Nov 4, 2013 - fiction writing    No Comments

The Science of Dragons


Could dragons be real?

Where did the dragon legend come from?

Most people would probably say dinosaur bones, which is likely. Dragons are known  only in the West but also in the East, and share features–the ability to fly, supernatural qualities, and great strength.


Discover Magazine has an interesting blurb on its web site about the science of dragons, stating that “the natural world offers plenty of scientific basis for some of the creatures’ most fantastical features.”  And they are right.

Dragon claws?  Not unlike these are they?

A clawed allosaur hand

An allosaur hand

Dragon wings? Look at this picture.  It’s natural to mistake this for a dragon baby.

could be a baby dragon

Dragon head?  Take a look at this one.

A dino skull

A dino skull

Think about other mythical creatures.  Many logical (and silly) explanations of their origins exist.  Here’s a few of my favorites:

The cyclops is said to have been created by people who looked at this skull.

Can you guess what this is?  (Mouse over the pic to see the answer)


The kraken.  The giant octopus / squid thing that exists in the deep.  Well, it has been found and even filmed.  Here is a pic of the real thing, taken by a Japanese deep sub.


Even here in Japan, some people say that the legendary tengu (shown below) were created when people ran into shipwrecked Caucasian sailors who had hidden in forests.  (The shogun’s used to kill any foreigners who landed in Japan without permission.)

 Looking at this picture, can’t you imagine a sunburned sailor with a big nose?


by king


We can see or imagine a basis for many fairy tale creatures: The dragon a dinosaur.  The cyclops a mammoth.  Even the mighty big foot has been shown by DNA analysis to be only a bear.

But so what?  I still enjoy imagining Tolkein’s Smaug or Homer’s cyclops.  Speculating where they may have come from only makes me wonder even more.


Using Your Fiction Character’s Pride


Pride can be bad

Pride can be bad

Pride is a powerful emotion that motivates us to do evil or good.  Sometimes it motivates us to do both–Pride for an evil reason can stimulate us do something that benefits others.

Look at some examples.  Scientific American’s article on pride talks about Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, who did it to “to show up a girl who dumped him and the guys in Harvard‘s most elitist social club. The desire to prove he was smarter than them gave Zuckerberg the motivation he needed to start on a path toward becoming one of the world’s preeminent innovators.”

An evil desire to triumph over others that brings about a good end–Facebook.  (Good is arguable here, of course.)

What about in fiction?

Have we not seen the hand of pride behind many heroes and most villains?  Let’s take a look at some examples.

This is one of my favorite stories.

Here is a good passage from Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne.  The conversation is between Stuart and Mr. Fogg.  Note how pride motivates both men not to back down.

They are talking at a gentlemen’s club, while playing cards:

“I’d like to see you do it in eighty days.”

“It depends on you. Shall we go?”

“Heaven preserve me! But I would wager four thousand pounds that such a journey, made under these conditions, is impossible.”

Mr. Fogg, are you ready?

Mr. Fogg, are you ready?

“Quite possible, on the contrary,” returned Mr. Fogg.

“Well, make it, then!”

“The journey round the world in eighty days?”


“I should like nothing better.”


“At once. Only I warn you that I shall do it at your expense.”

“It’s absurd!” cried Stuart, who was beginning to be annoyed at the persistency of his friend. “Come, let’s go on with the game.”

“Deal over again, then,” said Phileas Fogg. “There’s a false deal.”

Stuart took up the pack with a feverish hand; then suddenly put them down again.

“Well, Mr. Fogg,” said he, “it shall be so: I will wager the four thousand on it.”

“Calm yourself, my dear Stuart,” said Fallentin. “It’s only a joke.”

“When I say I’ll wager,” returned Stuart, “I mean it.”

“All right,” said Mr. Fogg; and, turning to the others, he continued: “I have a deposit of twenty thousand at Baring’s which I will willingly risk upon it.”


This is a great example of pride in use.  Think about it.

Pride has motivated each of these men, and even caused Stuart to lose his cool.  And, each character’s pride has locked them into this result.  If either of these men changed their minds, what would they lose?

Their pride of course.

 This is another good example, from another great classic.

From the Hobbit (the book), this is one of my favorite scenes.  Let’s hope it is in the Hobbit movie as well.  The dragon’s pride drives him to prove to the hobbit, to which he has no need to prove himself, that he is, in fact, invulnerable.  His pride becomes his downfall when Bilbo sees the dragon’s weakness.

Bilbo’s is not immune, though.  His pride also goes to his head when he talks a little too much for his own good.

Let’s take a look:


Bilbo the Baggins

Bilbo Baggins by troubadour93

“I have always understood,” said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, “that dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the-er-chest; but doubtless one so fortified has thought of that.”

 The dragon stopped short in his boasting. “Your information is antiquated,” he snapped. “I am armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems. No blade can pierce me.”

 “I might have guessed it,” said Bilbo. “Truly there can; nowhere be found the equal of Lord Smaug the Impenetrable. What magnificence to possess a waistcoat of fine diamonds!”

 “Yes, it is rare and wonderful, indeed,” said Smaug absurdly pleased. He did not know that the hobbit had already caught a glimpse of his peculiar under-covering on his previous visit, and was itching for a closer view for reasons of his own. The dragon rolled over. “Look!” he said. “What do you say to that?”

