as a stifling way to write a story, that it’s old fashioned and boring.

I disagree. Once you get to grips with the three-act structure it makes it easier to understand the other forms of plotting. The three-act structure is a good starting point, a great springboard into discovering new ways of structuring. It’s one more tool in the writer’s toolkit.

Reason Five: It helps manage the unmanageable!

You’re new to this writing malarkey, right? You want to write a novel and you have all these ideas swimming around but you don’t know where to start plotting, so you don’t. It’s too much. It’s too overwhelming.

Well, the three-act structure is perfect for you. As I said above, the three-act structure is so easy and flexible it will allow you to tame the beast, so to speak. As a newbie, you can become very overwhelmed with the idea of plotting. Like, where tf do I actually begin? Where does this section go? Okay, so my hero’s been called to action, what next?

The three-act structure allows you to give your thoughts some cohesion, some structure, As I said, it allows you to manage the unmanageable.

It won’t be easy. Writing a novel can be scary and overwhelming. Do it anyway. Use the three-act structure to begin your own adventure.

Good luck!