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Author Topic: The Dragon Keeper
JohnColgrove
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I keep getting the stilted dialogue comment but I'm honestly having both a hard time seeing and fixing it. I don't have much written otherwise I would ask if anyone wants to see more.

***

“You are not going on a hunt! You are too young!” Said Mialees as she pounded on the marble table in a fit of rage.

“Like I’m really going to change much when I go on a dragon slaying quest in two weeks. Let me go on a public slaying at least.” Gialees argued and watched his mother’s anger plateau. “Around twenty people will attend so my chances of dying are slim. The ship leaves tonight. If I leave now I can catch it in time.”

He stared his mother in the eyes, hoping she would back down, and she did the same. His concentration was so dead centered on his mother that the white walls around them blurred into one continuous barrier. The stained oak table they sat at seemed invisible.

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Meredith
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I usually don't comment on first 13's. Not my strong suit. In this case, I would recommend saying it--especially the dialogue--aloud to see if it sounds right.

quote:
Originally posted by JohnColgrove:
“You are not going on a hunt! You are too young!” Said Mialees as she pounded on the marble table in a fit of rage.

The first sentence sounds all right. I can hear an emphasis on "not". The second sentence doesn't sound right. Replace "You are" with "You're" and it sounds more natural.

"Said" here should not be capitalized. In this case, though, I'd just cut it. The beat gives all the dialogue attribution you need.

quote:
“Like I’m really going to change much when I go on a dragon slaying quest in two weeks. Let me go on a public slaying at least.” Gialees argued and watched his mother’s anger plateau. “Around twenty people will attend so my chances of dying are slim. The ship leaves tonight. If I leave now I can catch it in time.”
The first part of this dialogue just leaves me confused. You may need to add a bit of internal monologue to help it make sense. Or else rephrase it.

If he's pressing an argument, I would say something more like "There'll be at least twenty people there". "Will attend" does sound a little stiff.

Also, with very, very rare exceptions, stick to "said" and "asked", not "argued", for dialogue tags. Once again, you could just skip the tag and use the beat for attribution. "Gialees watched his mother's anger plateau" works just as well.

quote:
He stared his mother in the eyes, hoping she would back down, and she did the same. His concentration was so dead centered on his mother that the white walls around them blurred into one continuous barrier. The stained oak table they sat at seemed invisible.

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JohnColgrove
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I actually spoke the whole thing aloud and I didn't notice hardly anything. I need to work on that ability. As for everything else, thank you. That was much appreciated.
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Corky
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quote:
“Like I’m really going to change much when I go on a dragon slaying quest in two weeks. Let me go on a public slaying at least.” Gialees argued and watched his mother’s anger plateau. “Around twenty people will attend so my chances of dying are slim. The ship leaves tonight. If I leave now I can catch it in time.”
Maybe this part seems stilted because he is probably telling her things she already knows (and it sounds as if you are putting them in there so the reader will know what the argument is about). That can get pretty stilted.

Also, it isn't clear why being too young means he'll be changed by going on a hunt. What does his age have to do with any changing? How old is he, anyway? Is he responding the way someone his age would respond (and thereby cluing the reader in to how old he is)?

He seems to be arguing about being hurt or killed. Is that the kind of change he thinks she's talking about? What about injury or death equals "change"?

Some of my thoughts, at least. I hope this helps.

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JohnColgrove
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quote:
Originally posted by Corky:
quote:
“Like I’m really going to change much when I go on a dragon slaying quest in two weeks. Let me go on a public slaying at least.” Gialees argued and watched his mother’s anger plateau. “Around twenty people will attend so my chances of dying are slim. The ship leaves tonight. If I leave now I can catch it in time.”
Maybe this part seems stilted because he is probably telling her things she already knows (and it sounds as if you are putting them in there so the reader will know what the argument is about). That can get pretty stilted.

Also, it isn't clear why being too young means he'll be changed by going on a hunt. What does his age have to do with any changing? How old is he, anyway? Is he responding the way someone his age would respond (and thereby cluing the reader in to how old he is)?

He seems to be arguing about being hurt or killed. Is that the kind of change he thinks she's talking about? What about injury or death equals "change"?

Some of my thoughts, at least. I hope this helps.

