Pete’s Dragon Touched Me

The movie Pete’s Dragon (2016) had a few flaws and plot holes — I’m sure the Everything Wrong With <Movie Title> people on YouTube will have fun with it — regardless, the movie touched me more deeply than any movie I’ve seen. My emotional response was extreme even for someone who is touched by anything sappy.

Those emotions are what I want to capture in my writing.

I plan to see it again so I can have another good cry.

If you have a heart, I recommend you see the movie. Take a handkerchief.

Pete Hugging Elliot

Pete Hugging Elliot

Knocking the Reader Out of the Story

“There’s something wrong in not appreciating one’s own special abilities, my girl. Find your own limitations, yes, but don’t limit yourself with false modesty.”
— Sebell to Menolly in Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey

Dragonsinger Cover

First Aladdin Paperbacks edition April 2003

Knocking the reader out of the story is something writing mentors warn writers to avoid. I think the concept is one of those nebulous notions that has no clear definition beyond causing the reader to think outside the parameters of the story. I don’t know how to know if something I write knocks the reader out of the story. When reading other stories, I sometimes experience moments of pause and ponder that might be considered knocking the reader out of the story, but those moments do not harm my experience of reading the story.

One such moment occurred when I read the above line of dialogue while reading Dragonsinger. It caused me to stop and think. I felt it was addressed to me. I am suffused with self-doubt. I shouldn’t be. I still have much to learn, but I am good at what I do. I must accept that and not let my doubts or modesty limit me.

Because I stopped reading and began contemplating, was I knocked out of the story? I don’t think so, but if that is knocking someone out of the story, I think it is something to strive for. I want occasionally to make the reader stop and think.

On the other hand, horrible sentence structures, bad grammar, spelling errors, typos, etc., also knocks the reader out of the story. Those kind are bad. Don’t do those.

Clarion West Write-a-thon 2016

Again this year, I am participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon. My goal is to complete drafts of the next two chapters of The Dragon Universe Book 5.

The write-a-thon is a fundraiser for the Clarion West Writers Workshop, a nonprofit literary organization based in Seattle, Washington, USA, with a mission to improve speculative fiction by providing high quality education to writers at the start of their careers.

You may sponsor me by donating to Clarion West in my name on my profile page on the Clarion West web site by clicking on the “Sponsor Lester D. Crawford” button. As a reward for considering donating, my profile contains an excerpt from The Dragon Universe Book 5.

Disasters Happen

I volunteer with my local emergency services organization. For several weeks I have been preparing full time for a huge, multi-state disaster exercise. This work has taken time away from my writing, but I feel I am contributing to the community by doing it. The volunteer activity also contributes to my writing by enhancing my ability to tell stories containing disasters.

I recommend you also volunteer to help your community. Not only will your community benefit, you too will benefit.

“I believe doing good deeds is the purpose of life.”
— Kameekim in Flurfy’s Secret by Lester D. Crawford

The Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast of North America spans from southern British Columbia to northern California and can produce earthquakes as large as magnitude 9 with accompanying tsunamis.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast of North America spans from southern British Columbia to northern California and can produce earthquakes as large as magnitude 9 with accompanying tsunamis.

The Fairyland Series was a Wonderful Reading Experience

The Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente is a collection of five books, plus a prequel. For me, the whimsical imagery and narrative of the stories created a delightful adventure and was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I have had.

Valente’s writing style in these stories is amazing. While I have no plans to ever try duplicating the style, I wish I had the skill and talent to do so. I am inspired to use what skill and talent I do have to create my own wondrous worlds even if they are not as magical as Valente’s.

Those of you who are just like me* will also enjoy these stories.

(* I am one in a million. That means there are more than 7,300 people just like me. Are you one of them?)

a_through_l
This is A-Through-L. He is a "Wyverary." His mother was a wyvern and his father was a library.
A-Through-L may not be a Dragon, but I love him just the same.

 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland—For a Little While
(This is the short prequel published by Tor.com. You can read it at the link.)

fairyland_book_covers


The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making — Book Trailer

Inspiration Is Exhilarating

Often I speak about inspiration. That’s because moments of inspiration provide me the thrill that keeps me hooked on writing. Few experiences are more exhilarating than being inspired.

