Critique Group – Dragon’s Tamer

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Dragon’s Tamer – by Shana

Connie awoke with a start, gasping and coughing for breath. For a second, she could see nothing but blackness, but the shadow quickly cleared as light filtered into her eyes. She was lying facedown on a grassy field. Sunlight tickled the edge of her vision. Every limb on her body ached. How on earth had she gotten here? She couldn’t remember.

“You! Whoever you are, don’t move!”

Of course the first thing Connie did was roll over to see who was speaking. A girl, tall and skinny, dressed in ragged furs with a leather headband stood in front of her. She glared down at Connie.

“I said, don’t move.Or I’ll sick Takora on you!”

Connie wet her lips with her tongue, feeling more uncertain by the minute. “Who..who…”

She stopped, cleared her throat, and tried again. This time the words came out smoothly. “Who’s Takora?”

The girl laughed. It was an uncertain sort of laugh, but it made Connie feel even more nervous. “Who’s Takora? Only the most feared dragon this side of the Washburn Mountains!”

Connie felt her heart stutter in her chest. “Dr..dragon?” she sputtered in disbelief. “Dragon?! Dragons are real?”

“Of course they’re real, what are you, stupid?” the girl asked scornfully. “Takora’s right behind you, if you don’t believe me. Turn around and see.”

Swallowing nervously, Connie slowly sat up, and shifted her body so she was facing away from the strange girl. Sure enough, right behind her stood an enormous reddish dragon. Its wings were spread out to either side, blocking the sunlight and casting a maroon shadow on the ground. Its baleful yellow eyes were fixed on Connie, and its hooked claws were kneading the ground beside where her head had lain just a moment before. Connie had no idea how she could have missed seeing it.

A rush of fear swept over her, so intense her stomach heaved, and she tried to be violently sick. Luckily, there was nothing in her belly, but it still left Connie feeling awful. And she was still petrified with fright.

“Please,” she croaked, unable to take her eyes off the beast. “Please, send it away. I’m not dangerous.”

The girl sighed from behind. “I suppose you don’t seem too threatening,” she admitted. “Takora, come.” She clicked her fingers, and the dragon instantly relaxed its threatening stance and strode over to where the girl stood. Connie turned back to face the girl, still sitting, as she felt unable to trust her legs to hold her weight.

Now that the dragon wasn’t glaring at her anymore, Connie could look at it more closely. On second inspection, it actually wasn’t that tall, as its shoulders only came up to the girl’s waist and its head was about level with her head. Its legs were stumpy and thick, while its wings, on the other hand, were huge, at least three times the size of its body. Obviously, this was a creature made for the sky, and not for long periods of walking on the ground.

As if it sensed Connie’s scrutiny, the dragon hissed in her direction, and Connie flinched.

“Silence, Takora! Kalash!” The girl snapped at the dragon,

The dragon fell silent, but continued to glare in Connie’s general direction. Connie swallowed nervously. “Who are you?” she asked.

The girl frowned at her, but after a moment replied, “My name’s Kirleca. You can call me Kir. Now, who’re you?

“I, um, well, my name’s Connie,” Connie stammered out.

“What are you doing here?” Kir pressed. “Don’t lie, now, Takora’s really fast.”

Connie frantically searched her memory. What was she doing here? To her mounting horror, she realized that she had no idea where she was, why she was there, or who her family was. Or even why she thought dragons shouldn’t exist!

“Well?” Kir demanded. “Answer!”

“I don’t know,” Connie whispered.

“What?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know anything!” Connie’s eyes were wide with fear. “I don’t even know who I am!”

Kir frowned at her. “Really? That’s strange. You have to know something, right?”

“I know my name is Connie. I know dragons shouldn’t exist. And I know I don’t know anything. That’s all I know!”

Connie’s breathing was coming faster now, her heartbeat increasing as panic took her over. Why couldn’t she remember? What was wrong with her?

“Whoa, now, calm down,” Kir commanded. “I’ll take you to my father. He’ll know what to do with you.”

She seized Connie’s hand and pulled her to her feet. “You sit behind me,” she told Connie, pulling her toward the dragon still crouched nearby. Connie yanked her hand out of Kir’s grip.

“On the dragon? Couldn’t we walk?”

Kir rolled her eyes. “Well, yeah, if you want to take six days about it! Don’t worry, Takora won’t bite unless I tell her too.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” Connie muttered. But she allowed Kir to lead her toward the dragon.

As they got closer, Connie noticed a leather saddle strapped to the dragon’s back. There was a few straps attached, presumably to make sure the rider didn’t fall off in midair. To her horror, however, there were no reins, no way to control the dragon.

“How do you steer?” she asked nervously, as Kir pulled her up into the saddle and pulled a pair of straps tight around her legs.

“Steer?” Kir asked with a snort. “You don’t steer a dragon! You ask.”

Connie swallowed, wanting to ask more questions, but before she could open her mouth, Kir leaned forward and slapped the dragon’s neck. “Up, Takora! Karie! To the lake!”

The great, leathery wings unfurled, releasing a strange, musky scent. Beneath Connie, the dragon’s muscles tensed. She tensed, steeling herself. Then, abruptly, the dragon hurled up, into the sky, beating the air with her enormous wings.

For the first several minutes, Connie felt like throwing up, squeezing her eyes closed and trying not to look down. Once she opened her eyes, however, she couldn’t keep them open enough. The view was glorious. The wind in her face strengthening and wonderful. Suddenly, Takora didn’t seem quite as frightening.

Abruptly, Takora dove. The wind felt like it was going to blow her off the saddle. Connie held on tight. She felt they were going to crash, but quickly, Takora trust open her wings, and caught the air. Connie jerked at the sudden jolt, and then it was over, and they were on the ground and Kir was helping her off.

