Food, Jade thought, impressing the image of an animal on my mind.
Later, I thought back as we flew over a large stretch of farmland.
Two days had passed since I Claimed Jade. Miguel had Claimed the other lion, but she was too injured to fly, so the three of us rode on Jade’s back.
“Jessica is hungry!” Miguel yelled in my ear over the roar of Jade’s flapping wings.
“Jade too,” I said, using Jade’s mane to keep our balance. “We’ll let them hunt after we find the next town.”
Jessica, who was the size of a squirrel, nipped at my back.
I winced, almost letting go of the mane. “Stop letting her do that.”
“She has a mind of her own,” Miguel said, patting me on the shoulder.
Rest, Jade thought.
Soon, I replied, watching the horizon for a mountain range.
“How much longer?” Miguel asked.
“I told you, you’ll know when I know.”
“You said it was close,” Miguel said as Jessica bit me again. “It’s getting dark.”
“Tomorrow,” I promised, letting out a sigh of relief as mountains emerged in the distance. “But I know where we can stay tonight.”
Suddenly more confident, I steered Jade toward the mountains. There was supposed to be a town nestled in-between two of the mountains. It was one of the few places I’d never been, assuming it did, in fact, exist.
“We’re headed for the Peaks?” Miguel asked.
I glanced back at him. “You’ve heard of these mountains?”
Miguel shrugged. “Only by reputation. This where you hid my dragon?”
“Just a place to stay,” I said casually. “Nothing more.”
I pulled Jade higher into the sky as we approached the Peaks, rising just enough to clear the highest point. The temperature plummeted, the wind cutting through my shirt.
With a practiced air of confidence, I led Jade across the range, watching the feet of the mountains for signs of a town. A thin layer of fog sat at the lowest points, making it difficult to see.
“Hurry up!” Miguel yelled, “I’m freezing.”
I didn’t reply, concentrating on my search.
It was another minute before I saw them for myself; a small cluster of lights at the bottom of a mountain.
“We’re here,” I said, patting Jade on the head as we descended on the town.
Cutting through the fog, we landed outside a cluster of wooden houses, lanterns hanging on the outside of each one.
There were twelve homes altogether, all of them uniform and simple. It looked like the right place.
Go ahead, I replied, nodding.
Jade immediately shrunk to a more conformable size, Jessica still on her back as she launched herself back into the sky.
“Why this place?” Miguel asked, eyeing me suspiciously.
I shrugged. “I told you, it’s a place to stay. You’ll have your dragon tomorrow.”
Miguel raised an eyebrow, but eventually nodded as he led the way toward the homes.
The town seemed empty. I would’ve thought it was deserted if not for the lanterns hanging outside.
“Hello?” Miguel shouted, his voice echoing across the cavernous space.
There was no response.
“Alright, Draco,” Miguel said eventually. “What did you get us into?”
Suddenly, a door opened, light spilling out from inside the house. Then two more doors opened as people peeked out from their homes, hiding behind their doors.
“Hi,” I said, waving at the timid townspeople. “Is anyone here in charge?”
The shadowed faces stared on in silence.
“Good place to stay, huh?” Miguel muttered, knife held loosely by his side.
I cleared my throat. “We’re just looking for a place to stay,” I tried again. “Is there anywhere we can sleep?”
Then, finally, a voice rose from one of the homes. “What you got to trade?”
I glanced at Miguel, who shook his head.
“We have money,” I shouted.
“Don’t need money,” the voice replied. “We need food.”
“We can get you…”
“We’re Immortals!” Miguel yelled, now spinning the knife in his hands.
Immediately, every door slammed closed except for one.
I shot Miguel a look, but he ignored me as he marched toward the open door.
A woman stood in the doorway with her arms crossed, a frown etched on her face.
“I’m Draco,” I said, offering a handshake.
She ignored me as she leaned against the doorpost. “You can sleep on the floor,” she said, staring daggers at Miguel. Miguel snarled, still brandishing his knife. “If,” she continued, “you catch us food.”
Miguel spat at her feet, but she remained still, unfazed.
“Deal,” I said quickly, pushing Miguel out of the way. “We can catch you something in the morning.”
“Tonight,” she said, spitting at Miguel’s feet.
I had to hold Miguel back.
“Fine,” I said over Miguel’s cursing.
“You have an hour,” she said, shutting the door on us.
I waited another minute before finally letting Miguel go. “I’m not doing this,” he said. “Let’s take one of these other houses.”
“I’ll do it,” I said placatingly, mentally summoning Jade back. “Just look after Jessica until I get back.”
Miguel shook his head, kicking the ground as he let out a few more curses.
Minutes later, Jade and Jessica returned.
“We’ll be back soon,” I said, climbing on top of Jade as Jessica joined Miguel in the town.
Before he could protest, we launched into the air.
As soon as we rose above the fog, I directed Jade toward the peak of the mountain.
“Peak of the closest mountain,” I muttered to myself as we rose through the air. “Right below the snow-line .”
Snow covered the entire peak of the mountain, the rest of the side covered with dead trees and rocks.
“Three rocks the size of tombs,” I whispered, my breath quickening. I saw them almost immediately, three distinct rocks marking the mountainside.
Landing by the rocks, I had Jade sniff the area. Remember, I ordered.
I did the same, committing the peak to memory.
“Alright,” I said eventually. “Now let’s hurry up and find some game.”
There are many ways to structure a story: Big Problem, Three Act, Try/Fail Cycle, Hero’s Journey, Travelogue, Major Mystery, Romantic, Time Bomb, MacGuffin, etc.
And all of these have their place in books and movies, but it’s important to avoid a purely formulaic approach to telling stories. Stories should have a heart. And as the storyteller, you are ultimately the heart of your story. Your readers get to experience YOUR compassion, YOUR creativity, YOUR humor, and YOUR talents. So don’t box yourself in with formulas.
…That being said, structure helps. So in this chapter, I’m addressing Travelogue Plots.
Stories are all about progression.
And Plot structures loosely guide how stories should progress. The Main Character should grow. The situation should change. Things should get harder, and then the Main Character should triumph. Etc. Etc.
For Travelogue Plots, it’s quite simple to create a sense of progression:
- The main character starts in one place and travels to another
- Something happens
- Your character either grows or regresses
- Then they move on to the next place.
- The closer they get to their destination, the more the story seems to progress
The key here is to make sure your character is actually progressing! Remember, your characters are what actually matter.
It’s easy to write a story about someone going from place to place, but it will mean nothing if your character doesn’t change in the process. So telling a travelogue story is fine, as long as that’s not all it is.
Frodo goes from place to place with a destination in mind: Mordor. If when Frodo arrived at Mordor, he was the same Hobbit that started the story… then there would be no meaning and no satisfaction.
Example: This story
Right now, for Draco, the plot has taken a bit of a travelogue route. Draco and Miguel are traveling from town to town with a destination in mind, and the closer they get to Draco’s dragon, the more the story seems to progress. However, the travelogue portion of this story is very small, and therefore holds less importance than all of the other things happening in the story. My approach is to have a lot of different plot structures happening simultaneously, each taking control in their own time based on what’s happening in the story. It’s a very common approach and one that offers a lot of flexibility, but, ultimately, you don’t need to use any particular structure.
What’s important is that you make sure there’s a sense of progression. Outside of that, just pour your heart out.