“We can’t let them separate us,” Serenity snapped, her voice tinged with desperation. “My babies stay here.”
Allie struggled to meet Serenity’s eyes. “You’re not the only one who cares about their animals. My pigs are like children to me too.”
“Dragons are not mere animals,” Serenity said, her cheeks flushed with color. “They are to animals what we are to humans. More than. Gods. And as an Immortal you have a responsibility toward them.”
Frank glanced over his shoulder at the two of them, respectfully pretending to be out of ear-shot. The entire caravan had stopped under Frank’s orders to give them privacy. His gesture turned out to be purely symbolic, however, as their voices echoed across the barren landscape.
“We have a responsibility toward humans,” Allie said, her voice growing louder. “Our friends. Not dragons.”
“You’re correct,” said Serenity as she let out a sigh. “Humans, then dragons, then swine.”
Allie bit her lip to keep from screaming in frustration. As much as it hurt her, she knew Serenity was right.
“If I could let them hunt, I would,” Serenity continued. “But it’s too dangerous now that we’re being hunted. At the very least, they have four dragons now. Likely more, and they could attack at any time. We need to stay together and stay strong.”
“And that means eating my pets,” Allie finished, feeling deflated.
“It’s what must be done,” Serenity said soothingly, patting Allie on the back. “For the good of the family.”
Allie hung her head. “For the good of the family,” she repeated. “But I don’t want to watch.”
Serenity nodded, signaling for Frank to restart the caravan.
“Does Olly know?” Allie asked, wiping away a single tear from her cheek.
“He knows,” Serenity replied, “he’ll be reassigned to another cart.”
Allie nodded her understanding, fighting back a wave of hiccups as she straightened up, putting on a brave face.
Suddenly, Serenity’s dragons popped up from the ground, leaving tiny cracks in their wake. All four of them the size of lizards, they leaped up into the air, gliding toward the back of the caravan where their meal awaited.
“They won’t have to eat all of them though, right?” Allie asked. “Not right away, at least?”
“They need sustenance to grow to their full size,” Serenity said, looking down on Allie with pity. “Otherwise they won’t be able to protect us. There won’t be any left.”
Allie felt the last ray of hope fade away within her as the reality of her situation sunk in. The pigs were the last link to her old life. There would be no going back; not even in her heart.
Serenity patted her on the shoulder once more before walking back toward the caravan, leaving Allie to process on her own.
For a while Allie just stood by herself, staring off into the distance as she reflected on her life up until that moment.
Then the caravan began to move, eventually forcing her to walk with it, blindly leading the way through the plains. And somewhere along the way, she found that she’d made a decision.
There was nothing for her in the city or the stables. She knew who she was; an Immortal, and she was going to start acting like it.
Then, suddenly the air erupted with the sound of dragon roars as four dragons seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Allie dropped to the ground, terrified as she gazed up at the giant creatures soaring above her. From a distance, Allie could barely make out Serenity from on top of one of the dragons as they sped through the air toward something she couldn’t see.
Then something appeared out of the distant clouds; another dragon.
Miguel didn’t see the caravan until it was too late. Claire gave no warning as they emerged from the clouds with four dragons flying right for them.
“You stupid dragon!” Miguel yelled, furious as he steered her high into the air. He knew clouds would do nothing to hide them from the dragons. Their bio-sonar could pick them out from miles away. Their only hope was to out-pace them.
Claire responded obediently, climbing higher into the air to dive into an air-stream.
Miguel had to close his eyes against the buffeting wind, forced to trust in Claire’s trajectory.
Suddenly, Claire was knocked off course, almost throwing Miguel into the air.
He managed to open his eyes long enough to make out a tangle of wings surrounding them as three dragons dragged them down toward the surface.
They were caught, and neither Claire nor Miguel could do anything about it.
Then a fourth dragon appeared with a woman on its back looking as calm as she could possibly be.
“Serenity,” Miguel whispered, his worst fear confirmed.
“Claire,” Serenity cooed, ignoring Miguel. “You’ve found me.”
This week’s topic doesn’t directly pertain to the chapter, but I think it’s a good time to address: “High-concept” writing.
In a previous chapter, I said ideas are cheap, and that’s mostly true. But I also mentioned that some ideas sell… and those ideas are often referred to as high-concept.
So here are the 7 potential characteristics of high-concept stories:
- High level of entertainment value
These are usually action-driven; a lot of movement – a big reason super-hero movies are so popular
- High degree of originality
This is difficult to do, and I’ve addressed this once already. I’ll address it again in depth at a later date, but the bottom line is: put your own twist on things
- Born from a “what if” question
This is a great starting point for ideas. What if you had to compete in fight-to-the-death competitions for food? What if you fell in love with a robot? Etc.
- Highly visual
This is all about spectacle. Does your environment inspire? Would it look good on a big screen?
- Clear emotional focus
Does it have a heart? Does it make us feel things? Tie the heart of your story to the core idea and you’re golden.
- The inclusion of some truly unique element
This is basically the way you make your story original. Should really be classified as 2a.
- Mass audience appeal
And the true test to “will it sell?” Who is your story for? Is it a wide market? It better be.
Your story doesn’t have to have all of these. They rarely do. But if you manage to work some of these characteristics into your story, you’re on the right track.
I’ll dive deeper into some of these characteristics later on. For now, just keep writing what you love. And when it’s time to start writing another story or selling your works, keep these characteristics in mind. It’s these kinds of characteritics that editors and agents are looking for in stories.