The day after the fire we buried the girl’s mother along with the rest of the deceased townspeople.
The girl became non-responsive after that, unable to do anything but eat and stare at her old broken home.
Every so often I would try talking to her, asking her questions, but she never spoke a word. She rarely even made eye-contact with me.
Jade spent most of her time collecting food. Whenever she returned with an animal, she would shrink and keep her distance from the girl.
By the second day, I found myself getting anxious, unable to do what I needed to and unwilling to leave the girl alone.
Eventually, I decided to make myself useful, making my way toward the girl’s house. When I first started moving through the ashes her home, she tensed up, watching me with haunted eyes.
Very carefully, I began cleaning up her house, clearing out the ashes with my hands.
For a while she just watched me. And then, slowly, she joined me, scooping up the ashes in her tiny hands.
Together, we cleaned the house of the remains until there was nothing left but two walls and a makeshift bed.
As soon as it was done, the girl collapsed onto the bed, immediately falling asleep despite the still waning light of the sun setting over the mountains.
For a while I watched over her from a distance, fighting off the exhaustion threatening to overtake me.
As the moon began to peak out from behind the clouds, Jade returned with a rabbit in her jaws, dropping it next to me.
Mentally, she signaled that she’d already eaten for the day.
I nodded, lost in thought as I picked up the rabbit. Finally, I made a decision.
Leaving the rabbit behind, I impressed onto her the image if the three large rocks on the side of the mountain.
She nodded her head, prepared to take me there.
I felt guilty leaving the girl by herself for the night, but I held onto hope that would get back before she woke up.
Suddenly feeling rushed, I hopped on Jade’s back and had her fly to the rock formation near the top of the mountain.
The temperature dropped significantly as we rose through the fog, emerging into the crisp mountain sky. Snow covered every peak, dead trees lining most of the range.
It wasn’t long before Jade dropped down next to the room formation exactly where I took her before.
“Good girl,” I whispered, petting her neck.
“Rocks?” I asked, pointing to the three huge stones.
Jade grew a little larger and set her shoulder against one of the stones, showing it as hard as she could until it finally flipped onto its side. Behind it, a sliver of a hole was visible, the rest of it covered by the other stones.
I asked again for the second and third stone and she did the same thing, moving each one just enough that the hole was uncovered.
Altogether, the hole was about my size. I knew it would be. Marcus and I always had been about the same size and shape. At least, we had been until he lost himself.
By the time I found him he was already under Miguel’s care, withered and being used for entertainment along with another Immortal I’d never met. It was in the attempt to save them both that I found myself imprisoned along with them.
In the end, I wasn’t able to help them, but I had managed to communicate with Marcus the same way we communicate with our dragons. And over and over again he showed the same image; his dragon underneath three large stones.
“Go back to the town and watch over the girl,” I said, picturing the girl asleep in her bed. “I’ll meet you there when I can.”
Jade nudged her head against my hand before taking off, flying back down through the fog.
I let out a long sigh as she disappeared, safe from whatever dangers were to come.
I’d claimed countless dragons through the years, but rarely by myself.
“This could take a while,” I mumbled, beginning my slow crawl through the hole.
If you read a lot of books, then you know what it’s like to grow attached to a character in a story. In some cases, they may even seem more real to you than actual people.
How does that happen?
There are many reasons story characters feel real, some of which we’ve already discussed in previous chapters. But one of the best ways to make sure your character feels real (to both you and your readers) is to give them a life outside of the story.
The plot technically begins with the inciting incident, but your character begins long before that. (Recall that your character is the most important part)
So what is your character’s story before the plot?
What were his motivations?
What are her quirks and passions?
What would they be doing if they weren’t going through whatever they’re going through?
In Draco’s case, we’re still discovering all of these answers, and that’s largely what this chapter is about; Taking a breath with Draco before he moves the plot forward.
Surprisingly, these “breaths” are often what people remember most about stories. They allow us the chance to connect and commiserate with the characters, giving us an emotional connection to what we read.
This is why some of the greatest classical movies have such simple plots. They weren’t worried about coming up with some complicated story. They were determined to tell a character’s story and they told it well.
So take your time with your characters. Make them real. Don’t be afraid to give us moments with them. It’s those moments that your readers might remember forever.
(FYI, The format of this Blog/Novel is such that I have to move really quickly at times and don’t take nearly as many “moments” or breaths” as I normally would. Definitely take your time with yours.)