I needed inspiration. For a few days, I had struggled with a scene whose conflict was failing. My idea for the scene was wrong, which kept it from achieving its purpose. I could not find the actions and emotions to make it work. The characters’ motivations did not fit the situation and their behaviors did not lead to the desired revelation. Then I went to see Zootopia.

I enjoyed Zootopia. I recommend you see it.

Image of Zootopia's Nick and Judy

Zootopia’s Nick and Judy

In one scene, the two main characters exchanged two lines of dialogue that caused my mind minions to explode. An entire, fully detailed, exquisitely tuned scene came to me that was exactly what I needed for this precise moment in my story. I was ecstatic. I have yet to quit bubbling. After the movie was over, I rushed home and wrote, creating a scene that not only hits the proper action beats, but it hits the emotional beats perfectly to strengthen the relationship between my two main characters. All I had needed was the flash of insight those two lines of dialogue provided me.

I look forward to the next great moment of inspiration.

Character Change Arcs

Character change arcs are important. The character begins with a set of personality attributes and beliefs. As the story progresses, the character faces conflicts, internal and/or external, that challenge how he or she behaves and/or what he or she believes. Ultimately, those challenges cause the character to change. A character change arc might be as simple as a coward who becomes a hero.

I’m not going to delve into the subtle details of how to manage character change arcs. I only want to mention a concept I find useful.

Thirty years ago, in what was back then a fad, my employer strived to improve teamwork and productivity by providing training in interpersonal relations and working with others as a team. One training opportunity was the viewing of a video by Morris Massey.

Massey’s idea was that a person’s core beliefs and values form in childhood. To change those core beliefs and values in adulthood requires a “Significant Emotional Event,” an event that exceeds the person’s capacity to cope.

Ever since watching the video, the concepts presented have given me a tool for understanding people. Now that I write science fiction/fantasy, those concepts apply to my character change arcs.

A character change arc may follow the story from beginning to end as an integral part of the plot, or it could act as if it were a sub-story within the greater story. Either way, the concepts of story structure apply to the change arc. The point in the character change arc’s story structure where I invoke a Significant Emotional Event is at the plot point that begins the third act.

For example, in my current work-in-progress, over the course of five books, one character has been struggling with his core beliefs. He has dealt with his guilt by justifying the violations as necessary, or finding excuses for committing the violations, or simply ignoring that he is violating his core beliefs. The guilt weighs heavily upon him, but he keeps his core beliefs intact until an additional incident causes him to exceed his capacity to cope, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. He then admits that his life has been a lie, accepts that his core beliefs are wrong, and he changes.

The next time you work on a character change arc, consider the Significant Emotional Event that triggers the final change in your character.

The attached chart was inspired by what I have learned over the years about character change arcs. I use this chart to remind myself what to consider when working on character change arcs.

Graphic showing Character Dimensions and Character Change Arcs

Character Dimensions and Character Change Arcs

Fulfilling Promises to the Reader

A writer creates reader expectations by what events, characters, or aspects of the story he or she chooses to describe. When those promises are made, the writer is obligated to fulfill them. Not fulfilling promises will leave the reader dissatisfied, which is not the way to build a fan base.

The How to Train Your Dragon book series by Cressida Cowell begins with “There were dragons when I was a boy.” That is a promise. What could it mean and will I be grief-stricken when I learn the answer?

For twelve books, I followed the story and worried about how the series would end. When the end came, the promise was fulfilled. Without giving spoilers, let me say that I cried, but I was satisfied with the answer.
How to Train Your Dragon Book Series

Christmas Magic

Christmas Magic
by Lester D. Crawford

Red and green and silver and gold he was, unlike normal dragons who were red or green or silver or gold. He was a Christmas Dragon. Moreover, unlike normal dragons who had only dragon magic, he also had Christmas Magic.

Santa imprisoned the Christmas Dragon in an icy dungeon beneath his North Pole palace. Once a year, he used the dragon’s magic to make reindeer fly.

Then, global climate change melted the dungeon and the dragon escaped Santa’s claws. Without the Christmas Dragon’s magic, Santa could not fly, could not deliver gifts.

That was the end of receiving Christmas presents.

I wrote this story for the Advent Ghosts 2015 Flash Fiction challenge organized by Loren Eaton of the I Saw Lightning Fall blog.

Every story in Advent Ghosts must be exactly 100 words in length.

To see the stories others entered in the challenge, visit Advent Ghosts 2015: The Stories.