A work-in-progress. No publication date set.
Read my flash fiction. On Lester D. Crawford Speculative Fiction, select Flash Fiction.
Origin of The Dragon Universe
I love science, science fiction, and fantasy. I always have. Nevertheless, it never occurred to me I could write it as a career. I had dabbled in writing stories for fun, but never considered it more than a hobby. Then along came the Internet and the methods it provided for sharing. I discovered people liked my fiction about Dragons, even as amateurish as it was. When career changes provided the opportunity to move into a new life, I had many options. I settled on pursuing a new career as a speculative fiction writer.
For years, I had successfully written technical documents and articles. What could be so hard about becoming serious about writing fiction? Everything. Fiction writing is not technical writing. Fiction requires a different skill set. I studied everything I could find to learn how to write quality fiction. I set a goal of 10 years, 10,000 hours, 1,000,000 words to hone my skills. I am not yet to the 10-year mark, but I have exceeded the 10,000 hours, and I have created nearly 1,000,000 words of trunk novel material. I am improving, but I still have more practice to do.
During those years of practice, experimentation, and development, I created the worlds, characters, and plots for The Dragon Universe. Initially, I imagined a single book, but I eventually realized the story was too large. Rather than lose the story's heart and soul by cutting it to an acceptable size, I split the five phases of the story into five books. When I finish with the current trunk novel version of the story, I will return to the beginning and apply everything I have learned to create a work of art.
I feel good about how well my writing skills have developed, I am pleased by how the story has evolved, and I am excited for what the future holds. While it is still a work-in-progress, The Dragon Universe is wonderful. Follow me on my journey by following me on my web pages, Facebook, and Twitter. When the final version of the books come to market, read them and let me know how I did.
Lester D. Crawford Blog
Fulfilling Promises to the Reader
A writer creates reader expectations by what events, characters, or aspects of the story he or she chooses to describe. When those promises are made, the writer is obligated to fulfill them. Not fulfilling promises will leave the reader dissatisfied, which is not the way to build a fan base.
The How to Train Your Dragon book series by Cressida Cowell begins with “There were dragons when I was a boy.” That is a promise. What could it mean and will I be grief-stricken when I learn the answer?
For twelve books, I followed the story and worried about how the series would end. When the end came, the promise was fulfilled. Without giving spoilers, let me say that I cried, but I was satisfied with the answer.
by Lester D. Crawford
Red and green and silver and gold he was, unlike normal dragons who were red or green or silver or gold. He was a Christmas Dragon. Moreover, unlike normal dragons who had only dragon magic, he also had Christmas Magic.
Santa imprisoned the Christmas Dragon in an icy dungeon beneath his North Pole palace. Once a year, he used the dragon’s magic to make reindeer fly.
Then, global climate change melted the dungeon and the dragon escaped Santa’s claws. Without the Christmas Dragon’s magic, Santa could not fly, could not deliver gifts.
That was the end of receiving Christmas presents.
I wrote this story for the Advent Ghosts 2015 Flash Fiction challenge organized by Loren Eaton of the I Saw Lightning Fall blog.
Every story in Advent Ghosts must be exactly 100 words in length.
To see the stories others entered in the challenge, visit Advent Ghosts 2015: The Stories.
Improving My Story Structure Skills
I believe strongly in the concept of continuous improvement. I constantly ask myself if how I do something is the most effective way to do it, and I pursue and practice new methods to discover if they will make my work better. My current compulsion is to improve my skill at story structure. While I have studied story structure before, and learned much, I am reviewing my notes and reading more articles and books about the subject. Each time I study the topic, my understanding deepens and my skills sharpen.
I instinctively follow the rules (yes, the rules I often hear people claim they do not have to follow). I don’t want to write instinctively. Those instinctive, automatic writing skills are not well tuned. The two stories I am currently developing are at a perfect point for practicing story structure.
One story is book five of my work-in-progress series. This story has already been told a few times (drafts), therefore I know a lot about it. Those previous drafts were not well structured.
