Allie awoke with a start, jostled by the sudden movement of her wagon. Faint wisps of light shone through her curtains. They had let her sleep in… again.
Sleep still in her eyes, she sat up in her seat and stretched as far as she could in the confines of her space. She’d been given her own wagon with its own driver. One of the smallest wagons, sure, but a wagon nonetheless.
For a moment she just sat there, running her fingers across the grain of the wood, amazed at her circumstances. The wagon was perfect for her; the hard floor reminiscent of her time living on the streets. Only now she was safe and fed. Now she mattered.
After wiping the sleep from her eyes, she threw open the door to the moving wagon and jumped out, jogging along to keep from falling over. The wagon was moving at a leisurely pace, but it was still quite the feat having just woken up. She had fallen the first couple times she’d tried it.
“Morning, Snore Queen,” her driver said with a wry smile. “Mother requests your presence whenever you’re ready.”
Allie smiled back as she kept pace with him. “You know, not a single person has confirmed your story.”
He nodded knowingly. “That’s because they’re too afraid to offend the great Queen of snores. I, on the other hand, know that you appreciate full and utter honesty.”
“You’re right. I do favor complete honesty, which is why I don’t trust you,” she said, winking.
Shean let out a hearty laugh, his eyes twinkling down at her. “If you want to prove me a liar, then have someone else drive you while you sleep. I swear they’ll back me up.”
Allie shrugged. “Maybe,” she said playfully. “But for now I’ll allow you to continue.”
“Oh thank you so very much, Mrs. Queen,” he said, putting emphasis on the fake title he’d given her.
Allie rolled her eyes as she slowed her pace, letting the wagons pass her by until the back of the caravan had caught up to her.
“Morning, miss Allie,” Olly called out when he saw her waiting for him.
“Hi, Olly,” Allie said cheerfully as she hopped in the back with her pigs. As soon as she landed, the pigs gathered around her, snorting happily.
“Careful of the mud,” Olly yelled over his shoulder. “We just picked some up not too long ago. Don’t want to get your dress all messed up.”
“I’m not worried about a little dirt,” she said as the pigs rubbed mud all over her legs. “I lived in mud for years.”
Olly shook his head but kept his eyes forward on the rest of the caravan. “It’s still weird. An Immortal shouldn’t be living with pigs.”
“But it was okay when I wasn’t an Immortal?” Allie asked indignantly.
“No,” Olly said uncomfortably. “It’s just weird is all.”
Allie let it go, focusing on her pigs instead, cooing at them as they tussled between themselves to be close to her. Feeling whimsical, she eventually sang them a song, making up the words as she went. Halfway through, Olly joined in with her, harmonizing beautifully.
“I knew you could sing,” Allie said afterward.
Olly shrugged. “Not as good as you.”
After a while, Allie jumped the pig cart and jogged to catch up with the front of the caravan.
“You look terrible!” Shean yelled as Allie ran by. “See how honest I am?”
Allie chuckled, but didn’t give him the satisfaction of looking back, focused on making her way to the front.
Leading the entire caravan was Serenity, walking in front of her wagon with Frank at her side. As Allie approached them, a train of kids ran in front of her, their laughter echoing across the open plains.
“How did you sleep?” Serenity asked as Allie took her place by her side.
Allie shrugged. “Pretty good,” she said honestly. “I like the hard floor.”
Serenity smiled. “To each their own. Are you ready for today’s lesson?”
Allie straightened her posture, subconsciously mirroring Serenity. “Ready.”
“Look the part,” Serenity said succinctly, staring down at Allie’s dress. The entire bottom half was caked in mud, the hem dragging on the ground.
Allie blushed. “I was visiting my pigs.”
“It’s possible to visit pigs without rolling around with them,” Serenity said tersely. “And that’s a line you have to walk as a god.”
“I didn’t roll around with them,” Allie huffed, “they just rubbed off on me.”
“Exactly the point,” said Serenity. “Gods should be set apart from their subjects. We were chosen to administer justice. To do so requires a certain hardness of heart…”
“And if we spend too much time with someone,” Allie finished, “we may not have the heart to serve them justice.”
“Good…” Serenity started to say before cutting herself off. Suddenly, Serenity dropped to her knees, signaling for the rest of the caravan to stop.
Allie and Frank knelt next to her, their faces drawn on in concern.
“Mother,” Allie started to say when Serenity suddenly let out a scream.
“What’s going on?” Allie asked, looking to Frank, who merely shook his head in confusion.
“Geleo,” Serenity whispered, her voice hoarse. “Someone’s taken him.”
Frank’s eyes widened in shock, finally understanding. “The dragons are solitary hunters,” he explained to Allie. “They’re all out separately right now, hunting for food. Geleo must have run into trouble…”
Suddenly, Serenity screamed again, pounding her fist against the ground. “No! Xaniu!”
Frank sat back on his heels, stunned as Allie looked between them in confusion.
“Something happened to both of them?” She asked, feeling lost.
Eventually, Serenity rose from her knees, tear streaks staining her face. She looked as if she was teetering on the edge of sanity as she looked Allie in the eyes. “They were waiting for them,” she said. “They were hooded, unrecognizable, but they had dragons. They took Geleo and Xaniu separately.”
“Who are they?” Allie asked in a whisper.
Frank’s jaw set, his fists clenched as Serenity answered.
“Immortals,” she whispered. “We’re being hunted by Immortals.”
Ideas are cheap. There is pretty much nothing you can write that hasn’t already been written, and chances are, it’s already been written about a thousand times.
A good storyteller can take anything and make it interesting. And a bad storyteller can take anything interesting and make it bad. And if you’ve proven you’re a good writer, it doesn’t matter what the premise of your other books are, people will read it.
However, good ideas can sell your story. Because even though every story has basically already been told, if you can come up with a compelling twist to an old story, it will sell.
Example: Hunger Games.
Dystopian future where kids are forced to fight to the death for food… yeah I’ll read that. Every part of that series has already been done countless times, but the combination of fighting to the death and a dystopian future is genius.
She didn’t have to be a good writer to sell that story, because that idea is compelling. It doesn’t mean the story will be good, it just means it will sell, and companies like that. That’s how you get your foot in the door. (I will address how to come up with good ideas like that in another chapter)
So how do you write original stories? Its the age-old struggle. You want to be original, but that’s basically impossible. So it’s a very good thing that you don’t actually need to be original. You need to be authentic.
Write what you want to write, and if you’re a good writer, your story will be good. The key here is that if you are a good writer, you will be able to take old stories and concepts and make them your own. Not original, but real.
Example: This story
There’s nothing new about medieval setting with dragons. Nothing original about writing about Immortals. There are several stories out there literally named “The Immortals.” I looked it up. But I took old stories and had fun with them. I linked the Immortals to dragons. I gave them Achilles heels. I made the dragons blind underground creatures. I enabled creatures to be linked to humans and change their sizes just like pocket monsters.
I didn’t decide all of these things all at once; I just had fun with it precisely to show that you can write a good story without relying on some sort of brilliant new idea.
So just write and keep writing until you’re good at it. Then you can write anything you want.
(But if you want to know how to make a story that sells, stay tuned)