“… an epic bigger than an epic. A story that spanned worlds and eras.”
Arcanum Unbounded (Sanderson, p. 11)
I like dragons.
I’ve always liked dragons. Stories of the fantastic have been my very favoritest stories for as long as I can remember because generally they are the only stories in which you might find dragons. I’d read a nice quiet story about mid-life crisis or finding yourself at college or zany seaside shenanigans, except these stories are usually missing dragons. Where are the dragons? I ask myself as I flip pages or listen to readings at fancy writer’s conferences. This writing is excellent, but it could be fantastic if it had a dragon. Or two.
My first video-gaming experience? Dragons. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have bothered.
D&D? I was only going to play one session (to appease the Husband), but then there were dragons, and of course I had to play because dragons. (So many dragons. Seriously. Our group is going to be devoured by dragons. It’s just a matter of time; they’ve already gotten two of us.)
Everyone has her own ideas about what makes a story great: personally, I think just about any story could be improved by the presence of a dragon. So, in my own writing, I’m always asking myself, where are the dragons? For example,
Characters are having a nice romantic stroll on a beach somewhere. Gross. Characters aren’t allowed to have fun. Dragons descend from the sky and attack them.
Characters are arguing about a course of action. They’ve been arguing for pages and pages and I don’t know who’s right. Enough of this! A dragon comes in and eats somebody, which acts as a tiebreaker. There.
Characters have to get somewhere quickly. Ride a dragon.
Character cannot decide which boy to marry. Ask a dragon. (Or – again – have a dragon eat someday to break the tie.)
Character is bored. Let her find a dragon.
Character is boring. Turn him into a dragon.
Something is wrong with something in the story but I’m just not sure what it is. Is it a lack of dragons? It’s probably a lack of dragons.
Now, of course there are some non-dragon related problems, with non-dragon-related solutions. There are some books without any dragons at all and of course they’re perfectly wonderful.
But if, like me, you find yourself struggling with pacing that drags, with characters that drone – with pointless scenes or a blank page that mocks your every effort –
A dragon would be just the thing.
It’s not the size of the to-be-read pile that alarms me. My to-be-read pile of books is ever growing, ever taller, and I will never catch up because I can’t read as fast as the writers are writing books.
What does alarm me is my “currently reading” pile of books: the pile of books I’ve started, which should never be more than two books tall.
But I got carried away this month.
It’s wonderful. =]
(As far as she knows, anyway.)
To the very nice young man with the blonde hair and the proper manners and the good grades:
You’re going to lose the girl to the very troubled young man with the dark hair and the motorcycle and the threats of expulsion from school.
Keep your good manners and grades if you can. But buy a motorcycle. Learn to ride it. And maybe die your hair a darker color.
Alternatively, you could find a different girl. That is also an option.
To the Chosen One with special gifts:
Prepare for trouble and mayhem and curses now, so it doesn’t surprise you too badly once it inevitably comes up later in the school year.
To the girl who can’t decide:
Personally, I’d pick the one with the motorcycle. But maybe they both have motorcycles. If you’re having that much trouble choosing, you probably shouldn’t go out with either. Wait for someone else to come along. Someone who is more obviously the one.
Someone with a faster and shinier motorcycle.
To the young person who believes s/he is fated to be with someone else, maybe the new kid or a mysterious stranger or someone in a picture or a dream (FATED, or STRANGELY COMPELLED BEYOND ALL LOGIC AND REASON):
I don’t know – maybe get that compulsion checked out? Did they put a spell on you? Logic and reason are kind of important, so if someone you don’t know very well sucks the ability to think right out of you, you should maybe keep your distance for a while. They might want to eat you.
It’s just a thought.
To the grown-ups keeping SECRETS from their offspring or their students or their mentees:
The kids are already suspicious of you because they saw The Empire Strikes Back. Just tell them already. Explain things. Listen to them. Don’t waggle your eyebrows and say, “No! You mustn’t go!” That never works.
Sit on that kid if you have to and begin with, “Okay, okay – here’s the story and you’re not going to like it.”