I set up a framework of acts divided by plot points at the 25% and 75% marks, a midpoint at the 50% mark, and punctuated with pinch points in the middle of the second and third quarters. With a little imagineering, I could see what parts of the story fell on each of the structural elements.
I saw flaws. For example, the darkest moment, when the protagonist "goes Rambo" did not occur in the correct spot as measured by story percentage. This moment needs to be at the plot point that begins the third act. I also realized the plot point that begins the second act is the biting scene (the protagonist’s Dragon bites him). This is when we go from the normal world to the action at the core of the story. Moreover, I now understand the first and second halves of the second act and how the protagonist’s passive response changes into action.
The second story is a novella about the origin of the aliens in the book series. The full story is in my head (it is part of the back story for the book series) and I created an outline for it last summer. By using the same framework as described above, I am re-imagining and re-outlining the story to improve its structure.
Learning by Reading Books Written for Young People
Recently I read these 12 books by Tamora Pierce.
- The Song of the Lioness quartet
- Alanna: The First Adventure
- In the Hand of the Goddess
- Woman Who Rides Like a Man
- Lioness Rampant
- The Immortals quartet
- Wild Magic
- Emperor Mage
- The Realms of the Gods
- Protector of the Small quartet
- First Test
- Lady Knight
These books, along with many others Pierce has written, are juvenile fiction with strong female protagonists. I enjoyed the stories and Pierce’s writing voice. I still ponder the world building, character development, and plots, which is a good indicator of how the stories influenced me. My writing style does not compare with Pierce’s, but I learned much from her. While I do not aim for the juvenile market with my stories, I hope what I write is accessible to the precocious readers in that age group.
An additional book related to these is Tamora Pierce’s Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales. This compilation of short stories contains The Dragon’s Tale in which Skysong, a young dragon we met in The Immortals quartet, is the protagonist. Skysong, called Kitten by her human caregiver Daine, is one of the most lovable dragons I have ever met. This story is one of my all-time favorites.
Another collection of juvenile fiction I enjoyed is by Patricia C. Wrede.
- Enchanted Forest Chronicles
- Dealing with Dragons
- Searching for Dragons
- Calling on Dragons
- Talking to Dragons
These stories take traditional fairytale tropes and twist them with great effect and Wrede’s writing style is great fun to read. Again, I improved my own writing skills by reading Wrede’s books.
I also enjoyed these books by Lloyd Alexander.
- The Chronicles of Prydain
- The Book of Three
- The Black Cauldron
- The Castle of Llyr
- Taran Wanderer
- The High King
These five high-fantasy novels about Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his companions were a fun read and left me with many indelible mental images.
Books written for young people have taught me much about writing.
A Story’s Theme is a Powerful Thing
Theme is an idea that is central to a story and often is summarized in a single word. When a writer begins writing a story, he or she might not know the theme. Even later, the theme may not be obvious.
When I began developing The Dragon Universe, I gave no thought to theme. The concept of theme was confusing, so I did not worry about it. Then, one night, as I talked to myself about the story, working through details, an epiphany occurred.
The following describes the story.
Backpacking had been a leisure pursuit until Les came upon a prefab, forest manager’s cabin that turned out not to be a cabin. He now struggles to survive on an alien world using only his wits and his backpack’s contents. Encounters with strange creatures, animal-like people, and a terrifying Dragon challenge his sense of reality as he finds himself in the midst of a struggle that will determine the fate of many worlds and will send him on a journey to his destiny.
My epiphany was that the story’s theme is love. I realized most of my stories were at their core about love. I have a soft heart and my stories bring that out. Stories that involve loving characters who work together as caring partners toward a common goal triggers an emotional response that I think was always there, but until now had been unnamed.
This brings me to why this comes to mind. The movie trailers for The Good Dinosaur (2015) trigger that emotional response. The tag line “A single kindness can change everything” touches me. Knowing Arlo’s situation makes me feel for him. Having Spot help Arlo and join forces with him makes me rejoice. I have high expectations the story will affect me deeply. I hope it does not disappoint.
The Good Dinosaur will be in theaters on November 25, 2015. I look forward to a significant emotional response. I strive for my stories to do the same for my readers.