I waved my sword, testing its balance as the dragon landed in the coliseum. It was currently its darkest color, each scale like a reflective shadow.
Even as it landed, it decreased in size until its rider became visible. He wore no armor or helmet, nothing to protect himself except a single knife strapped to his waist. He smiled at me as he slid off the dragon’s back. Miguel.
As soon as Miguel dismounted, the dragon increased in size, its wings stretching half-way across the stadium. The cheers only grew louder in anticipation of my demise.
Still smiling, Miguel sauntered toward me, twirling the knife in his hand.
I growled, heart racing as my eyes flicked back and forth between my tormentor and his dragon. My knuckles turned white as I wrung my hands against the leather of my sword.
Unconcerned, Miguel stopped right in front of me, his knife back at his waist. The message was clear. He didn’t need it.
“Draco,” he whispered fondly, “you know you’re my favorite, right?”
I licked my lips, fighting the urge to run him through with my blade.
“I mean, the other two… they’re just not as fun” Miguel said, gesturing to the field behind him where two other immortals stood facing the dragon, their swords still lying in front of them. “They don’t have your spirit.”
I glanced at the others and spat at his feet in disgust.
Miguel chuckled, wiping his bare feet in the sand. “I’ll regret the day we finally break you.” And with that, he turned on his heel, walking to the center of the stadium.
The cheers reached a fever pitch as Miguel raised his hand toward the Queen, signaling they were ready. I didn’t see the Queen’s response. I wasn’t watching her. I only had eyes for the dragon. Its eyes were covered by a thick film filled with thousands of oratory’s sensors. Perfect for a life underground.
Even as it stared right at me, it was making guttural clicking sounds with its tongue, using the vibrations to take in its surroundings. Like Miguel, the dragon knew who its true opponent was, and it seemed just as eager to break me.
Then the trumpets blared.
The dragon didn’t attack immediately, instead it coiled itself around Miguel, prowling the middle of the field. It was feeling playful today. That was a bad sign.
The other two Immortals just stood there, motionless as they awaited their deaths. Most claimed their minds were broken, but that was a lie. They had merely given up.
Cursing them, I marched toward the dragon, ready for escape attempt number thirty-seven.
The dragon hissed at me as I approached, changing the color of its scales to match the white sand. As large as the dragon was, it was a largely ineffective camouflage. However, I’d learned long ago just how disorienting it was in a fight.
Mouth pulled tight in determination, I snapped my sword in half, breaking it over my knee. I kept the handled end, leaving the rest of it in the sand as I continued my march toward the dragon.
As soon as I got close enough, the dragon launched itself at me, raking its claws across my chest.
I flew backward, skidding across the sand face-first. My chest burned, my body contorting in agony. But I didn’t pass out, couldn’t pass out as my body was forced into complete awareness while it healed.
Within seconds my wounds had healed, relief spreading throughout my body. I took a moment in the sand, listening for the sound of the dragon. We’d done this enough times for the dragon to know I’d rise again if given enough time.
Then I heard it, the sound of wings rippling through the air. I waited until the last second before rolling to the side, dragging my blade across one of its wings.
The blade didn’t leave a mark. I knew it wouldn’t, but the dragon backed away, growing more wary of me.
I couldn’t beat it. No one man could, but I could still win at my own game. I only had to make it angry enough. Something I had yet to achieve.
The dragon made itself smaller, becoming roughly half my size. It was enjoying to challenge.
I backed away, forcing it to come to me. Its claws dug into the sand as it stalked me, gnashing its teeth. Soon I found myself next to one of the other Immortals. He still hadn’t moved.
Cursing again, I grabbed his sword from the sand, dual-wielding blades as the dragon circled us.
Pressed against the other Immortal, I mirrored the dragon’s teeth with my blades. Still, the Immortal had no reaction.
Suddenly, the dragon snapped at me, its jaws aimed at my head. I threw the Immortal in front of me instead.
Finally, the man reacted, screaming as the dragon yanked him to the ground. The dragon wanted to eat the man, I could tell. Instead, it released the Immortal and leaped away as it had been commanded.
