Why I’m Not Afraid of Dragons Anymore

I was part of a writing group for a while. I’m not going to name names, because it’s not important to the story. However, for some time now, I have been scared… of dragons. Let me explain. This was nearly ten years ago and my writing career was still very new. I hadn’t finished my first book, in fact, I hadn’t really even started it yet. However, I was a passionate and ignorant new writer. I was finishing up a master’s degree and would meet with the group at a local coffee shop once a month and submit a passage from the fantasy book I was playing at writing.

One lady was finishing up her second novel in an adventure book series she was writing and I remember being in awe of her. She had a book on Amazon for sale! She was making money from a book she had written! She was, gasp, published! Now, my ignorance at the time was that I didn’t even know that such as thing as self-publishing even existed, much less ideas like vanity publishing and traditional publishing, or publishing agents. This was all still a mystery to this newbie, heck no one knows what they don’t know, and I am most likely still in the dark about many aspects of these things.

I remember she got done reading a short passage I had written in which I had mentioned a dragon. She looked at me and said, “Dragons are on the way out. Publishers won’t publish a story about a dragon because it’s cliche now. Also, never mention a sword, there are too many fantasy stories about magical swords and dragons out there, and you will never get published if you have those things in your story.”

My author admiration was in full effect. She was the only person I had ever met who had finished writing a book, much less had one “published”. Oddly enough, I looked up her book recently and realized that she was self-published through Amazon. Now don’t let me mislead you here, that is still impressive. This is how my books are published as well. However, in my ignorance, her advice to me at the time took on much more significant weight than it should have. After writing three slightly successful books (to me anyway), and now working on my biggest project yet, The Fantasy Book Project, I am ready to admit something. I don’t like her advice. In fact, I am no longer following it. When I first sat down to write out the notes for my world and create the story, her rules of no swords and no dragons were still engrained in my mind, almost unconsciously. I had creatures in my books that I called Beasts, but let’s be honest, as I described them, and inside my head; they were dragons.

Now, none of my characters currently have a sword, but I am not against the idea any longer. The more I read and the newer books I see published, fantasy publishers are only worried about one thing, will the book be bought and read by people. I am one of the biggest fans of traditional, modern, and even odd fantasy and I am not tired of dragons. I like dragons. In fact, you put a dragon on the cover of the book and you have my attention. Throw a Gandalf-looking fella fighting that dragon on the cover and my wallet basically slips out of my pocket on its own.

These ten years into my writing career, here is my writing advice to aspiring writers, for what that is worth.

  1. Write what you know.
  2. Write who you know.
  3. Write what you want.

Let me quickly talk about each of those in a little more detail.

Number 1: Write what you know. Use your own life experiences to create realistic narratives, characters, and situations. Some of the most compelling stories I have read have come from or been inspired by an author’s real-life experiences. I believe this is a great way to write.

Number 2: Write who you know. Use the people that you know, meet, or get a chance to interact with as subjects to inspire characters in your books. As an example, I read once that Hayao Miyazaki (the famous anime artist) uses real girls he knows as inspiration for the girls he draws in his animes. Also, I remember reading that Charles Dickens did this a lot too. According to the book Mr. Dickens and His Carol, by Samantha Silva, it is a well-known fact that Mr. Dickens kept a notebook full of names he encountered. Apparently, the ghost Jacob Marley was based on a man Mr. Dickens met one time and felt that he was very unpleasant. Ms. Silva tells us that he then wrote down the name and decided that whatever character he turned out to be, he would be dead very quickly. As such, Jacob Marley is dead before the book even starts. Anyway, use real people to give your characters realistic personalities and life, just don’t use the person’s real name. That will get you sued.

Number 3: Write what you want. This is the one I am taking for myself. If you want to write about your dog, write about your dog. If you want to write about starships, write about starships. And by goodness, if you want to write about dragons, write about dragons! Don’t allow the fear of being or not being published to scare you off from writing a story you want to write. Write your book and after submitting it to a publisher, if they come back and say they don’t want dragons in your book and can you change it? Heh, there is a “find” option in Microsoft Word where you can find every single instance of a word in your whole document and it’s easy to replace the word “dragon” with “kitten.”

Side Note: Take my advice with a complete grain of salt.

D. Michl Lowe


3 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Afraid of Dragons Anymore

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s