To the one who is hiding his or her secret identity from a significant other:
Your significant other is going to end up dead. And then you are going to be tortured by guilt for the rest of your life.
Second or third date, take your significant other to a candlelit restaurant and say, “So, um. There’s something you should know…”
If you absolutely can’t reveal who you are for some reason, at least teach your significant other some self-defense against whatever it is that – worst case scenario – might show up on the front stoop.
To the children/teenagers trying to figure stuff (especially life-threatening or world-changing stuff) out on their own:
Some grown-ups actually know things. Like how to fix problems. Or what the next step is. Some of them even have relevant life experience that could be helpful. Finding these grown-ups isn’t always a cakewalk, but . . . it’s worth a try.
All of this advice is worth a try. Heed my words, my warnings, Story-People.
(Unless of course you’re in my story, in which case, I’d really appreciate it if you keep the creative problem-solving and communication to a minimum.)
Have a motorcycle.
I write in my books.
Not all of them. Not all books inspire much thought. Not all books have much space in the margins, and sometimes I am too swept up in the writing to stop and underline or make notes.
But some books are so delightful, or so interesting, or make me so cranky, that I write alongside, in the margins. Later, when I reread those books, I can see what I thought, and see if those thoughts have changed.
It shows me how I have changed, and also how I’ve stayed the same.
Not all people like to write in their books: some refuse on principle. Which is fine. But writing in books is a practice I’d recommend.
And I’d especially recommend writing in books about writing.
My weekend was warm, and green, and quiet. I worked at my restaurant, and I slept in, and I read books, and I sat out on the swing by the Catalpa stump and I watched the sky and the light and the leaves.
The Catalpa is blooming, although the blooms are almost done now.
My garden is still alive: I haven’t killed it with either too much water or too little water.
Schuler Books has a little cafe, and it is a very pleasant place to sit and turn pages and drink cold root beer in the sunshine-through-the-windows.
Weekends are short, but they are always coming around again.
Now for the week, and for the writing, and for the dishes.
It has recently come to my attention that my reading habits are shockingly poor: simply riddled with snobbery, laziness, and a general absent-minded thoughtlessness that makes it hard to remember what I’ve read and when I’ve read it. Before, I’d always considered myself a bookworm, but really, if I was a bookworm I would have starved to death long ago.
Growing up, I was a grumpy, stuck-up little reader. I thought a lot about whether or not a book looked sophisticated, whether or not it was popular with the masses, and whether or not it was educational somehow. I was fond of judging books by the cover, by the jacket description, by the amount of romantical silliness I believed I could somehow sense within the pages. It seemed so terribly adult to dismiss a book after a paragraph or two because Oh, I never like a book in first person or I could never enjoy something if everyone else is enjoying it or, I can’t see myself identifying with the main character: she thinks too much about boys. Or, most often, the writing just isn’t good enough – I want to have my breath swooshed right out of me.
This sort of behavior was rather like a small child refusing to try any new dishes, or a youth rejecting potential dates before they’d even shown interest. It’s behavior that keeps a person from discovering new favorite foods, or making new friends. It’s behavior that kept me from reading anything but the books I already knew I loved. And these were good books, even great books, but I made a habit of never giving any other book a chance, and habits can be hard to break.
I’ve been trying to retrain myself as a reader for some time now – ever since graduating college and springboarding back into a world where I could read whatever I wanted without having to write an essay about the experience. And I’ve realized just how behind I am – how many good books exist, and how many I haven’t read yet. I go into the library, or the bookstore, and think, “This! I want to read this! And this! And this! AND THIS!”
It’s overwhelming, and wonderful, and it also makes me a little sad, to think of all the stories I could have been absorbing if I hadn’t been rereading my favorite encyclopedia articles.
Although, those encyclopedia articles were pretty great. And they taught me things when I was supposed to be learning things, which worked out nicely. I’m behind, yes – but I read fast. I won’t catch up, but . . . I can read so many books while trying.
So, here’s to being a little less grumpy, and giving a few more books a chance to be enjoyed. Here is a book I never would have found or given a chance if I had stumbled across it back in my hometown library:
*shakes head at past self*
Ah, well. Back to books, back to reading, back to catching up.