 “Dazzlingly marvellous! Perfect! Flawless! Staggering!” exclaimed Bilbo aloud, but what he thought inside was: “Old fool! Why there is a large patch in the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell!”

 After he had seen that Mr. Baggins’ one idea was to get away. “Well, I really must not detain Your Magnificence any longer,” he said, “or keep you from much needed rest. Ponies take some catching, I believe, after a long start. And so do burglars,” he added as a parting shot, as he darted back and fled up the tunnel.

 It was an unfortunate remark, for the dragon spouted terrific flames after him, and fast though he sped up the slope, he had not gone nearly far enough to be comfortable before the ghastly head of Smaug was thrust against the opening behind. Luckily the whole head and jaws could not squeeze in, but the nostrils sent forth fire and vapour to pursue him, and he was nearly overcome, and stumbled blindly on in great pain and fear. He had been feeling rather pleased with the cleverness of his conversation with Smaug, but his mistake at the end shook him into better sense.

 “Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!” he said to himself, and it became a favourite saying of his later, and passed into a proverb. “You aren’t nearly through this adventure yet,” he added, and that was pretty true as well.

These are only two examples.

Bilbo running from Smaug

The price of pride

Look around.  You can see pride at work everywhere–in your life, house, job, and all over the TV.  And, of course, in fiction.

And why not?

Your characters will have pride, but it is how they handle it that shows their personality.  Are they cool like Mr. Fogg?  Or, are they full of fire like Stuart?  They might be a shy, meek person like Bilbo with hidden courage that brings out his pride.

Pride.  It has many forms.  Your characters have it.

Use their pride, and yours, well.

Oct 20, 2013 - fiction writing    No Comments

Where–how to make and use great settings in fiction

Setting . . . ..

Once, I thought it was simple.  Just put your characters in a place.  That’s it.

Does it really matter where that place is?

It does.  Or rather, it can, and if you use it well, it will matter very much.

Let’s look at some settings most of us know. Look at Harry Potter.  Hogwarts is an essential setting.  Without it and all its interesting details, well, can you even imagine Harry Potter studying in any other place?

Harry Potter goes to East High School, or even Hollywood Arts High School?

taken by Klearchos Kapoutsis

taken by Klearchos Kapoutsis

I could go on and on here, so let me just mention one more example.  Some of my favorite books and now movies, are the Lord of the Rings.  This tale has been called a Milieu Story, where the setting is the most important aspect of the story, and I suppose that is fair–if you take away Middle Earth, you do not have much left, maybe.

But let us assume that you do not want the setting to carry this much weight, or at best, you want the set

ting to not be the strongest feature of your writing.

What are some good settings?  How can we use them?  Naturally, it depends on your story.

In my story that I am working on, most of the first half happens within a large tower.  I did not really plan to confine it so much, but now, I am glad that I did so.  However, I am continually tweaking and improving the description of the tower because, it too, plays a role in the story.

boring setting, another forest

A boring setting, another forest

Likewise, it is best to think through your scenes and ideas.  Is there a setting or settings that should be emphasized or brought to life?  Boring settings do little for a story.

One example of a boring setting is forests.  They are in almost every fantasy story, and they seem to be always the same, or very similar.  A few stories do a good job with them–the Dark Forest in Harry Potter is okay, though confusing, and Tolkein’s Fangorn is good.

However, forests are usually just that–forests.  Boring.

That is an example of a setting that needs work.

We should think about our settings and work to make them work well.  The more vivid and interesting the setting, the better, as long as they do not overpower the story itself.

Next time, I’ll talk about how to get ideas for great settings.


Oct 16, 2013 - great sites, novel writing    No Comments

Analyzing Emotions in Fiction with Software

Want to read a sad story?  A happy story?

Photo by Wyoming Jackrabbit

What do you want to read?

Maybe something that stimulates your imagination???

According to Discover Magazine, you can find it easily. 8ED5MK6C7T9E

A kind of software exists that parses the key words of the story and tells you the emotion in it.  It measure the “emotional temperature of a book.

So if you are in the mood for a creepy thriller, apparently, you can just punch it in and find one.

Good?  Bad?  I don’t know, but for the readers, I think it’s good.

And, for authors, it’s good also.  The more readers that find our books, the better it is.

For details, the entire study can be seen here.

The Hero’s Journey and Characters, How to use them

The Hero’s Journey and Characters

Most writers have heard of, or most probably, know about the Hero’s Journey.

If not, take a look here for a longer description.  However, this is basically the archetypical journey of a hero or heroine through a cycle of struggle, victory, and rebirth.

In its various forms, it is used in the majority of all stories.

Today, instead of looking at the plotting aspects of it, let’s see how to use it when making characters, in particular, secondary characters.

There are several characters that the hero encounters on his journey:



Threshold guardians




Women (or men perhaps) as temptress

Of course, there are others, but let’s look at these.  The simplest is the ally, which is often combined with the mentor.  For example, look at Gandalf.  He is a guide, mentor, and ally.  However, he only helps the hero in the beginning.  Later, the hero has to do things himself.Super Hero Cartoons Clip Art

You can use the ideas in different ways for your secondary characters.  You might have the mentor also be a threshold guardian.  The hero passes the threshold in which he is trained.

You might have the ally also be the temptress.  He or she would be helping, yet sometimes attempting to lure the hero from, the quest.

Like this, the hero’s journey can also appear in your characters.  Good luck with it.