You make some good points. I think I'll clarify some information. He is 17 years old. He is the youngest member of the Gilgalees Clan, the most well known clan of dragonslayers in written history. Being too young to go on a hunt is really more of a tradition. Going on a hunt is a rite of passage not only for your clan but for the guild that governs the clans.

If you fail your rite of passage you are not only an embarrassment to your clan, but you cannot associate with the guild, and that is a big thing. Gialees feels he's ready for the hunt but his parents feel otherwise.

Hopefully that made sense.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by JohnColgrove:
I think I'll clarify some information. He is 17 years old. He is the youngest member of the Gilgalees Clan, the most well known clan of dragonslayers in written history. Being too young to go on a hunt is really more of a tradition. Going on a hunt is a rite of passage not only for your clan but for the guild that governs the clans.

If you fail your rite of passage you are not only an embarrassment to your clan, but you cannot associate with the guild, and that is a big thing. Gialees feels he's ready for the hunt but his parents feel otherwise.

Hopefully that made sense.

It does, but it doesn't answer the "two weeks" comment. Is that when he turns the usual age for such hunts?

I think you really need some internal monologue here. Instead of trying to put all of that into his dialogue with his mother, let the reader in on what Gialees is thinking and feeling. Why does he really want to go on this hunt? But don't try to dump all of that into the very beginning. Just what's most important to Gialees at that moment. Bring the rest out slowly to avoid the dreaded info dump.

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JohnColgrove
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Yes, in two weeks he will be the usual age for the hunts. I'll try internal monologue and see if that makes things clearer.
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JohnColgrove
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Here is the latest version. It has edits and internal monologue. Oh, Meredith, I'm using some of your edits in the first paragraph if that's alright with you. I don't think I used any of your edits in the third paragraph. Anyway here it is.

***

“You are not going on a hunt! You’re too young!” Mialees pounded on the marble table in a fit of rage.

Why is my family holding me back so much? It’s like they’re scared or something but somehow I doubt it’s me getting hurt. Sure I’m not old enough for a hunt, but I know I’m ready and they know it too. I’ll just keep pressing it. Gialees thought.

“I doubt I’ll change much when I go on a family dragon slaying quest in two weeks. Let me go on a public slaying at least.” Gialees watched his mother’s anger plateau. “Around twenty people, plus one of the higher up guild members attend so my chances of dying are slim. The ship leaves tonight. If I leave now I can catch it in time.”

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MattLeo
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Well, I don't think the problem is with the dialog itself, but with the way you're launching the story.

Let's think about the reaction to the dialog. What does stilted mean? It means "unnatural" or "artificial". There nothing particularly stilted about the dialog itself, although it's informality might strike some as a bit unusual in a high fantasy. So what's the deal with that reaction?

Well, maybe it has something to do with having someone pounding on the table in rage in the very first sentence. That's like going on a job interview an talking loudly and excitedly from the moment you step into the office. Enthusiasm is something the interviewer wants to see, but so much, so soon would strike him as a bit manic.

Another thing about this opening is that it tips your hand awfully early. Right or not, I feel like I can anticipate the whole trajectory of the story from this snippet. Here's my impression. It's a coming of age story for Gialees, a precocious chap who chafes at the restrictions his elders put on him. In act 1 he'll transgress those limitations biting off more than he can chew then running off with his tail between his legs. In Act 2 the shamed Gialees runs into a mentor, who sees the potential in the little scamp, and after a rocky start instills Gialees with the True Tabasco, allowing Gialees to return in Act 3 to prove himself as the Greatest Dragon Keeper Ever.

Now this might not at all be what you have planned, and even if it is, there's nothing wrong with a plot for having been used a few (thousand) times. The problem is starting off with the Timeworn Tableaux of Teen Rebellion before we know anything about these people. Our minds abhorring a vacuum immediately construct a whole trite story from the considerable information you've given us, and if we don't like that imagined story that's it for you.

You also aren't introducing your protagonist in a very favorable light. Suppose you walked into a room in a public building and came upon two people have an argument. Would you sit and watch so you can take sides, or leave if you had a choice? It's true that some readers sympathies will leap to Gialees because he's the young protagonist. But others will just as instantly side with Mialees, seeing her preference that he wait two weeks and do the dragon-slaying thing the usual way as entirely reasonable. Those people will look at Gialees' snarky and disrespectful words to his mother and think he needs a good cuff on the ear.

See? You've given us too much information here from which to jump to our own conclusions, not necessarily the one you want. Once you have seduced us into having sympathy with Gialees we can take his side.