Before it could reset, I went on the offensive. The dragon leaped to the side, too quick to be caught off-guard. Still, right before attacking, I clanged the swords together as loud as I could.
The dragon winced, screeching as I struck at its head. Instinctively, it grew in size, reacting to the threat.
I hesitated almost too long, surprised at my luck before shoving my half-sword down its jaw.
The dragon reared back, screaming even louder as it continued to grow in size.
Heart racing, I backpedaled, watching as the dragon grew larger than I’d ever seen before. With earthshaking thuds, the dragon repeatedly rammed its head against the sand, trying to shake the blade free from its throat.
The stadium went completely silent.
Cautiously optimistic, I watched Miguel’s face as the dragon writhed around on the sand. Surprisingly, he wasn’t watching the dragon. Instead, he was smiling at me, looking amused. I smiled back, trying to look confident as the dragon continued to grow.
Finally, the dragon spit out the sword and roared triumphantly, shaking the stadium’s very core.
Then, still more than half the size of the stadium, the dragon attacked in a rage. Its jaws closed in around me with ease, as I was roughly the size of a single one of its teeth.
I embraced the darkness, triumphant even amidst the suffering. My body spasmed in pain as it swallowed me whole, drowning me in its stomach acid.
I had finally succeeded, for I had forced their hand. Either kill the dragon now in order to retrieve me from its stomach, or let me live along with it.
I could endure the suffering. Even now, my elation overpowered the pain of acid burns. Maybe after a while, if I was lucky, I would even be able to pass out.
Then, suddenly, the dragon lurched, jostling me around inside. I was disoriented, my senses nearly nonexistent as my body was stuck in constant decomposition. And so I realized what was happening too late.
I struggled at first, trying to fight him off, but I was too compromised to be effective. Then, eventually, my sight returned as I Miguel dragged me out of the dragon’s maw.
The rest of my body re-composed itself as he looked down at me in admiration.
“Well,” he said, shaking his head. “That was a first.”
Every plot involves at least one if not dozens of plans executed by the main characters.
- We’re going to rob this bank.
- We’re going to find this amulet.
- We’re going to get people to think I’m cool. Etc.
And here’s how we’re going to do it! Well, here’s the rule for Plans vs. Execution:
It absolutely cannot work the way you intend.
So here’s the thing. If the character explains the plan beforehand, then that plan WILL NOT WORK. The only reason they explain it beforehand is so the reader won’t be lost when the plan goes south.
- Oh, no! The alarm went off before it was supposed to.
- The amulet was a fake.
- It turns out I was cool the whole time, except when I tried to be cool, which made me uncool, and it all blew up in my face!
The only time a plan goes right is when you don’t explain it beforehand. If nothing is going to go wrong, then just show it and get it over with. Because if nothing goes wrong, then its only purpose to the plot is to get us to the next thing. You will see this all the time in every show, movie, and book. If they explain it, it’ll go wrong. If they don’t, it’ll work. And if they only explain half of it, then that half will go wrong and the rest will go right. Every. Time.
Which brings us to an even bigger principle:
SHOW, don’t TELL
Explaining something is boring. Showing something is entertaining. This applies to every aspect of storytelling. Don’t explain something you can show. Remeber this. Always.
So in this chapter, Draco has a plan, and the entirety of this chapter is about him executing that plan.
Now, In this chapter, I intentionally tried to toy with you as the reader. It is precisely because I didn’t explain the plan to you that you most likely expected the plan to work. This is because we all have absorbed enough media to subconsciously understand the rules of storytelling. So in order to combat this, I waited until the last moment to explain the plan.
- At first, you think he’s just trying to live.
- Then you realize he’s trying to escape.
- Then you learn that in order to do this, he needs to make the dragon angry.
- Then it’s not until he inside the dragon that you finally learn his goal.
- And it’s not until you finally understand his plan that it finally goes wrong.
So not only do you need to Show your story, but you must SHOW your story in a surprising way. And explain only just enough that your reader won’t get lost.