As I begin to prepare to start drafting my next short-story, I thought I take a moment to talk about my most recent publication, Dragonhawk, published in Tales of the Talisman, Vol. 8, Issue 3 (I should note that I have two stories that will be published in upcoming anthologies, but I will be talking about each of those stories in upcoming posts, so be on the look-out for future posts!)
I envision the format of this post to resemble many of the video game postmortems that I’ve read online and in magazines. They discuss the origin of the idea, and then move on to the production of the game, then they discuss the public’s reaction.
Dragonhawk started as an idea that a young hero would fight on the backs of giant birds. During my college years, I loved the idea of birds hunting other birds. Of course, as a sci-fi/fantasy writer, I wanted a hero who could ride those birds. I brainstormed a hero and his bird and named them Kelfryn and Scryfe, respectively. I was taking a course in Norse/Scandinavian culture at the time, and decided to try to write a novel around these two characters that I called, Kestrel and then later, Sparrowhawk. Both drafts of the novel never got beyond the outline stage (I was an unpublished writer and didn’t really know how to move characters through a narrative.)
Fast forward several years and I happened upon their character sketches again. As I’d published a short-story in the interim, I had a better grasp of narrative. I decided to scale back their story and concentrate on them in a short story. I wanted to make Kelfryn (the boy) a hero, but the draft I wrote still lacked something. A little later, I read something (I forget where), that said, in essence that Anne McCaffrey’s dragons were a softening of dragons (much like the current trend of making vampires and werewolves teen heart throbs instead of the evil meanies and beasties that they were originally envisioned as in the old tales).
I thought that I wanted to return to dragons as “monsters” rather than as “pets.” Scryfe would be a more appropriate pet/helpmate as dragons would be deadly and hard to control. Once I decided that dragons should be enemies, Kelfryn metamorphosed into Talen, a young boy who was no longer content to scavenge from dragons. From there the story progressed and it took about two or three months to produce a “working” draft.
I edited it and sent it to Tales of the Talisman –and it sold on its first try. I think its success had to do with two things: 1) Talen has two conflicts, an internal conflict and an external conflict. That is a technique that you usually see in novels, but due to the need for economy, you don’t always see it in short fiction, and 2) I did my research for this story, and looked at how fishing communities operate as well as the tools they use. I then adapted what I could for use in my specific setting and discarded the rest.
While I don’t have a ton of reader feedback from this story (there is only one Amazon.com review and it praises all the stories as a whole), I still feel that it is a very good story. This is the only story that I’ve ever sold on the very first try (so far). It also got rave reviews from my co-workers at my previous job who were librarians, so I trust their opinions.
The lesson that I’ve taken away from this story is that research matters. I’ve tried to add in another “draft” where I mark topics to research and then places where I can add that research in to make the story feel more real. I also learned, whenever possible, to add in some sort of internal conflict to the character. I’ve only had varying degrees of success with this one, however. Sometimes, I put too much internal conflict in and sometimes too little. I’m still trying to find the right level of internal conflict for my characters (believe me, I’m great at external conflicts!) but I struggle with finding realistic conflicts that my characters can work through during the story without it seeming forced. Based on the response, I nailed it right on the head with Dragonhawk.
The story is available from Amazon.com in both Kindle and Papberback formats if you’d like to check it out. There are other great stories in that issue as well. If you do decide to read it, please come back and leave me feedback–I’d love to hear reactions!