Now the last version in your post above improves on this by having Gialees at least hold his more disrespectful comments back. But it still starts off with an angry confrontation between people we don't know and we still don't know who to side with despite having absorbed a considerable slug of background information.

I have a strong suspicion that this is a case of starting the story in the wrong place. This confrontation will have consequences, presumably Gialees haring off on his unauthorized dragon quest. That might be a better place to start, putting this bit in the backstory. It's hard to see how you can open the story at this point and make us want to put ourselves in Gialees' shoes.

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JohnColgrove
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Thanks Matt. You gave me a lot to think about. I've always been particularly bad with beginnings. I'm thinking this may also be a case of starting in the wrong place. I'll have to do some hard thinking.

Btw, you're almost completely wrong on the way I have it planned out.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by JohnColgrove:
Thanks Matt. You gave me a lot to think about. I've always been particularly bad with beginnings. I'm thinking this may also be a case of starting in the wrong place. I'll have to do some hard thinking.

Btw, you're almost completely wrong on the way I have it planned out.

I didn't realize that this wasn't finished yet. In that case, stop stressing over this part, turn off your infernal internal editor, and get the the first draft down. (Often easier said than done, but it is an acquired skill. [Smile] )

I often find that the right beginning is far more obvious after I've written the ending.

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MattLeo
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Well, I thought I might be wrong, but the point is you're inviting that kind of guessing.

I completely agree with Meredith, don't worry about the start until you're pretty much done.

One of the toughest things is to choose the right place to start the story, and you can't be sure until you're pretty much close to done. Choose the right place and it makes the job of starting much, much easier.

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JohnColgrove
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Editing before the first draft is complete is HUGE bad habit for me. It isn't nearly as bad today versus a year or so ago.

In that case, I'll just finish the first draft and go from there.

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Shadowofashadow%Locke@IComeAnon.net
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quote:
Originally posted by JohnColgrove:
“You are not going on a hunt! You are too young!” Said Mialees as she pounded on the marble table in a fit of rage.

Personally, I woul change this part by moving "You are too young!" to the end, so it would read: “You are not going on a hunt!” Said Mialees as she pounded on the marble table in a fit of rage."You are too young!” I think this would help it flow better, though that is just my opinion. Also, does it not say that Mialees pounded on the marble table? But Later it reads: "The stained oak table they sat at seemed invisible." I just thought you should be made aware of this small contradiction.
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LDWriter2
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The title attracted me so I decided to check it out.

Personally I like the first one better than the internal dialogue one. Except for the "you are" it does sound better "you're". And her pounding on the table. Of course dragon slayers might be different but I don't know if most mothers would pound on what is probably a very thick hard marble table.

The internal dialogue was to too wordy. It explained things he wouldn't have to. If you could give a hint of something without spelling it all out, that would be better. I know not so easy.

Lastly the whole thing seems a bit cliche-ish. Not sure how to say the same thing in a not over used way but some type of twist could be good. The other hatrackers don't seem to mind the clicheness but some readers might.

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shimiqua
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For me, the problem is the two exclamation points. I think exclamation points should only be used if earned, to highlight super explosive moments.

This is the first sentence. I am not invested enough in the story or the characters to want to be yelled at. Also yelling and pounding makes the mother seem, to me, a bit immature. As a mom, I know that saying something calmly lets you keep the power.

"You're not going on a hunt, you're too young."

Keep any fits of... well, anything... reserved for two year olds.

Best of luck with it.
~Sheena

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JohnColgrove
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Hey guys, sorry I haven't commented back to any of you. My personal life was getting in the way and I had to step away from the forum for a while. I would've responded if I realized there were other people commenting.

I always did appreciate the thoughtful, constructive comments of this website. I had terrible luck in the past over at a certain writing community with people being rather rude, inconsiderate, and destructive. To see this one isn't like that really makes me feel good.

I decided to trunk this one for now so I can write something that doesn't start out so cliche.

Also, I thought of this story after being unhappy with the current trend of dragon riding novels. A lot of them seem to be fixated on the MC becoming attached or bound to 1 dragon (Eragon is a good example). I looked at this in an alternate way. I basically said to myself, why does it have to be just 1 dragon? Is there any particular reason why writers bind there characters to just 1, maybe 2, dragons? This story was the result of those questions.

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