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I Hate Dragons


In December 2010, Brandon posted a note on his Twitter feed suggesting a dialogue writing exercise. This is his result.

For those who are following along, here’s what I did for my writing exercise. I actually managed to make it something of a self-contained story. If you want to read up on the rules, I posted them here. We did some analysis of other people’s writing on Writing Excuses here. If you did one of these and want more feedback, you might be able to post it in the Writing Group section of the TWG Forums and get some feedback. (Or you might be able to read some other posts and let people know what you thought of them.)

My story follows. After that, I’ll do some analysis of my own piece.


I Hate Dragons

By Brandon Sanderson

“Master Johnston?”

“Yes, Skip?”

“I was wondering if maybe we might review my employment situation.”

“What? Now? Lad, this isn’t the time.”

“Er, I’m sorry, sir. But I believe this is exactly the time. And, I apologize, but I don’t intend to move until I’ve had my say.”

“Fine. Fine. Be on with it then.”

“Well, Master Johnston, you know how we’re here to kill this dragon, sir?”

“Yes. That’s our job. Dragon hunters. It says so on your bloomin’ jacket, lad!”

“Well, sir, technically you and the other boys are the hunters.”

“You’re an important part, Skip. Without you, the dragon won’t never come!”

“I believe you mean ‘will never come,’ sir. And, well, this is about my part. I realize it’s important for you to have someone to draw the dragon.”

“You can’t catch nothing without bait.”

“‘Can’t catch anything,’ sir. And that is as you’ve said. However, I can’t help noticing one factor about my role in the hunt. I am, as you said, bait.”

“Yes?”

“And it seems to me that eventually, if you put bait out often enough . . .”

“Yes?”

“Well, sir, eventually that bait is going to end up getting eaten. Sir.”

“Ah.”

“You see my trouble.”

“You’ve been doing this for a year now, and you ain’t ever gotten ate.”

“That sentence was deplorable, sir.”

“What’s math have to do wi’ this?”

“You’re thinking ‘devisable,’ sir. Anyway, yes, I’ve survived a year. Only, I’ve started thinking.”

“A dangerous habit, that.”

“It’s chronic, I’m afraid. I’ve started thinking about the number of near misses we’ve had. I’ve started thinking that, eventually, you and the boys aren’t going to get to the dragon quickly enough. I’m thinking about how many reptilian bicuspids I’ve seen in recent months.”

“I’ve cussed more than twice myself.”

“So . . .”

“All right, lad. I can see where you’re going. Two percent, and nothing more.”

“A raise?”

“Sure. Two percent’s good money, son. Why, when I was your age, I’d have died to get a two-percent raise.”

“I’d rather not die because of it, sir.”

“Three percent, then.”

“You pay me in food, sir. I don’t get paid any money.”

“Ah. I forgot you was a smart one. All right. Four percent.”

“Sir, you could double it, and it would be meaningless.”

“Don’t get so uppity! Double? What, you think I’m maid of coins?”

“The word is ‘made,’ sir.”

“Huh? That’s what I said. How—”

“Never mind. Sir, this isn’t about money, you see.”

“You want more food?”

“No. You see, er . . .”

“Be on with it! That dragon ain’t going to kill himself!”

“Technically, dragons—being sentient beings—likely have a suicide rate similar to other intelligent creatures. So perhaps this one will kill himself. It’s statistically possible, anyway. That’s beside the point. You see, sir, I think I’d rather change my participation in the hunts.”

“In what way?”

“I’d like to be a hunter, sir. You know. Hold a harpoon? Fire a crossbow? I wouldn’t mind just reloading for the other hunters until I get the hang of it.”

“Don’t be silly. You couldn’t do that while out in the center of the field, being bait!”

“I wasn’t talking about doing that while being bait. I’d rather do it instead of being bait. Sir.”

“But nobody else has yer special gift, son.”

“I don’t think it’s all that great . . .”

“Why, sure it is! In all my years hunting dragons, I’ve never met someone who attracts them like you do. You’ve got a gift.”

“The gift of smelling delicious to dragons? Sir, I never asked for this.”

“Just ‘cause a gift is unexpected doesn’t mean it ain’t a gift.”

