My anthology The Dragon Universe: Utopia Origins has been through multiple edits (including one I’m doing right now where I’m removing a few scene breaks that are unnecessary). After a couple more beta readers review it, I’ll call it finished. The next step is to share it with the world. That process will be my next great adventure.
Character change arcs are a mainstay of stories. All characters have a change arc be it positive, flat, or negative. Plotting those arcs is a significant part of my process. However, I never thought about reader change arcs.
Stories can teach readers and change their opinions about local and global issues, but I’m not talking about that type of change. What I’ve become aware of is leading a reader through a change regarding their opinion about a character in a story. Proficient writers may be aware of this. My recent reading experience brought it to my attention.
My enlightenment began with The Dangerous Gift (Wings of Fire Book 14) by Tui T. Sutherland. The point-of-view character is Snowfall, Queen of the IceWings. Snowfall is rude, cold, distrustful, and simply mean. I never liked her. When I heard she was the POV character for book 14, my reaction was why? Snowfall has a character change arc in the story that redeemed her in my eyes. She is now one of my favorite dragons. Sutherland had led me through my own change arc that had changed my opinion about Snowfall.
With Snowfall, the character’s change arc is what led me through my change arc. However, even for a character with a flat change arc, the reader can be led from disliking the character to loving the character. This was the event that led me to realize I was being changed by the writer’s words.
In the Menagerie series — The Menagerie, Dragon on Trial, and Krakens and Lies — by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, there is a secondary character, a griffin named Nira, who has six griffin cubs who have escaped from the menagerie. Nira is indifferent while her mate Riff worries manically and is losing feathers due to his distress. Her attitude triggered me and I immediately disliked her.
By the end of the series, I had learned the truth about Nira. She wasn’t indifferent. She had faith in her cubs and that they would be fine. She was simply enjoying the time off from parenting. Apparently, Riff didn’t contribute anywhere near enough to the work of parenting the cubs. Nira was exhausted. She was happy when all of her cubs were returned to her. And, the menagerie staff had a word with Riff. He began doing his part in parenting the cubs, which he quickly learned was hard work. Also, during the course of the series, Nira helped the menagerie staff in dealing with problems with a local, which also exposed more of Nira’s likeable personality. By the end of the trilogy, I loved Nira. Sutherland and Sutherland had led me through my own change arc that had changed my opinion about Nira.
Now, when I write a story, I’m thinking about the reader change arc I’m creating.
(It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that Tui T. Sutherland was involved with both of these epiphany-generating stories.)
My favorite 2021 reads and a movie:
• The Poison Jungle (Wings of Fire 13)
• Dragonslayer (Wings of Fire: Legends 2)
• The Dangerous Gift (Wings of Fire 14)
by Tui T. Sutherland
• A Deadly Education: A Novel
by Naomi Novik
• The House in the Cerulean Sea
by TJ Klune
• Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
My 100-word Christmas story for 2021.
Despair and Anguish
by Lester D. Crawford
I sit at the edge of the world, a world filled with despair and anguish, a world where all hope is lost. A devil draped in a flag came to spread evil and hatred everywhere, taking everything, consuming everyone. All is lost, and I am spent.
Then, before me appears a dragon of red, green, blue, silver, and gold.
“I am sent by the Spirit of Christmas to give you purpose,” says the dragon. “Use your heart to fight the evil. Giving and forgiving, loving and sharing, kindness and compassion will bring hope back to you and to the world.”
Years ago, Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall inspired me to write a 100-word Advent Ghosts Christmas story. Now, every year, I write a 100-word Christmas story. It’s always fun.
Read stories submitted by other writers here: Advent Ghosts 2021: The Stories.
I finished a draft of my dystopian world story’s first act. As I wrote the last line, the story felt complete. It’s not — there’s a lot more to the story — but the first act made itself its own story with an ending that brought me catharsis.
The first act explores the main character’s normal world. From the beginning, she has the item that will change her world at plot point one at the end of the first act and thus toss her into the actual story in the second and third acts. The midpoint revealed the inciting event as a flashback. It made a complete story arc.
As I wrote the last line, I had a flush of excitement. I had created a short story. I immediately decided it needed to go out on submission. If it doesn’t find a home, I still have the rest of the story to tell. If it does, I’ll still finish the story and publish it later, probably as a novella.
To that end, I edited the story to the best of my ability and then sent it to beta readers for their input. I look forward to submitting it. I currently have a short story making submission rounds. Maybe they’ll both be picked up.
I’m making progress on my dystopian world story, but that progress is slow and difficult. The world is based on what some people want our world to be like. The extreme despair of that world makes it depressing to write. I cried writing the last line of the first chapter.
Figuring out this story has been more difficult than any story I’ve written. The outline is less complete than any of my previous outlines. There’s much yet to be understood about the characters and their world. However, things are coming together and the holes in the outline are slowly filling in.
Now is not the time for emotions. Stay focused. Stay vigilant. Danger lurks. Save the crying for when it’s done. Then, rejoice.
I’m waiting on a review of my anthology. I finished a short story that is out on submission. Now I’m designing a new story that takes place on a dystopian world.
The society of that world is the antagonist confronting our hero. As I create the story, I’ll look for specific characters to personify that society, which is based on policy objectives of certain extremists active in our real world.
The story is challenging, but it’s an excellent opportunity to practice the writing craft skill of worldbuilding.
The anthology The Dragon Universe: Utopia Origins I edited during the 2021 Clarion West Write-a-thon is off to beta readers. Now I’m working on a new story that is not part of The Dragon Universe — it won’t have dragons.
I mind mapped my ideas for the story and built a story structure to channel those ideas. I need to refine the MICE quotient and chiastic structure a little more, but I’ve already written a few pages to see how it flows. It’s looking good.
This will be a fun story. The plan is for it to be a short story under 6,000 words. I’ll see if I can keep it that short.
I completed a couple of editing passes on my The Dragon Universe: Utopia Origins collection of stories, participated in a couple of Write-a-thon classes on Zoom, and watched several other presentations. The Write-a-thon has been a skill building and inspiring event. Thank you Clarion West.
Now I continue with the final editing pass of Utopia Origins before sending it to beta readers.