Welcome to this stop on the Secrets in Our Cities Scavenger Hunt!
One of the great tragedies of my adulthood was being forced to acknowledge that dragons don’t exist, or else are extinct. Probably. According to most reliable sources.
(If a magical apocalypse arrives and changes the world, I’m totally going out and finding a dragon.)
In any case, since I am left without current access to dragons, I write about them instead. And since I cannot find a reliable source as to what any actual dragons might be like, I get to invent them.
Which is honestly one of my favorite things about writing.
I’ve created a bunch of different dragons for various writing projects. Some are mere bit parts, and some are main characters. Designing them is pretty much the same as creating any other character, with the additional step of creating the whole race. To streamline that part of the process (because it comes up a surprising amount in the kind of stories I like to write), I created a questionnaire for myself.
And since dragons should really find a place in all stories, here is that questionnaire for your own use. (So maybe I ran out of time to do the research I wanted to and ended up copying something I already had in my files, but hey, writing a short story takes time and this way the commas aren’t completely weird.)
- Can the dragons talk?
Always the first question I ask, because it informs whether the dragons are developed more as animals, or as people. Both ways still create characters, but there are different ways to see it. (Originally this question was more about intelligence, but you get some pretty smart animals and some pretty dumb people so it became more about the communication possibilities.)
There’s Smaug, the terrifyingly intelligent conquerer of the Lonely Mountain, who is frightening because not only can he flambe unwanted guests, he can beguile them with his words into just standing there.
And then are the dragons of the movie Reign of Fire, who are also terrifying, but it’s more about the fact that there are a gazillion of them and they burn everything because they eat ash. It’s not personal, it’s just how they do, and there’s no talking or reasoning because they just don’t.
- How magical are the dragons?
Also important to know is the relative nature of that magic compared to the rest of the world. In some stories, dragons are a solid presence compared to bouncy, crazy humans. In others, they wield magic themselves and it’s epic.
- Do the dragons breathe fire?
Not all dragons do. And even when they do, there are different ways that they breathe it, or interact with fire in general. The dragons don’t have to breathe fire. They could set themselves on fire instead.
- Do the dragons fly?
Personally, the answer is always yes, but there are logistics. Is there a pseudo-scientific reason for the flying, or is their flight entirely fueled by magic? That kind of thing. (I am not a biologist, so I tend to not worry about if any of it is actually possible. It’s my story, and if I say they can scientifically fly, then that’s just how physics work in my world. Yay!)
- Are dragons legendary or part of everyday life?
This one’s more of a graph kind of setup than a sliding scale, honestly. (I need to reword this one!) There’s a range between mythological and in-the-biology-textbooks, and also between “there’s a dragon out there somewhere in the farthest reaches of the planet” and “I’m giving out dragon eggs as party favors because I’m being cheap.”
- How friendly are the dragons?
(I just wanted gifs of dragons. This question is pretty self-explanatory.)
- What do the dragons eat?
Important, because if, for example, the dragons eat a lot of sheep then it might be expected that shepherds would take offense. (Also, there’s the whole people eating thing which crops up, which would kind of affect dragon/human relations in the story world.)
- What do the dragons look like?
There are so many amazing variations on how dragons can appear. Shiny, camouflaged, colorful, monochrome, pointy, sleek, long, stubby, etc. Know your aesthetic! Also, you get to look at pictures of dragons for ideas and that’s not a bad thing.
- How big are the dragons?
This question is important for scene logistics, and how they are able to interact with other characters, but it definitely comes last on the questionnaire. It does tend to affect setting if a dragon is meant to talk to the protagonist in secret but is larger than a house. And also if the dragon in question is the size of a cat and meant to terrorize a city.
Congratulations! Now you too can go out and add dragons to your stories. (Which you could totally already do, since dragons are still supposedly mythological and thus you can invent whatever you want. But now you have a handy dandy list of questions to use to do it.)
If you still like dragons after reading this, check out my short story “No One Delivers to the Sewers,” found in Secrets in Our Cities.
Oh, yeah. And there’s this…
This blog post is part of the Secrets in Our Cities Scavenger Hunt. You can participate by visiting all of the participating blogs, a list of which can be found in the introduction post on the Just-Us League’s website.
Once you’ve gathered all of the clues, figure out the secret line and submit it. One lucky winner will receive a paperback copy of Secrets in Our Cities, and three lucky winners will receive ebook copies.
The Scavenger Hunt will be open until midnight EST on November 5th, 2018. The winners will be announced on the Just-Us League’s blog on November 7th, 2018. Your information will only be used to contact you if you win a prize.