“A knife to the back can be unexpected. That doesn’t make it a gift either. Sir.”

“Look, son. You’re special. The scent of you . . . it drives them mad with hunger. It’d be a shame to waste that. Do what you were created to do. Reach for the stars.”

“Stars are giant balls of gas, burning far away.”

“They are?”

“Yes. Reaching for them, even if it were possible, would likely burn your hand. Sir.”

“Ain’t that something.”

Isn’t that something.”

“That’s what I said. Either way, son, you need to explore your talents.”

“My talent is getting eaten by dragons, sir. It seems that’s less something to explore, and more something to experience. Once. In a grisly, painful, and abruptly-ending sort of way.”

“. . .”

“Well?”

“I see that yer a smart one, son.”

“Thank you.”

“Five percent.”

“I . . .”

“It’s here! It’s circlin’! Lad, we’ll have to talk about this later.”

“Okay. You know what, fine. Once more. But that’s it.”

“Good lad. Out there you go. You remember the script?”

“Of course I remember it. Ahem. I’m so very tired! Also, I hate sunlight. So I’m not going to look upward. I’m just going to stroll along across this . . . er . . . rocky place of rocks and find a place to lay down and take a nap.

“Gosh! I’m sad that I tripped and got dust in my eyes, so I couldn’t see anything for a few moments when that breeze passed me by. Just a breeze, and not the beating of nearby dragon wings. Not at all. Perhaps I will take my nap in this little dip in the ground. I hope no wild beasts are around to savage me.”

“PSSST. Skip. Bite! The script says BITE me!”

“I’m extrapolating!”

“What’s the dragon’s skin have to do with this?”

“That’s exfoliate, Master Johnston. Look, he’s coming back around. Hush. Ahem. Yes, I’ll just be nodding off to sleep now!”

“. . .”

“What’s the beast doing?”

“He landed up there. I think he’s suspicious. He’s craning his neck down and—”

You’re a terrible actor.”

“Er. Really? I actually thought I was getting better. I’ve been practicing in front of the mirror, you see.”

Terrible. I’ve seen pieces of soap that were better actors than you. You have an entire fleet of dragon hunters waiting, I assume.”

“Um. No?”

No, you don’t have them? Or no I don’t assume it? Because I really don’t think you’re capable of judging what I do and don’t assume. By the way, who wrote that script for you?”

“Master Johnston.”

He needs an editor.”

“I’ve tried to explain that! Do you know how difficult it is to work with such awful lines?”

That doesn’t excuse your bad acting.”

“It at least gives some context, though, doesn’t it?”

No.”

“So, um, if you saw through the ploy . . . why are you still here? Shouldn’t you have fled?”

I . . . there’s something about you, small human. Yes. Something . . . intoxicating. Why don’t you climb up here to me.”

“Excuse me?”

Climb on up here.”

“You’ll eat me.”

That’s the idea.”

“Then I think I’ll decline.”

Oh, come now. It won’t be so bad as you think. They’re will be hardly any pain at all.”

“I don’t care if there’s pain or not. I’ll still be dead. And you used the wrong version of ‘they’re.’ You wanted ‘there’ instead.”

“I did? How can you tell? They’res no difference in the sounds they make.”

“Actually, I can hear apostrophes.”

What, really?”

“Yes. I can hear spelling too, actually.”

That’s . . . interesting, child. Very interesting. Well, time to get this over with. No use in delaying. Come on up and be eaten.”

“You don’t make a very compelling argument.”

I’m a very busy dragon.”

“Funny. I have lots of time. I could sit here all day, so long as it involves not being eaten.”

Oh, come now. Don’t be difficult. This is what you were created to do.”

“What gives you that terrible idea?”

It’s the circle of life, young human! The beauty of nature! Each creature in turn is consumed by a larger creature, round and around, until we reach the apex predators. Um . . . I’m one of those, by the way.”

“I’d noticed.”

Well, the cows eat the grass, the wolves eat the cows, the men eat the wolves, the dragons eat the men. All very majestic in its simplicity.”

“We don’t eat wolves, actually.”

You don’t?”