Connie looked around. They were standing on the shore of a pretty blue lake, waves lapping gently at their feet. There were woods and bushes and trees, but no village.

“Uh, where’s the village?” she asked.

Kir shuffled her feet on the ground self-consciously. “Takora and I… don’t fly to the village,” she mumbled.

“Why not?” Connie demanded.

Kir stared at the sky and muttered. “I’m, uh, not allowed to have Takora.”

Connie couldn’t believe her ears. “What?”  She demanded. “Whyever not?”

Kir sighed. “Only warriors are allowed to tame dragons,” she said. “I’m not allowed to be a warrior.”

Connie stared at her a moment longer, then said, “Okay. I want to talk about this later, because I’m finding this all very interesting for some reason I don’t know.  But for now, can we go find your dad and get my memories back?”

“Sure!” Kir seemed very happy to change the subject. “Come on, it’s only a couple of minutes walk.”

She set off into the woods, and Connie followed. Despite herself, she was getting to like this girl.

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5 replies

  1. Hey Shana, great introduction to an interesting story. Love the way you describe the dragon, but the relationship between her and Kir seems a little . . . off when you think about dragons. Kir almost treats her dragon like a dog, while a lot of other stories present the relationship between dragons and humans as more of a partnership/friendship.

    I know this may seem childish, but take Toothless and Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon. They have a strong relationship, but Hiccup never talks to Toothless like he’s a pet. Hiccup respects his dragon and treats him like a best friend. See what I’m saying? If you tweak their relationship, it might have more reader appeal because (metaphorically speaking) if I talked that way to a dragon, I’d probably get growled at or my hand taken off 🙂

    Can’t wait to read more!!

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    • I actually based this off of How to Train Your Dragon, so I think it’s great (and ironic) that you used it as your example.

      About Takora and Kir, though, I see what you mean about the relationship being nicer if it’s more between equals, and I agree with that too. I’m not absolutely certain of how exactly Kir treats Takora like a pet, but I’ll see what I can do.

      The thing is, I decided that the dragons in this story don’t speak, (similar to HTTYD) so I’m unsure of how to make it seems as though they’re equals when Kir isn’t sure if Takora can even understand/respond to what she’s saying. But again, I’m sure I’ll (eventually) figure something out.

      Thanks for responding and helping make this better!

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      • I’ve read some dragon books where the dragons share a telepathic connection with their riders. That might be a way to show that Kir has a unique connection that isn’t supposed to exist. If anyone can catch a dragon and gain its trust, then that’s not very unique.

        Who’s your favorite dragon/dragon rider team in HTTYD?

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  2. I likey Shana!

    Just a few thoughts.
    When Kir first speaks since we don’t see her yet, maybe describe her voice.
    When you get to her description, maybe compare her height to Connie’s so we get an idea of their ages.
    A growling dragon before Connie turns around would add to the tension.
    Connie’s reaction to the dragon could be condensed some. Try putting the ‘petrified with fear’ at the beginning of the paragraph.
    “That’s what I’m worried about,” paragraph can be one sentence.
    In the “How do you steer?” sentence the pronouns are confusing.
    ‘Takora thrust open her wings’ when did we find out the dragon was female?
    ‘Ok. I want to talk about this later’ sentence can be reworded to help it flow better.

    This looks like a bunch but your writing and sense of story are great. My suggestions are mostly tweaks.

    I wanna know what happened to Connie.

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  3. Shana,

    I enjoyed this piece. It kept my interest, and I wanted to know what will happen next.

    I notice quite a bit of “telling” versus showing. For example – “Luckily, there was nothing in her belly, but it still left Connie feeling awful. And she was still petrified with fright.”

    Consider – “Nothing erupted from her belly, though nausea still churned as her body trembled from head to toe.”

    Sometimes you add telling even while showing. You don’t need both. Just the showing is fine. For example –
    Connie felt her heart stutter in her chest. “Dr..dragon?” she sputtered in disbelief. “Dragon?! Dragons are real?”

    The dialogue break shows the sputtering, and the question shows that she is in disbelief. There is no need for the telling.

    Another example – “How on earth had she gotten here? She couldn’t remember.”

    “She couldn’t remember” is telling. You already showed she couldn’t remember by showing her question.

    Search for more telling phrases like these where you already show what you’re telling.

    I also noticed a lot of weak verb constructions. You used “was” 23 times and “were” 11 times. Each one of those represents an opportunity to use a more active, vivid verb.

    For example: “while its wings, on the other hand, were huge, at least three times the size of its body.”

    Consider – “while its wings, on the other hand, spanned a distance three times the length of its body.”

    Also, be careful about excess words. For example, “Of course the first thing Connie did was roll over to see who was speaking.” Consider, “Connie rolled toward the voice.”

    Watch for point-of-view issues – “Connie’s eyes were wide with fear.” This sounds like the point-of-view character is looking at Connie. Consider “Connie widened her eyes.”

    Watch for narrator phrases that harm the intimacy of the point of view. For example – “For a second, she could see nothing but blackness, but the shadow quickly cleared as light filtered into her eyes.”

    “She could see” is a narrator phrase as is “into her eyes.” Consider, “Blackness shrouded everything for a moment, but as light filtered in, the deep shadow dissolved.”

    I suggest that you read through the piece again with an eye to cutting all unnecessary words and switching from telling to showing. Here is another example of wordiness and telling – “Connie wet her lips with her tongue, feeling more uncertain by the minute.”

    Consider – “Connie licked her lips. Every rational thought fled away.”

    I also suggest that you give Connie a couple of other fleeting memories besides her name, something that will add intrigue and mystery and perhaps a clue as to why she is at this place, though not enough to reveal any mysteries you hope to hide.

    Keep up the good work!

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