“How do you know what she’s saying?” Patty asked as she stroked Jade’s neck.
I let out a yawn as I pulled bones out of what was left of a grizzly. Lemon had found her meal the night before. “I just do.”
“But how?” She asked, her eyebrows scrunched together.
“I listen,” I said, shrugging. “She communicates through sound and gestures just like we do.”
“But she doesn’t talk…” Patty said quizzically. “…Right?”
I let out a chuckle. “No, she doesn’t talk. But she doesn’t need to.”
Finally finished cleaning the food, I ripped off a piece of meat and handed it to Patty. “Now eat up before we leave. It’ll be a while before we stop again.”
“Where are we going?” Patty asked, smelling the meat before ripping into it with her teeth.
“A city,” I said in-between bites. “To find my dragon.”
“But you already have a dragon,” she said, her cheeks full of food.
“This one is special. Her name is Claire.”
“Why?” She asked as she took another colossal bite of bear meat.
I pulled my next bite away from my face, sighing. “Do you ever run out of questions?”
Patty frowned, looking down at her feet as she took another bite.
Suddenly feeling ashamed, I let out another sigh. “She was my first dragon,” I said eventually. “I named her after my daughter.”
Patty looked up, her eyes wide. “You have a daughter?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “She was stillborn… we didn’t know at the time.”
“Didn’t know what?” She asked.
“That Immortals can’t have children,” I said, my voice close to cracking. “They never make it past the birth.”
Patty stopped chewing. “Do you know why my mom named me Patty?” She said after a while.
I shook my head, not trusting myself to speak.
“My older brother died before I was born,” she said, her eyes distant. “His name was Patrick.”
“She wanted to honor your brother’s memory,” I said, nodding in appreciation.
Patty went quiet for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. “She told me we had to keep moving forward. That it was okay to remember and be sad, as long as we kept moving.”
“You mom would be proud of you,” I said.
“Your daughter would be proud of you too,” she said, taking another bite of meat.
Torn between laughter and tears, I found myself nodding, amazed at the little girl’s maturity.
“So what happened to your wife?” She asked suddenly.
“She’s alive,” I said warily.
“Duh,” Patty said, waving around a clean bone. “She’s Immortal, but where is she?”
“We… had different reactions to Claire’s death.”
Patty stared at me, waiting for me to continue.
“We should go,” I said, standing as I mentally prompted Jade and Lemon to prepare for flight.
“Do you miss her?” She asked, standing with me.
I chewed on my lip, unsure how honest I should be. “Yes,” I said eventually, “I miss her. Now let me show you how to hold my waist so you don’t fall off of Lemon.”
“I’m going with Jade,” she said matter-of-factly.
“It’s too dangerous to fly by yourself,” I said.
“I’m flying with Jade. She wants me to go with her,” she said, throwing her arms around the purring lion.
Defeated, I threw my hands in the air. “Fine, then let me show you how to hold onto her,” I said as I mentally scolded Jade for encouraging Patty’s reckless behavior.
When I was finally convinced that she had a good enough hold of Jade, I mounted Lemon, whose strength had increased significantly after eating.
“Stay close,” I said out loud for Patty’s benefit. “Shout if you need us to stop.”
Patty nodded, her face scrunched in determination.
“Alright,” I said. “We’re out of here.”
As we launched into the air, I caught Patty glancing backward at her old home with a tear in her eye. And with that tear, my hatred for Miguel’s actions grew.
I kept Lemon at a slow pace for Jade’s sake, but it wasn’t long before we emerged from the mountains.
I found myself constantly checking over my shoulder, worried that at some point I’d look and find Patty missing, but she was always there, confident as she flew through the air.
Still, I couldn’t help but keep an eye out. And it was during one of these checks that I noticed something strange behind us.
Instinctively, I pulled Lemon up, turning to watch the cloudy sky behind us. Jade pulled up next to Lemon, sensing my worry.
“Do we need to stop?” Patty shouted.
Then I saw them again, cutting their way through the clouds in a wave of white scales. A weyr of dragons.
“Run!” I yelled, mentally forcing Jade to fly below the clouds.
“Wha—” Patty cried, her voice cutting off as Jade plummeted away from us.
I counted five dragons as Lemon sped in the opposite direction as Jade and Patty.
The dragons immediately changed course, angling to entrap us.
As soon as we surfaced above the clouds, we shot back the way we came, flying toward the mountains.
The other five emerged from the clouds having over-shot us, forced to change direction, but I knew the clouds wouldn’t obscure us for long. Their senses were too good for that.
Desperate, we plummeted back through the clouds and toward the ground.
But the other dragons were too fast, intercepting us before we could reach the grassy surface.
By the time we reached the field, they had managed to peel me off of Lemon, encaged by their claws while the other four dragons wrestled Lemon into submission.
And as soon as they were in control, they began to carry us back toward the mountains.
“Keep her safe, Jade,” I whispered, hoping she would be smart enough to listen.
This week we’re going to zoom in a bit onto the prose of a story.
You can have an amazing idea for a story and structure your plot perfectly, but it’s the prose that determines whether or not your story is “good.”
A note: this is pretty much only the case in novels. I would consider the “prose” of a screenplay to be the actors and actresses. If the actresses and actresses don’t deliver on the screenplay, then it’s not a good movie. Same for the prose of your novel.
There are many aspects of prose to be aware of: dialogue, descriptors, actions, emotions, reactions, motivations, subtle, efficiency, etc.
I’ve touched on dialogue and emotions already, though there’s much more to be said. But we still need to go over one of the biggest rules:
Active voice over Passive voice
To put it simply, active voice is when a woman throws a hammer. Passive voice is when a hammer got thrown by a woman.
Active is when the subject acts on an object. It puts the reader in the driver’s seat. We (living vicariously through the character) are performing the action. Not only that, but it makes the sentences much easier to read, because we don’t have to work hard in order to figure out what happened.
Passive voice pulls the reader out of the story and forces them to effectively read the sentence twice in order to understand what happened.
Now, “a hammer was thrown by a woman” is so obviously awkward that you might be thinking “duh, I would never write that.” But we slip into passive voice all of the time, especially if the sentence is longer, more complicated, or you find yourself in a poetic mood.
If you go back through your writing and look for it, I bet you will find a bunch of passive sentences that need re-writing.
With enough time, you’ll eventually learn to write in active voice the first time around, but until then, you will need to look for active voice in your revisions.
On a final note, you will still need to be vigilant of repetitive sentence structures. It’s better to include passive voice:
“The man slammed the door behind him just as the door was hit by a hammer.”
Than change it to an awkward sentence structure:
“The man slammed the door behind him. The hammer hit the door.” (Another obvious example, but you get the point)
Instead, change it to:
“The man slammed the door behind him just as the hammer hit the wall.”
I not only changed it to active, but I also changed the content so that I’m not saying door twice in one sentence.