“No. Not unless we’re very hungry. Even then, they don’t taste very good, so I’m told. Too stringy.”

Yes, well, you’re supposed to. Men never do as they’re told. Case and point, this moment, where you have the startling rudeness to refuse being consumed. How can I persuade you?”

“Actually, you are persuading me.”

Really? This is working? Er, I mean . . . of course I am. I’m known as being a very compelling conversationalist, among my peers.”

“You didn’t need that comma,” Skip said, “but you should probably have put ‘among my peers’ after ‘I’m known.’ That’s beside the point. You see, I said you were persuading me because the definition of the word implies the act of trying to get someone to do something, whether or not you are successful. You persuade someone, then you either fail or succeed. Most people use it incorrectly. The word you wanted was convince. You need to convince me, not persuade me.”

You’re not very much fun at parties, are you, small human?

“I . . . uh . . . don’t get invited to parties very often.”

“I can’t imagine why. So, are you going to stop whining and come get eaten like a man?”

“No.”

“You’re making mother nature cry.”

“Good. We could use more rain. Why don’t you just go eat a cow?”

“Why don’t you go eat some grass?”

“Um . . . humans can’t digest grass.”

“And dragons can’t digest cows.”

“Really?”

“Really. Humans were designed and built to be eaten by dragons. It’s the nature of things.”

“I find that rather unfair. Who eats you?”

“The worms, once we’re dead. It’s all very metaphysical.”

“But you have to eat humans?”

“If we don’t, we die.”

“How are there any humans left?”

“We don’t need to eat very often, little human. Once every few months. There’s more than large enough a population of you to sustain us. You don’t run out of . . . what is it you eat, again?”

“Cows. Pigs. Carrots. Very few wolves.”

“Yes, well, this is much like you eating those things.”

“Except for the part about me dying.”

“Think of the good you’ll be doing.”

“Good? By keeping a dragon alive to continue terrorizing?”

“No, by sacrificing youself for another. If I don’t eat you, I’ll just end up going off and finding someone else. Probably a fair young virgin. Poor child. If you think about it, getting eaten right now would be a very brave thing of you. Noble, heroic.”

“Well, when you put it that way . . .”

“That’s it, come closer.”

“. . . maybe I’ll come right up to the base of that ledge . . .”

“My . . . The scent of you . . . I . . . Why are you stopping . . . ? Come closer! I can’t . . . I can’t . . . RAAAAAWR!”

“Have at ‘im, lads!”

“Aaah!”

“RAWR!”

“HURK!”

“My arm!”

“Keep stabbin’!”

Foolish little men! GAR! Gr . . . Blurk!”

“Is he down!”

“You know what I say, lads. There’s always room for more stabbin’! Keep at it. And you, you did well. Even if you did ruinate the script.”

“Ruinate? Really? Did you just say that?”

“Well, you’re always using those big words and all. So I thought . . .”

“Never mind. I’m going to go wash off this dragon blood. Can’t believe that I put up with this . . .”

“He doesn’t look happy, Master Johnston.”

“Oh don’t worry about Skip. He’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know. He looks really mad this time.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve got a secret weapon.”

“Really?”

“Sure. Tonight, after we’re all fed and happy . . .”

“Yeah?”

“I’m going to give him a six-percent raise.”


So, there you go. Ten pages or so of only dialogue. I’m still not sure if I should call it cheating to use small caps, but I didn’t say you couldn’t use emphasis (like italics), so I figured it was okay. Besides, it fit the story very well.

Obviously, I went for a more humorous slant. Many of those that posted did this, as under the requirements, it actually let us be more flexible and get away with a few things. The idea of someone who could ‘hear’ spelling errors has been bouncing around in my head for a while, though the idea of someone who smelled delicious to dragons just kind of came out while free writing this.

This will do for a quick and dirty writing exercise, though it really needs some blocking where the dragon appears and is flying about. Had to slip a little too much maid-and-butler in there to describe what was happening.

Being me, I wanted to continue this, of course. But I hardly have the time for that right now.

Anyway, keep writing. Hope this exercise was fun for you.

Brandon

Note: Brandon said on January 6th, 2011, that he has about five chapters of this written and may post more.


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